In 2011, the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission was created to develop dozens of acres of land that were previously occupied by Interstate 195 in Providence’s Jewelry District and Fox Point neighborhoods.
Ten years later, the commission has already completed several developments, and those involved with the commission say additional projects in the works will bring different real estate opportunities, including apartment buildings, retail space and grocery stores.
The commission oversees the development of over 26 acres of land formerly occupied by the interstate, which has been split up into 19 different-sized parcels and seven acres of open space, according to the commission’s website. The I-195 commission facilitated four completed projects, and currently supervises three projects which are under construction and two which are proposed, according to WPRI.
“We have the opportunity to develop the land once in our lifetime and so we want to get the most value for each parcel, and that doesn’t just mean sale price, it means attracting development that brings jobs, enhances the neighborhood and fills a need,” Cara Cromwell, a spokesperson for the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, wrote in an email to The Herald. The group’s mission is to foster economic development on Rhode Island’s I-195 land that creates job opportunities, according to the I-195 District website.
The District Commission seeks out development that will contribute to this mission and works to ensure other factors are in place to make the surrounding neighborhoods good places to live and work, Cromwell wrote. The planning and development of the District has been strategic and deliberate, she added.
Representing more than $600 million of investment, there are more than two million square feet of development completed, under construction or planned, according to Cromwell.
Multiple projects currently under construction are expected to be completed in the next year.
A building with 62 residential units, a 13,000 square foot grocery store and 10,000 square foot retail space is being developed by D+P Real Estate and Truth Box, Inc. on Parcel 6 of the I-195 land, which is on Wickenden Street. The future occupant of the grocery store cannot be publicly disclosed yet, founder of D+P Real Estate Jordan Durham told The Herald. Jewelry District Association President Sharon Steele previously told The Herald that a location of Trader Joe’s supermarket may be coming to Providence, though a spokesperson for the national chain said she could not confirm the timeline or location of any potential Trader Joe’s store in Providence.“In terms of construction, things are going smoothly,” Durham said. “We’re well out of the ground. We hope to be finished with the project sometime in late summer to early fall next year.”
According to the commission’s website, the Aloft Hotel, developed by CV Properties and Boston Andres Capital and located adjacent to Point225, is expected to be completed by the end of 2021, while Emblem 125, a development in the Jewelry District that will include 248 residential units and 22,700 square feet of retail space, is expected to be completed next summer.
Even as multiple projects remain under construction, flashy planned projects on I-195 land have garnered attention from residents.
Fane Tower, a proposed 46-story apartment building in the Jewelry District which would be the tallest building in R.I. if built, drew critique from various community members, including from former Providence Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr. in a Providence Journal op-ed.
Although New York developer Jason Fane experienced multiple delays in the development of Fane Tower, which he attributed to the pandemic, the $3 million land parcel is expected to be sold to Fane in late June 2022, according to WPRI.
“The Fane Organization is working through predevelopment,” Cromwell wrote. “They must meet the conditions of the purchase and sale agreement to close on the property, including securing the necessary financing.” Purchase and sale agreements are between buyers and sellers in real estate transactions, according to Investopedia.
Also in the works on former I-195 land is a new R.I. Department of Health laboratory in the Jewelry District. A resolution to reserve the land for the Department of Health was approved in October, according to the I-195 District website.
I-195 land is only one potential location for this facility. Any developer or site that meets certain criteria can submit a proposal and the state will consider all options for the laboratories, Public Information Officer for RIDOH Joseph Wendelken wrote in an email to The Herald.
This is an important project for RIDOH and a big investment for the state, Wendelken wrote. Stakeholder meetings have been held over the last several months with the goals of raising awareness, building support for the project and answering questions from developers, he added.
In addition to higher profile developments, two buildings of a combined 150,000 square feet and 130 units of mixed-income housing have been proposed by developer Pennrose on Parcel 9, according to the commission’s website.
Still, after 10 years, the commission has successfully developed a portion of the land.
Point225 is a 200,000 square foot commercial office building developed by real estate company Wexford Science & Technology which opened in 2019. It features an 8,000 square foot public gathering space managed by Venture Cafe, according to the commission’s website. This land sale was worth $1 million, according to WPRI.
Chestnut Commons is the only residential project completed so far. The 111,000 square foot property, which opened in June 2020, includes 92 residential units and 58,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, according to the commission’s website. The land was sold for almost $752,000, according to WPRI.