The Providence City Council is scheduled to vote Thursday, July 5, on a street abandonment that would make way for a luxury, high-security condominium tower rising above Interstate 95 at the entrance to Federal Hill.
Vista Della Torre is an $80 million, 33-story project at the intersection of Bradford and Federal streets proposed by Frank and Michael Zammiello, a local father-and-son development team.
The 330-foot building, designed by Newport Collaborative Architects, would contain up to 180 condominium apartments, ranging from one to three bedrooms and from 1,200 square feet to 2,700 square feet, with the potential to combine more than one unit for more than 5,000 square feet of living space. No prices are being disclosed at this time.
The developers are seeking an abandonment for a portion of Bradford Street to make way for a four-story parking garage, with a fifth deck below ground. A new street would be created at the upper end of the parking lot, running from Newton Street to Bradford Street.
The developers are also seeking air rights to build the tower directly on top of and straddling Federal Street, with a two-story arch over the street. The arch would be staffed 24 hours a day by two security guards, and valet service would be provided for residents.
The lobby of the building would feature a café set amid greenery and facing a reflecting pool, and most of the second floor would open into the lobby. The third floor would contain retail shops such as dry cleaning and a small convenience store for tenants. The southern-facing apartments on the upper floors would have a view of Narragansett Bay.
In addition, the developers are proposing a public plaza between the lobby and the service road to Interstate 95.
“It’s going to be upscale,” said Anthony J. Bucci Jr., the developers’ lawyer. “We’re talking high security, we’re talking valet, so I think we’re at least initially proposing something that will be a notch or several notches above what other proposals are.”
But the project is opposed by some neighborhood activists and urban development groups, who say the process by which the developers are seeking to abandon Bradford Street has been occurring out of order and without adequate public input.
“The process by which the street is being taken does not seem to be above board and by city policy,” said Jef Nickerson, of the “smart-growth” advocacy group Greater City: Providence.
On June 19, in what Nickerson and others called a highly unusual occurrence, the City Council Public Works Committee voted in favor of the abandonment of Bradford Street following a public hearing, on the same night that the developers voluntarily withdrew their application for the street abandonment at a hearing of the City Plan Commission.
Street abandonment applications are historically reviewed by the City Plan Commission first, and then referred to the City Council. Thomas Deller, director of the city Planning Department, did not reply to several telephone calls seeking comment.
The West Broadway Neighborhood Association, which is spearheading opposition to the street abandonment, recently sent out a mass e-mail urging people to contact the City Council and Mayor David N. Cicilline’s office to press for a longer public process.
Bradford Street, one of the few north-south streets on Federal Hill, is a vital link from Broadway to Atwells Avenue, said Kari Lang, executive director of the WBNA.
“I’ve talked to many people that live on Federal Hill or over here on the West Side and they use that as a way to get over to Atwells Avenue from Broadway,” Lang said. “You don’t do the street abandonment first and then do the entire project. You know, this is how step by step the developers get their thing passed without it really being looked at comprehensively.”
The Zammiellos, who are seeking to develop the condominium project as Talon Realty Limited Partnership, have developed many high-profile projects in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Florida. Frank Zammiello’s companies have developed land in Bridlewood Estates in Lincoln; the Alpine Estates in Cranston; the Wang Building in Providence; and Independence Park on Plainfield Street in Cranston, which brought Rhode Island its first Wal-Mart store.
Michael Zammiello, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla., joined his father’s development business in the mid-1990s, leaving his law practice in Providence. He concentrates on the marketing, sales and management of properties.
In a news release, the Zammiellos said that Vista Della Torre would increase the city’s tax base and bring significant economic development to Providence. They hope to break ground in 2009, said Bucci, the Zammiellos’ lawyer.
Construction would occur on surface lots owned by the city and by Dominica Manor, a nursing home operated by the Providence Housing Authority adjacent to the proposed development.
Fifty parking spaces in the building’s 350-space garage would be reserved for tenants of Dominica Manor, and a canopied walkway would connect the garage to the nursing home, Bucci said.
“Obviously, we’re asking them to give up some real estate to help us do this project, and the advantage to them is we’re giving them back more than what we take,” he said.