In every way but one, Capitol Cove in Providence was finished at the worst possible moment for a condominium complex.
When the sales office opened in late 2008, the real estate market had recently collapsed, there was a credit crisis and politicians in both parties were debating ways to head off a depression.
The lone bright spot for projects like Capitol Cove, also known as One Park Row West, was that even the Great Recession couldn’t stop rising demand for student housing, especially upscale student housing, in Providence and cities across the country.
At first, Capitol Cove developer Robert Roth resisted renting any of the 96-unit mid-rise complex on the banks of the Moshassuck River, telling Providence Business News in November 2008 that we were “beginning to see the end of the real estate downturn and should start seeing a steadying of prices and positive movement in the near future.”
By March 2009, that optimism had dimmed and Roth announced that Capitol Cove had been leased to Johnson & Wales University, which would convert the apartments to dormitories for its growing student body.
Even then, the lease was for three years, and Roth said he intended to re-engage the condominium market again in the summer of 2012 when the economy would, presumably, be humming again.
Now that those three years have passed, Johnson & Wales has put down roots in the Capital Center and Capitol Cove stands as another example of the post-crash shift in the real estate market away from home ownership and toward renting.
The university renewed its lease at Capitol Cove for 10 years in March 2011, and this May, when the development went through foreclosure, signed an agreement with the new landlord so that it could continue undisturbed.
Back in 2009 when Johnson & Wales first moved in, some saw the arrival of students as an unfortunate precedent that would reflect badly on the other large residential buildings in the Capital Center area that remain unfilled.
Now after three more years of depressed real estate conditions, most are happy to see the building occupied by students.
“I think it is good for the city,” said Joseph Paolino Jr., managing partner of Paolino Properties about the new Johnson & Wales lease. “Having an empty condo building and trying to sell them when they aren’t selling doesn’t help.”