Big Projects that Never Got Built in Providence — Is Fane’s Tower Next?

Saturday, October 20, 2018

 

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Over the past decades, developers have come to Providence with big ideas and collectively proposed billions of dollars in private development -- and many of the most grandiose proposals died at their point of rendering or failed to raise the necessary capital or were shot down by local opposition.

Two years ago, Jason Fane first announced his three tower concept “Hope Point Towers.” The three skyscrapers were proposed to be 43, 55, and 33 stories respectively. That project received little support.

Now, the proposal has been cut down to just one tower and the fate of the scaled-down project is now in flux.

The Fane Tower faces opposition from the Providence Preservation Society, State House lobbyist for the RI Realtors and Providence City Council President David Salvatore, and Mayor Jorge Elorza.

Most recently, Senate President Dominic Ruggerio has proposed stripping Providence of its power to restrict the height of the tower. Presently, the height of Fane’s Tower is proposed to be 600 feet.

Not the First Tower to Flop

In February 2005, a 32-story development was proposed next to the Turks Head building and across the street from the Superman Building.

“Mayor David Cicilline and developers announced Thursday the construction of a residential, high-rise tower with luxury condominiums that they said will revitalize the downtown area and solidify Providence's reputation as a cosmopolitan city,” wrote the Associated Press at the time.

“The 32-story, glass-paneled tower on Westminster Street, adjacent to the Arcade, will include condominiums priced at $500,000 to $2.5 million. Construction on the privately financed, $90 million project is scheduled to begin in December, with a scheduled completion date for 2007. The developers are Providence-based Granoff Associates and BlueChip Properties, based in Boston,” according to the story published February 25, 2005.

The marketing materials for the ONE-TEN boasted, "The pinnacle of high-rise, full service, luxury living in Providence. Spectacular, panoramic views with luxurious finishes and amenities simply not available anyplace else in Providence. In the heart of downtown, private balconies and roof top garden oasis."

That project died due to design issues, financing issues and concept changes. 

See below some of the other projects the never come to fruition.

 

Related Slideshow: Big Projects that Never Got Built in Providence—October 2018

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PawSox Waterfront Stadium

In February 2015, the new ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox announced that they would be moving the team to Providence and would by building a waterfront stadium.

"We'll fund it ourselves and then ask the state and city to join us in some fashion," said Jim Skeffington. "We want to develop in a way that creates economic opportunity in a difficult environment. ... We believe that this can be a catalytic investment on our part, the state's part, the city's part."

Skeffington also indicated that, if and when the relocation to Providence occurs, the franchise will change its name to the "Rhode Island Red Sox."

As the saying goes, “The devil is in the details” -- and what details they were. The late Skeffington, the lead PawSox owner, was looking to pay no taxes as well as get $120 million in taxpayer subsidies.

In just months, the first stadium plan was in tatters.

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Victory Place

As the proposal for building the Waterfront Stadium faced more and more opposition, a second site began to emerge to build a stadium for the PawSox in Providence.

As GoLocal first reported in April 2015:

A new stadium location in Providence has emerged as an alternative to the proposed 195 Commission land, GoLocalProv has exclusively learned.

The eight-acre parcel at the location of the former Victory Plating company offers a number of potential benefits over the park land proposed by the new ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox.  Jim Skeffington, President of the PawSox, has been asking for state for highly valuable land as part of $120 million in concessions the PawSox are demanding from the state of Rhode Island and the City of Providence.

The alternative site is located in lot between Point, Richmond, Eddy, Globe and Hospital Streets.

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One-Ten

One Ten Providence had a number of iterations, but it was supposed to be Providence's biggest, boldest development project in the city's downtown core, with condos having up to multi-million dollar price tags and a W Hotel.

Today, it is a parking lot between the backside of the Turks Head Building and the Arcade.

Two buildings were demolished to make way for One-Ten -- the all-glass First Federal Bank Building and the Providence National Bank Building, which was built in 1929. Both were torn down in 2004. 

The One-Ten building was to be even taller than the Superman building, but delays in permitting and failed financing led the developers to abandon the project and eventually Providence.

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Casino on Providence's Waterfront

In the early 1990s, Steve Wynn came to Providence looking to build a casino along the waterfront in Providence -- land used now primarily by Johnson and Wales University.

The proposal was embraced by then-Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci.

As the Hartford current reported, "Wynn, owner of the Mirage and Golden Nugget resorts, came to Connecticut last winter, offering to build a $350 million hotel and convention center in Hartford if the project could include a casino. He said he also would like to build a casino in Bridgeport...Late last month, he approached Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. about building a casino in the Rhode Island capital."

