Providence residents divided on Fane’s Hope Point Tower

WHETHER PROVIDENCE SHOULD have residential buildings as high as 600 feet was debated during the public comment section of the City Plan Commission meeting earlier this week, as city officials considered whether to rezone the site for Hope Point Tower. / COURTESY FANE ORGANIZATION
WHETHER PROVIDENCE SHOULD have residential buildings as high as 600 feet was debated during the public comment section of the City Plan Commission meeting earlier this week, as city officials considered whether to rezone the site for Hope Point Tower. / COURTESY FANE ORGANIZATION

PROVIDENCE – Whether the city should have residential buildings as high as 600 feet was an undercurrent in the public comment section of the City Plan Commission this week, as city officials considered a recommendation on whether to rezone the site for Hope Point Tower.

The existing zoning for the parcel allows a building up to 100 feet. The developer of Hope Point Tower, Jason Fane, is seeking a rezoning allowing a tower up to 600 feet. Although the city’s commission recommended a denial, the Providence City Council has the authority over zoning.

In a public hearing that stretched for four hours Tuesday, several people spoke in favor of the project, as well as against it.

Does the city need a statement of 46 stories? Brent Runyon, a Providence resident who also serves as Providence Preservation Society executive director, said the city shouldn’t aspire to resemble Toronto, New York or the Seaport District of Boston.

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“We don’t need a 600-foot tower to propel us into the future, into the modern era,” he said. “We also don’t need to attract people who want to live in the sky. We need people in town who want to live in the city, who want to inhabit city streets.”

Peter Lauro, a native of Providence, said he left his home city for Boston 20 years ago because there was no career opportunity here in his industry, in the life sciences. He favored the project.

When the Industrial Trust Building, also known as the Superman Building, was built, people no doubt had objections to its height. It was the first such building in the city.

“We need to seize the opportunities. … We have someone who is willing to take a risk on Providence,” Lauro said.

Many cities, including Boston, have placed tall buildings next to historical structures. “John Hancock tower, 1973, very controversial building. Smack in the middle of the Back Bay, a primarily residential part of the city,” Lauro added.

Arnold B. “Buff” Chace Jr., managing principal of Cornish Associates, opposed the plan. He acknowledged he is a developer of downtown residential and commercial spaces but said his position is not based on competitive concerns.

Chace was a part of the community team that revised the height standards for the city, and he said they tried to accommodate greater height in the downtown for buildings but recognized the site of Parcel 42 should be restricted, while the greater heights would be allowed near the highway.

“I think it’s in the wrong location. There are places … where this activity could go. I also don’t believe the market demand is there,” Chace said.

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at macdonald@pbn.com.