Concerns delay panel’s vote on proposed apartment development

Updated at 9:08 p.m.

THE PROVIDENCE CITY PLAN COMMISSION Tuesday postponed the vote on the preliminary plan approval for a five-story building at 116 Waterman St. until Feb. 21. / RENDERING COURTESY AHARONIAN & ASSOCIATES INC.

PROVIDENCE – Developers of a five-story, mixed-use apartment building at 116 Waterman St. presented their preliminary plans in front of the Providence City Plan Commission on Tuesday, but the panel didn’t vote on the project due to ongoing concerns.

The commission heard the preliminary plans for the unit, but the meeting ended without a vote following lengthy discussion over some of the project’s characteristics – in particular, its height. 

Walter Bronhard and Brook Holding LLC, the project developer and owner, plan to demolish two residential dwellings located at 116 Waterman St. and 382 Brook St. and merge the two lots to construct the apartment building, which will contain ground-floor commercial space and 25 residential units. 

The developers were seeking permission – or a dimensional adjustment – to construct the building to a height of 58 feet and five floors, which is above the permitted 50-foot and four-floor maximum for the area. The applicant is also requesting a design waiver from a rule prohibiting residential buildings from being located within 20 feet of a “main street,” in this case Brook Street. 

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The commission previously approved the master plan for the project in July 2022, despite some vocal opposition from neighbors concerned about the size of the building that could become student housing. 

Members of the public had expressed concerns over the height of the proposed building, arguing that an additional floor of residents would lead to more trash, more noise pollution and issues with parking. Despite the concerns, the commission approved the master plan for the project but deferred decisions on the dimensional adjustment and design waiver to the preliminary plan stage. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, some of these concerns returned. Since the master plan approval, the developer has met with the College Hill Neighborhood Commission and has come up with some solutions to address the noise concerns, including ensuring the presence of 24/7 security personnel on site, installing noise monitors to track excess noise and limiting access to the roof deck. 

But despite these adjustments, many concerns lingered. 

Councilman John Goncalves, representing Ward 1, asked the commission not to grant the dimensional adjustment and design waiver, saying that a project in compliance with the zoning ordinance would be more “appropriate.” 

Goncalves also referred to a letter submitted to the commission by Councilwoman Helen Anthony, representing Ward 2, who could not join Tuesday’s meeting. Anthony reiterated her concerns over the development, regarding noise pollution and the roof deck. 

Anthony and Goncalves also both spoke about the developer’s relationship with the community, saying they have both received “countless emails and complaints” from residents in both wards and are worried about the impact of an additional 25 units on the neighborhood.  

Regarding the applicants’ suggestion to use monitoring devices, Goncalves said this is  largely “reactive” and he thinks the application should be further examine before being implemented. 

“We’re worried about the precedent that this will set both for Ward 1 and War 2 as this is a development and a property that neighbors both of these wards,” Goncalves said. 

Some members of the public echoed these sentiments. The commission said it was not ready to vote on the height adjustments and waiver, so it ultimately decided to continue the item to its next meeting scheduled for Feb. 21. In the meantime, commissioners encouraged the developers to have further conversations with the neighborhood and provide more information on their efforts to address noise concerns. 

 The City Plan Commission voted to approve a four-story, mixed-use development at 541 Hartford Ave. on Tuesday. 

THE PROVIDENCE CITY PLAN COMMISSION approved the master and preliminary plan for a mixed-use development at 541 Hartford Ave. on Jan. 24. /COURTESY E2000 REALTY LLC

The applicant and owner, E 2000 LLC, was seeking both master and preliminary plan approval at Tuesday’s meeting. The development will house commercial space –employment center, a retail space, leasing office, mechanical equipment and trash collection – on the ground floor and 30 residential units on the upper three floors. 

E 2000 LLC requested a dimensional adjustment for parking, since the plan includes 20 spaces while 33 are required, and design waivers from the width of the entries, the build-to zone requirement for the side yard, and waiver from submission of state approvals at the preliminary plan stage. 

Some members of the public expressed concerns over the project, worried that it will worsen problems related to parking, noise, trash and rodents. 

“I would love to see this area revitalized,” said local resident Valerie Vacca. “I would love to see things start getting built up. But the parking and the cars and the trash … Who’s going to be responsible for all of this?” 

But the commission ultimately decided to approve both the preliminary and master plan for the project, and the waivers and adjustments requested.

(UPDATED throughout.)

Claudia Chiappa is a PBN staff writer. You may contact her at Chiappa@PBN.com.

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