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Metro, News

I-195 Commission approves Fane Tower design

Three zoning laws waived for luxury housing complex during Wednesday meeting

By and
Metro Editor and Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, September 26, 2019

After hearing Providence residents testify about the luxury development project Fane Tower, the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission voted to approve the tower design released Monday.

The commission also approved three waivers to zoning laws, which the design plan required.

If constructed, the tower would become the tallest building in the state and the tallest in New England outside of Boston.

The committee examined three zoning law waivers. The first waiver bypasses a law that regulates the heights and shapes of buildings so that they have similar proportions. The second grants the tower more flexibility in building outdoor cafe and restaurant seating. The third deals with the transition line — a line on a building’s facade, marking the transition from lower to upper stories.

Jason Fane, who is financing the project, estimated that the proposed tower would house 800 to 900 people. The apartment complex would be 46 stories high. “We think it is what people want,” Fane said of the design.

Fane added that the skyline addition could stimulate economic growth in the city and “become a symbol of Providence.”

The Fane Tower falls on land overseen by the I-195 commission — a group appointed by Governor Gina Raimondo with authority to develop, lease and now make zoning changes within the area. Even though Providence uses the Downtown Design Review Commission to approve building plans, the I-195 Commission retains final authority over the building proposal. The DDRC voted against the building design plan in April.

The I-195 Commission’s vote of approval marks the first time that the body has gone against a DDRC recommendation.

Recent legislation also granted the I-195 Commission authority to change zoning ordinances within the area without going through the city.

State Senator Dominick Ruggiero, who is also the chamber’s president, and Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello have voiced support for the project. But the mayor, City Council members and other community members have previously spoken out against waiving zoning ordinances to allow the tower’s construction.

“The City’s concerns regarding the proposed Hope Point tower project are well documented. … Mayor Elorza vetoed the ordinance relating to the zoning change,” wrote Ben Smith, deputy director of communications for Mayor Jorge Elorza, to The Herald.

During the hearing, city council members Helen Anthony, Ward 2, and Nirva LaFortune, Ward 3, also criticized the project for hurting Providence’s landscape and undermining accessible housing. “We do have a housing crisis. Yes, we need more housing, but we need affordable housing,” LaFortune said, in response to the Fane’s prioritization of luxury housing.

Peter Avanti, a Providence resident, also expressed concern with the Tower’s luxury housing. “We will live with this with no access to it. It will not belong to us,” he said.

A few residents voiced environmental concerns over the building’s construction on a floodplain.

Greg Gerritt said he felt “disgusted because … the commission did not understand economic development in the age of a climate emergency.”

“That area, there, is going to be underwater in the (next) 100 years,” he added.

But the project received support at the meeting from over 20 union members who belonged to the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers Union. The members stood outside the meeting on 225 Dyer St to express their approval. Tim Burns, a union representative, spoke at the meeting in favor of the waivers, saying many workers support the project and the construction jobs it will create.

Fane Tower isn’t the only development in the area: over the summer, the I-195 district saw the completion of the pedestrian bridge and Cambridge Innovation Center’s site at 225 Dyer Street. Construction will begin on a new hotel in the district this fall, Caroline Skuncik told The Herald.

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  1. Great news. Providence needs some luxury housing to bring in tech jobs.

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