But, a coalition of community leaders rallied against the proposal as it started to gain traction. U.S. Attorney Lincoln Almond, Hasbro CEO Alan Hassenfeld, and Bishop Louis Gelineau all spoke out against the project.

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Hasbro Headquarters

In December 2017, GoLocal first reported that Hasbro was looking to consolidate operations and was considering building a creative campus in downtown Providence.

During the past ten months, the company has seen the bankruptcy of the largest toy retailer (Toys R Us), rumors of merging with Mattel, and most recently significant layoffs. The status of the new headquarters is unknown.

As GoLocal reported:

GoLocal learned that a plan by two real estate mega-forces, Providence developer Joe Paolino of Paolino Properties and Bob Gilbane of Gilbane Development, is emerging that would build an approximately 36 story tower at the location of the now vacant Superman Building. 

The new structure is being pitched to Hasbro for its new consolidated headquarters. The Paolino and Gilbane plan is just one of a number of plans submitted, but the only one that includes the demolition of the Superman building. Some of the other proposed offered for Hasbro's consideration include building a campus for Hasbro on 195 lands. Other potential developers include Procaccianti Companies who "has owned, developed or managed millions of square feet of real estate." The company owns the Renaissance Hotel in Providence to name just one of its holdings. 

Reaction to the "Hasbro Tower" was immediate and varied across the business community and the public. 

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Patriots Stadium

When Bob Kraft was not getting the stadium deal he wanted in Massachusetts, he went shopping for a new home for the New England Patriots.

Providence was first up, negotiations began with then-Governor Lincoln Almond and the late Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci.

The location was going to be behind the Providence Place Mall. The Mall and Convention Center were new to the City -- the Mall was in full construction.

The early plans for the stadium proposed it would be located near where the Foundry and Promenade Apartments are located — the old Brown and Sharpe complex. Today, it is a mill rehab success story of office and residential use. Then it was primarily vacant.

But, the deal never happened. Kraft entered into an agreement with Hartford, CT and later backed out of that deal.

In November 2008, the New York Times reported, "Connecticut officials have agreed to build a stadium for the owner, Robert K. Kraft, in return for 10 percent of its revenues over the 30 years of the agreement. The stadium is expected to take two to three years to build, meaning that the first games would be played in the stadium in 2001. The league would have to approve any move by the Patriots."

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Providence Outdoor Concert Venue

In September 2015, GoLocal learned that the proposed Pawtucket Red Sox Providence waterfront stadium could have some competition in the pursuit of the proposed parcel of 195 land. 

As GoLocal reported:

Coran Capshaw Red Light management is said to be eyeing Providence's riverfront opportunities for a mid-size outdoor concert venue, according to multiple sources -- and is slated to be making an announcement regarding interest in the land shortly, which is projected to be just where the PawSox have been looking. 

Capshaw, who manages such musical acts at Dave Matthews Band and Lady Antebellum, has an extensive background of music venue development nationally.

Capshaw was behind the creation of Charlottesville Pavilion in 2005, a $3.5 million joint endeavor between the North Carolina city and Capshaw, which opened on the downtown mall. The pavilion serves multiple uses in the community including hosting the Fridays After Five free concert series. 

Capshaw never came and the only music venue built is now across the river in East Providence.

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Fane's Three Towers

New York developer Jason Fane broke into the headlines late in 2016 when he proposed building three waterfront towers -- in total 131 stories of skyscrapers along the Providence waterfront. 

Just a day after the three towers proposal was unveiled, then-City Council President Luis Aponte talked about the project to GoLocal, who reported, "Aponte is calling the proposal put forth by developer Jason Fane to build three residential skyscrapers on 195 land "insulting" -- and not the best use of the property for the city."

"I think the renderings show that [the proposal] is out of scale, size, and shape," said Aponte. "It's an insult to our city's historic character."

Fane then tacked to a one-story proposal -- which is currently under consideration.

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Other Projects that never came to fruition:

Pfizer

In 1997, State officials were in negotiations to bring a major Pfizer facility to Providence, but according to Mike Stanton's "Prince of Providence" book, Buddy Cianci jumped the gun, violated a confidentiality by taking to the media, and Pfizer the next day ended negotiations.

New England Revolution Stadium

In 2013 and 2014 there were negotiations and site visits to Providence by officials of the New England Revolution. 

Calvin Klein

In the late 1990s, the administration of Buddy Cianci came close to bringing Calvin Klein to the City of Providence to be located at the old Gorham plant. That deal fell through when the economy went into a recession.

 
 

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