Metro, News

Controversial Fane Tower moves closer to approval

Pre-application review pushes building proposal toward ultimate approval by I-195 Commission

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Downtown Design Review Committee met with Fane Tower’s lead designer on Monday for a pre-approval review of the building proposal.

Hope Point Tower is one step closer to approval following a public meeting between the tower’s design team and the Downtown Design Review Committee, which together evaluated the building’s proposed design Monday afternoon.

The proposed luxury apartment complex is in the midst of a long approval process that has involved a city height ordinance change, which circumvented the previous 100-foot ordinance to accommodate the tower’s 46-story design plan, The Herald previously reported. The building, which is being developed by the Fane Organization, would sit on parcel 42 within former I-195 state highway land.

Monday’s meeting was the first of at least three public meetings set between the tower design and development team and the DDRC. The hearing provided an opportunity for preliminary discourse between the committee and architect Gianni Ria in preparation of a final proposal. The design plan must proceed through conceptual and final review following proposal submission, according to Bob Azar, deputy director for the Providence Department of Planning and Development and Visiting Associate Professor of the Practice of Urban Studies.

During the meeting, committee members asked questions about visual aspects of the tower, such as its scale, current design and height.

“It’s a grandiose plan. … I know we have the ability to waive (the height) requirement, but I think anything that can be done that can reduce the scale and height of the building and make it more compatible with nearby buildings would be important,” said DDRC member and Vice-Chair of the Providence Historic Commission Clark Schoettle during the meeting. Schoettle also suggested constructing multiple smaller buildings instead of one tall building.

DDRC Chair Kristi Gelnett also criticized the tower’s proposed height: “I do have to say that six hundred feet in a hundred-foot zone is hard for me to swallow, and it’s way too tall for the location. … If it does happen, I would like it to be not such a complete departure from the character of the city itself.”

When asked if a market study had been performed to evaluate demand for the building, Ria responded that his “responsibility was to provide a building that has enough flexibility to be successful without designing for a single market.”

Since the DDRC meets monthly, Fane must finalize its design proposal within the next month or risk waiting longer for the Committee’s final decision. But the DDRC’s decision is only advisory, as the proposed site of the tower is also on land overseen by the state-run I-195 Commission. Following design review, the Committee will make a recommendation to the I-195 Commission, which, under special state-legislative privileges, has the final say over the tower’s design.

While there was no time allotted Monday for public comment, dozens of people attended the meeting, including President of the Fane Organization Jason Fane. Charles Denby, who is involved with the Avenue Concept, a Providence non-profit that creates outdoor and public art, attended with a cardboard sign reading: “Out of Place, Out of Scale, Out of Character.”

The next DDRC meeting is scheduled for April 8.