46-story tower proposal in Providence clears hurdle

46-story tower proposal in Providence clears hurdle
Signatures opposing the Hope Point Tower collected ahead of major vote
Members of the Providence city council will vote on Thursday night on whether to make changes to the citys zoning ordinance as it relates to the construction of a new skyscraper on the 195 land off of Dyer Street in the capital city. Thursdays vote will be the first of two votes that will be held by the council. Both have to pass in order to make the changes to the zoning ordinance.

Many neighborhood associations and the Providence Preservation Society are against the changes, and dont want the new, nearly 600-foot tower to be built.

“We think this is really taking Providence down the wrong road, said Brent Runyon, the executive director of the Providence Preservation Society.

Runyon gathered 1,800 signatures from Providence residence opposed to the ordinance change, and dropped it off at the office of mayor Jorge Elorza on Wednesday evening. Elorza is at a leadership training event in Washington D.C.

“This project has not been vetted, added Runyon. They basically hear what the Fane Organization is saying, and they say, Hey, thats great, that sounds good, were gonna give it to you. And that makes no sense.”

Ahead of the city council meeting, the Providence Preservation Society took out this full page ad in Thursdays edition of the Providence Journal demanding city councilors ask specific questions about the project; questions like why build such an enormously tall tower in this part of the city?

“For generations, literally generations, theres been an idea that things closer to the river should be lower in scale so that… the farther away you get, the more views you have, said Runyon.

Providence resident Carla Ricci and her husband say that the tower is not needed in the city, and wont have the impact that developers are promising.

“We live in a high-rise building here in the city, said Ricci. It has not sold all of its condominiums, there is no retail space on the ground floor, Im not convinced it will create a lot of jobs.”

The City Council voted 8-5 with two abstentions Thursday night to approve the first passage of a zoning variance that would allow developer Jason Fane to surpass the 100-foot height restriction of the tower’s proposed location on Dyer Street and build up to 600 feet high.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Hope Point Tower, a 46-story luxury apartment tower proposed for land once occupied by Route 195, is one step closer to being built.

The City Council voted 8-5 with two abstentions Thursday night to approve a first passage of a zoning variance that will allow developer Jason Fane to surpass the 100-foot height restriction of the tower’s proposed location on Dyer Street and build up to 600 feet high.

During a fiery meeting Thursday, many members gave impassioned speeches for and against the zoning variance that would allow the controversial project to move forward.

At one point, Ward 2 City Councilman Samuel Zurier displayed a movie poster for the 1978 comedy “Animal House” with characters showing their middle fingers and compared some of his City Council colleagues to the characters.

By voting in favor of the zoning variance, he said, council members were essentially saying, “We can do anything we want because we’re the City Council,” and “giving the finger” to their constituents.

Ward 3 City Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune proposed an amendment during the meeting that would have required the developer to make 15 percent of the units in the project affordable and contribute $50,000 a year to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The amendment also would have required the City Plan Commission to sign off on a final design for the tower and would have placed a time limit on the zoning variance, allowing it to expire if construction did not begin within two years.

After the meeting, LaFortune said the amendment represented the City Council’s last chance to negotiate some benefits for the public into the deal.

“It was our only chance to at least create some sort of opportunity for this developer to invest back into the community,” she said.

Not only is the developer asking for an exemption from the 100-foot zoning restriction of the site, but he also stands to receive $81 million in tax breaks over the course of a 20-year tax-stabilization agreement, and the public will see little benefit, Zurier said.  

But other council members stood up to promote the tower and the tax revenue and the economic development they expect it to bring.

“The Hope Point Tower is a once-in-generation, $300-million investment in the city of Providence,” said Ward 5 City Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan. “Quite simply, we can’t afford not to approve this development.”

The council members who voted in favor of the zoning variance are: Ward 10 City Councilman Luis Aponte, Ward 9 City Councilwoman Carmen Castillo, Ward 6 City Councilman Michael Correia, Ward 12 City Councilman Terrence Hassett, Ward 7 City Councilman John Igliozzi, Ward 8 City Councilman Wilbur Jennings, Ward 4 City Councilman Nicholas Narducci and Ryan.

The council members who voted against the variance are: Ward 11 City Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris, LaFortune, Ward 13 City Councilman Bryan Principe, Ward 1 City Councilman Seth Yurdin and Zurier.

Posted in Providence