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Andrea L. Stape
Wednesday, April 13, 2005 | Providence Journal
At 356 feet tall, or about 31 stories, the proposed hotel tower next to The Westin Providence is being designed to make a statement. The hotel and condo tower The Procaccianti Group is planning to attach to the Westin will include 105 condominiums, 200 hotel rooms, a parking garage for residents and an arcade filled with restaurants and shops on the first floor, according to a presentation by the Cranston company’s architectural firm yesterday.
The Procaccianti Group is in the process of buying the state-owned Westin for $95.5 million. In order to buy the hotel from the state, though, Procaccianti is required to add additional rooms to the Westin – expanding the state's ability to host conventions.
The rooms will be built in the proposed tower and in a shorter building on the grass-and-tree-covered park next to the downtown hotel. The shorter building – about 149 feet high – will connect the current, domed entrance to the Westin with the new hotel high-rise. The tower and the connecting building will dramatically change the way drivers and pedestrians view the corner of Francis Street, Memorial Boulevard and West Exchange Street.
“We see it as an extremely important project for the city,” said Duncan Pendlebury, president of Jung Brannen Associates Inc., of Boston.
Since the piece of land the tower will be built on is considered a part of the capital center district – a special development zone in front of the State House – the Design Review Committee of the Capital Center Commission must approve the building's design before it can go forward.
Procaccianti wants the panel to waive a number of design requirements. For example, the city wants buildings in the capital center area to be between 200 feet and 300 feet tall. The company is eager to get through the design review process since the state has required Procaccianti to finish the hotel tower by July 2007.
Yesterday, though, the committee kept its feedback fairly positive. “You should leave here feeling that the committee is in favor of what you are presenting here,” said Wilfrid Gates, chairman of the Design Review Committee and a landscape architect.
The proposed tower and the shorter connector building will both be red brick, matching the existing brick on the Westin, and have gabled roofs. But the tall tower will feature a concrete accent running up the sides. It will also have balconies for the condos, and larger penthouse balconies for the top floors. Also, the company has proposed making the side of the building facing Francis Street a pedestrian mecca that provides people with a covered walkway up the outside to access shops and cafes.
The building's look, however, could change dramatically through the design review process. The Procaccianti Group is expected to come back before the Design Review Committee for another public workshop on April 21.
The original Westin tower, though nice, for the most part, always makes me think of those Monopoly hotels… it looks pre fab. So we aren’t impressed with the new tower, which will be more of the same. We are supporters of density, though. And I still dont understand where all these rich people who can afford to live here are coming from. Maybe I am selling RI short, but it seems funny that someone will pay over $1 million for a condo in Providence.
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