Representatives from developer CV Properties presented their proposal for a project combining I-195 Redevelopment District Parcels 14 and 15 and the adjacent University property at 198-200 Dyer St. at the I-195 Commission’s meeting Wednesday.
The proposal was first announced in an April 12 University press release, The Herald previously reported. “It‘s the very beginning of the process, but I think it’s something we should all feel pretty good about,” said Commission Chairman Marc Crisafulli.
Parcels 14 and 15 are subject to I-195 Development Plan zoning, which includes a building height limit of 130 feet and no parking minimum, according to Caroline Skuncik, executive director of the I-195 Redevelopment District.
The adjacent land included in CV Properties’ proposal is subject to city zoning, with a height limit of 100 feet and a potential 30-foot bonus if “public benefits” such as active ground uses, publicly accessible open space and structured parking are provided, Skuncik explained. The downtown city zoning area also has no parking minimum.
According to Skuncik, discussions have begun with the developer and the city regarding the review process, which would be overseen by both the Downtown Design Review Committee and the Commission.
The proposal, which was due in February, followed a request for proposals issued in early October. The proposal includes a purchase price of $600,000 for the two parcels, and CV Properties is seeking a tax stabilization agreement, which has been granted to other projects in the district, said Alexandra Phillips, vice president of development at CV Properties. Though the proposal includes land currently owned by the University, the full development will be commercialized and added to the tax roll, she added.
The next steps in the selection process include the presentation of a financial analysis by RES Group and an urban design analysis by consultancy Utile at the May Commission meeting, along with fielding further public comment, Skuncik said.
After these hearings, the Commission “will vote on whether to select (CV Properties) … for the parcel and then a purchase and sale agreement will be drafted,” wrote Cara Cromwell, a spokesperson for the Commission, in an email to The Herald.
Phillips and Al Spagnolo, chairman of the architecture firm SGA, presented the proposal at the meeting. Chris Maury, Rhode Island senior regional director at Shawmut Design and Construction, along with the University’s Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06 and Vice President of Real Estate and Strategic Initiatives John Luipold EMBA’13, were also present.
“We’re very excited about the collaboration with Brown to create a fully commercial project,” Phillips said.
Phase One of the development will include a residential building close to the river, and the full master plan includes two additional buildings to support research and commercial uses, Spagnolo added. The residential building complies with all as-of-right limits, including resiliency requirements with an elevated platform around the base of the building. Phase One would not affect existing Brown properties.
According to Spagnolo, the planned 11-story structure currently calls for 149 residential units, with 10% dedicated to workforce housing. “There is a nice mix of apartments here” that meets Providence’s market demands, ranging from studios to three-bedrooms, along with about 8,000 square feet dedicated to commercial uses, he added.
CV Properties is also planning to build underground parking in this phase and future phases, Spagnolo said. Additional public benefits provided by the project include improvements to the pedestrian experience and a mix of ground and upper-level floor uses, he added.
Spagnolo emphasized the importance of the area between the three proposed buildings in the master plan, which provides space for community programming and functions as a transition to the park.
At the meeting, Carey said that the University’s “interest in this is to further improve opportunities for economic activity in the city” through a project that adds jobs, increases tax revenue and supports neighborhood density.
CV Properties’ presentation was followed by public comments. Sharon Steele, president of the Jewelry District Association, shared remarks on behalf of architect Lorenzo Apicella.
Steele noted that several Jewelry District developments have empty spaces within their first floors and emphasized preventing that in this project. The JDA also hopes to discuss reducing building height from 130 feet to 100 feet and potentially setting back the top floors to “lighten the presence over the adjacent park and river,” she added.
In spite of these concerns, “we are extraordinarily excited about this project,” Steele said.
Mike Lusi, a landscape architect and resident of the Greater Providence area, praised some of CV Properties’ previous projects in the city — such as River House — but still expressed concerns about the proposal.
Lusi questioned the fact that specifics on the materials for the project have not yet been presented: “There’s no differentiation (in material) from the first floor to the last … it breaks a lot of the rules, architecturally, that make Providence wonderful.”
Written comments from the public on the proposed design can be submitted until April 26.
Skuncik also gave an update on projects in the larger district. There are two upcoming groundbreakings in Parcel 3 and Parcel 9, and the Commission is working with the respective teams on design and due diligence in Parcels 2 and 8/8a, she said.
Now that the parcel previously reserved for the Fane Tower is open again, the Commission is “thinking about potentially re-orienting the (parcel’s) lot lines … to maximize the flexibility of that site for future development,” Skuncik explained.
For the remaining parcels, the Commission has recently engaged HR&A Advisors — an economic development and planning firm — to help develop a strategy to achieve the I-195 Innovation District’s goals, Skuncik said.
According to Skuncik, work is also underway in the Innovation District Park on upgrades to electrical infrastructure on the East Side and the River Walk.
Rhea Rasquinha is a Metro section editor covering the College Hill, Fox Point & the Jewelry District and Brown & Beyond beats. She also serves as an illustrator. She is a sophomore from New York studying Biomedical Engineering and loves dark chocolate and penguins.