Panel puts off Downing façade decision

PROVIDENCE – The façade of the Downing Corp. building located next to the historic Arcade shopping center received a reprieve on Monday from the Downcity Design Review Committee. A developer wants to turn it into a parking lot. More

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Panel puts off Downing façade decision

JEF NICKERSON / GREATER CITY: PROVIDENCE
THE FATE of the façade of the Downing Corp. building on Weybosset Street, above right, remains in question after a city committee put off a final decision.
Posted 11/10/09

PROVIDENCE – The façade of the Downing Corp. building located next to the historic Arcade shopping center received a reprieve on Monday from the Downcity Design Review Committee.

Developer Jeremiah O’Connor III had asked the committee to allow him to tear down the façade and replace it with a temporary parking lot. But some committee members expressed hesitation about permitting the destruction of the façade, which was supposed to be incorporated into a condo tower that never materialized.

O’Connor is expected to return to the committee next month to discuss the matter further.

Robert Azar, the city’s director of current planning, on Tuesday told Providence Business News that committee members questioned O’Connor about his assertion that the façade was becoming too costly to maintain and therefore it only made sense to raze it. And some residents urged the committee to save what they considered an historic structure that the developers had pledged to preserve.

Local business owners, on the other hand, complained to the committee that the scaffolding holding up the façade was hurting their businesses by blocking foot traffic. And O’Connor, the developer, argued that his proposed parking lot, with roughly 50 spaces, would be an asset to the area.

Zoning ordinances normally prohibit parking lots that are visible from the street in the Downcity District, Azar said. Constructing one requires approval from the city’s Planning and Development Department, a special permit from the Zoning Board of Review or a zoning change approved by the City Council.

The Downing Corp. façade, once part of the Providence National Bank Building, was initially supposed to be part of a 32-story residential tower called One Ten Westminster. The $90 million project would have included 130 luxury condominiums.

The developers went on to tear down the Downing Corp. building, except for the façade, but never started construction on the tower.

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