Support, opposition for Hope Point Tower in Providence in public hearing

The aerial view of the proposed Fane Organization's Hope Point Tower./COURTESY THE FANE ORGANIZATION.
AN AERIAL view of the proposed Fane Organization's Hope Point Tower. / COURTESY THE FANE ORGANIZATION

PROVIDENCE — Opponents and supporters of the Hope Point Tower once again pressed their cases before a City Council committee on Monday, following a presentation by the New York-based developer for a $300 million residential skyscraper.

The Hope Point Tower would become the city’s tallest building if approved. But to get that height, The Fane Organization needs the City Council to authorize a rezoning of its site.

The maximum height would be somewhat lower than the 600 foot height sought under the zoning change, based on new renderings and illustrations released by the development team on Monday. Not including building mechanicals on top, the tower would be 530 feet tall, according to the documents.

The Hope Point Tower at the proposed 530-foot height would be the tallest building in Providence./COURTESY THE FANE ORGANIZATION
THE HOPE POINT Tower at the proposed 530-foot height would be the tallest building in Providence. / COURTESY THE FANE ORGANIZATION

That’s about 100 feet taller than the city’s current top skyscraper, the Industrial National Bank building, more commonly called the ‘Superman Building.’ The Superman has a height of 428 feet. One Financial Plaza reaches 410 feet.

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In his presentation, Jason Fane, president of The Fane Organization, said he is ready and interested in building in Providence but needs the city’s OK. He already has initial approval from the Interstate 195 Redevelopment District Commission, but will still need design authority for his modern white tower.

The building will make a statement and draw workers of the new economies to Providence, he said. “There is a serious need for more quality housing in Providence,” he said. “The simple fact is that many people will want to live in the Hope Point Tower.”

Without specifying rents, or purchase prices for the condos, he said his plan would allow a range of working people to afford the units. The apartments will become larger and more luxurious as they move upward, starting at the seventh floor, which he said will allow the occupants to look over either the Providence River or the Wexford Science & Technology complex, now under construction.

Built in three design sections, the various stories would be accessible by different lobbies and elevators, he said. According to the building architect, the occupants would include empty nesters, moving into the city, investors and even students who could double up in units that were purchased as an investment.

Opponents turned out again in force at the City Council’s ordinance committee hearing Monday, challenging his statements and urging the committee to listen to nine surrounding neighborhood associations, which have opposed the plan.

Several speakers said the tower would not address the city’s need for more housing, which is most needed by middle income and working families.

A resident of 6th Street angrily said the proposal would only appeal to 10 percent of the population. “We need affordable housing,” he said “We don’t need luxury housing. This is not the kind of development that helps people who live in the city.”

Doug Victor, an Elmwood resident, said the proposal is an “outrage” for low-scale, livable Providence, and said the architect and developer’s previous work in Toronto shouldn’t carry much influence. “Toronto is a very big city,” he said, and literally dotted with skyscrapers. “It has a lot of capital we do not have.”

Others said the developer and city officials should work out any differences over the project, and make it work for the city.

As they have in previous hearings, laborers and union construction advocates turned out in large numbers to support the project.

Dianne “Dee Dee” Witman, who is a candidate for mayor in Providence, said the city should not turn away an individual who wants to spend $300 million of his own capital to invest in the city.

“I have concerns over the style of the project not matching the historic architecture of our city. However, we should not say no because of the current design shortcomings. Instead, we need to work collaboratively with Fane to create a once-in-a-lifetime development that will highlight our city.”

An economic impact report for the project, prepared by University of Rhode Island economist Edward Mazze, a distinguished professor of business administration, the residential tower is expected to house from 400 to 800 people on full occupancy and could contribute $11.4 million to the city’s economy annually. The economic model used by Mazze indicates that for every $1 million in construction spending on the building, 9.5 jobs will be created through direct employment and indirect activity.

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

2 COMMENTS

  1. In addition to being in an area which will flood due to sea level rise, the project will harm the long term prospects of Providence by driving greater inequality. It is also a project predicated on the growth of the medical industrial complex, which has the effect of raising the cost of healthcare beyond what is affordable. So we get a project that increases inequality, drives up the cost of housing, and makes haalth care unaffordable. But the political leadership of RI only work for the rich and can not understand the costs of what they are doing. They only have dollar signs in their eyes.

    I had much more I could have said at the eharing, but it would have taken almost as long as the dog and pony show from the developer and they gave us 2 minutes, a technique guaranteed to prevent good debate.

  2. I welcome this development. This does not negate the need for affordable housing but I am hearing some of the same arguments that were made against Waterplace towers, Providence Place mall, the Convention Center, and the building of Waterplace park. 800 people living in an area where no one currently lives brings supporting businesses. These people will need services and shopping. It will help to breath some life into the jewelry district.