Intercontinental Towers / Waterplace

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Towering changes in the air

A $100-million project featuring a pair of luxury condominium buildings – one 19 stories, the other 17 – would soar above nearby Providence landmarks.

Providence Journal | March 9, 2005
By Gregory Smith

The $100-million project at Waterplace Park, launched by a subsidiary of Intercontinental Real Estate Corp., will feature 193 luxury condominiums, restaurants and pubs along the Riverwalk and a three-level parking garage.

Although the State House sits atop Smith Hill, the 19-story and 17-story towers will block some views of the architecturally renowned building from the south and the east.

At 235 feet and 213 feet, respectively, the towers will reach higher than anything in the area, including Providence Place mall, One Citizens Plaza and the GTECH headquarters now under construction across the pond at Waterplace. As a successor on the site to a much-debated but failed project that would have had tall, massive buildings, Intercontinental’s plan struck few sparks regarding height as it passed through the official review process, according to Leslie A. Gardner, chairwoman of the Capital Center Commission.

With its openness to the Riverwalk, civic leaders say, the project promises to make for a more lively Waterplace Park experience in tandem with the GTECH building, which will have two fine-dining restaurants on the Riverwalk.

There is nothing like the Intercontinental project in the Providence metropolitan area: high-rise condominiums. Although Intercontinental had been inclined to build apartments, in recent weeks it settled on condominiums for economic and market reasons.

Units averaging 1,150 to 1,200 square feet, but with some as large as 2,000-plus square feet, will be offered at prices ranging from $300,000 to more than $1 million. Residents will have fitness and business centers and community rooms, but no swimming pool. Intercontinental and other developers are riding a demographic wave in which baby-boomers whose children have grown up and left home are downsizing by selling their houses and, in some cases, moving to cities to enjoy the amenities.

The Waterplace project is “transit-oriented,” he said, meaning that buyers from Rhode Island and Massachusetts would be able to go to work in and around Boston by commuter rail. The railroad station is across the street from the site.

While public attention was fixed on the design review process for the GTECH headquarters, the Capital Center Commission and city Zoning Board of Review waived height limits and approved the design elements of Intercontinental’s plan. To be built in a modern style, the towers represent a swing away from Capital Center’s traditional architecture, as epitomized by the State House and Providence Place. In that sense they would serve as companion pieces to the modern GTECH headquarters.

The exterior will consist of a glass curtain wall framed by precast concrete and covered in part with synthetic limestone panels called Arriscraft that would be used in varying shades of buff, cream and gray and in rock-like or smooth textures. The buildings will have a whitish cast, picking up the color of the State House and of the bridge and stairway abutments in Waterplace.

There will be room left on the parcel for two more buildings in a second development phase, which Intercontinental says would probably consist of a hotel and a third residential tower. John C. Simmons, administration director for Mayor David N. Cicilline, has pressed Intercontinental to devote one of the future buildings to offices because, city officials believe, that would have a greater economic ripple effect than another residential building. But Iselin said there isn’t sufficient market demand for office space.

During the hiatus between phases one and two, much of the garage roof will remain exposed, leaving an unattractive sight for some condo buyers and anyone on higher ground. The exposed ground-level roof will be designed to be temporary and will be covered by a rubber membrane of an undetermined color, according to Deborah Melino-Wender, commission executive director. An opaque fence will screen it from passersby. As a temporary roof, she said, it won’t be able to bear the weight of soil and grass.

The mayor and City Council are working on a property-tax break that would save the project an estimated $12.9 million over 20 years, assuming full build-out. A fixed schedule of discounted tax payments will make it easier to land projects for phase two and the tax savings overall will help to defray the high cost of the garage, Iselin said. Over the period, with full build-out, the city would receive an estimated $45.5 million in taxes.

With a report from staff writer Andrea L. Stape

Chuck These will be more attractive than the Gtech bldg, but it was unfortunate that Waterplace Park was essentially privatized between these two projects. During winter 2006-07, the white lights in these buildings (for construction purposes) were quite visible, and were, in fact, a beautiful sight, with a pleasing spectrum and arrangement. Everyone commented on how attractive they appeared. Perhaps it was just temporary lighting, but permanent incorporartion of this look should be considered.

brenton lembo these new building wil give a touch of moderization to the city of providence cannot wait to see it completed

rudysdad Wow! What a bold concept: high-rise luxury condos!

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