Downcity’s future living in the past

'We could see the transformation of the whole street.'

Only some of the people moving into a newly renovated historic downtown Providence building this fall will be getting a microloft. More

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DEVELOPMENT

Downcity’s future living in the past

'We could see the transformation of the whole street.'

PBN PHOTO/NATALJA KENT
COOKING WITH GAS: Developer Vincent Geoffrey, right, is transforming the former Providence Gas Co. building and two other structures into Providence G, a “boutique residential” space. At left is plaster worker David Duarte.
Posted 9/10/12

Only some of the people moving into a newly renovated historic downtown Providence building this fall will be getting a microloft.

A few steps away from the small apartments opening in the Arcade, another mixed-use conversion project is nearing completion on Weybosset Street that promises to deliver a boost to the Downcity streetscape and bring a block of unique Providence buildings back to life.

Called Providence G, the project is transforming three vacant commercial buildings at the corner of Dorrance and Weybosset streets – The Providence Gas Co. building, Teste Block, and Narragansett Hotel Garage – into shops, restaurants and high-end apartments.

After more than a year of work, most of the apartments in Providence G are expected to be finished and ready for tenants in October, said owner and developer Vincent Geoffroy, who purchased the block of buildings from utility National Grid last year.

“There is not another building in the city that is going to be like this,” said Geoffroy, a New York developer executing his first Rhode Island project. “Because we will involve the retail space, which will be very attractive, it will have a certain type of high-end amenity that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Providence.”

Saving the three buildings has not been cheap. Geoffroy declined to discuss the cost of Providence G, but initial estimates made when the project was being planned were in the neighborhood of $5 million, on top of the $2.7 million property sale price.

Costly or not, the project represents a victory for city planners and preservationists, who will see the buildings returned to active use with their historic details intact in a smart-growth-friendly residential-commercial mix.

“That whole complex is really critical to making the area vibrant and will definitely contribute to the city,” said Clark Schoettle, executive director of the Providence Revolving Fund, which is helping finance Providence G with a $1 million loan. “We could really see the transformation of that whole street.”

After years of inactivity in the Financial District, the addition of new residents and businesses at the Arcade and Providence G should create an increase in foot traffic and demand for services along Weybosset.

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