Clark’s Flower Shop

additional links

The latest proposal for a new City Kitty vet building on the site, a quickly formed neighborhood group that opposed the Brewed Awakenings proposal to build a new drive through store at this location’s page about the project
David Brussat’s full editorial on the proceedings in Sept, 2010 (excerpted below)


Democracy and the Flower Shop

The flower shop and greenhouse at 398 Hope St., Providence, owe a bouquet to democracy, which has stood in their defense. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that the old shop erected in the 1890s, and operating as Clarke Flowers since about 1982, will continue to house a florist.

Still, owner Schartner Farms (est. 1902), of Exeter, had applied to the Providence Zoning Board for a variance to let them demolish the shop and replace it with a drive-thru “coffee house.” Zoning notified neighbors with abutting homes, as the law demands. They mobilized. A Web site,, was set up to help locals invested in the character of their neighborhood rise to its defense.

It links to a map of where about 1,800 children a day walk to and fro. It links also to an article by Jef Nickerson, of the indispensable Web site Greater City: Providence. He analyzes the intricate development politics of Schartner Farms, Clarke Flowers, Hope Street and city planners. Images of a proposed Brewed Awakenings include a site plan that shows a dozen cars snaking up to the drive-thru window. [...]

The renderings of the proposed coffee shop reveal the sort of faux-village style whose evident off-the-Home-Depot-shelf character is the second-worst enemy of the neo-traditional revival in architecture. [...]

The planning department recommended that zoning reject the initial proposal for the coffee shop: “The proposed business is of a scale and intensity uncharacteristic of the vision for Mount Hope expressed by residents in the neighborhood plan. Introduction of a drive-through business would be contrary to the intention of Objective BE-2 of the Comprehensive Plan that encourages new development to complement traditional character, and Objective BE-7 that encourages preservation of existing urban character. The demolition of an existing building for a larger, more intense use would be in opposition to this objective.”

That’s pretty blunt. The developer has withdrawn the application, at least for now.

But the abutters and others who want to prevent Hope Street from morphing into another North Main Street should not let down their guard. Neighbors along Hope are wary of the old bait-and-switch, by which developers initially propose something even worse than they really want, sparking local outrage so that they can ride to the rescue by withdrawing the most offensive feature of the project; the community heaves a sigh of relief and stands down, only to discover that the resulting “compromise” still pokes the public squarely in the eye.

In this case, the worry is that the drive-thru feature of the project may be withdrawn when the applicant returns, but not the garish lighting, steroidal “signage” and appalling architecture set in a sea of parking, and will be quite as injurious to the character of the neighborhood even without the 12-stack drive-thru. So don’t stand down – stand fast on Hope!

And what about the property owner’s property rights? Well, like the right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, property rights sit within a context of law. Zoning law tends to evolve in ways that tilt procedures for or against proponents of change (developers) or opponents of change (neighbors). Here the process worked well, but that too could change. Hope Streeters recognize that even if the florist is history, its successor – perhaps a nice coffee shop in the old building, with outdoor seating but no drive-thru – need not scrape the fingernail of change across the blackboard of Hope.

This relatively minor flap remains a large issue in the ’hood, as it should. Democracy at the highest level is all about giving voice to issues that affect life as it is lived at home. Representative government in America may trickle down from Washington, but it also trickles up from Hope Street. All politics is local, the old adage says: The buck stops at the zoning board. But the buck never really does stop, does it? No, it does not. So it is up to Hope Street to keep its eyes open and its ears to the ground.

John Jul 28 2015 Whatever the developers had planned seemed to have stalled after a foundation was poured. It seems to have been months since any activity. Upon my bus ride in this morning, however, I noticed construction has resumed.

Andrew May 30 2015 it appears that construction has stalled for the new city kitty that is being built in this location. the foundation has been poured for some time now but no construction work beyond that has been done.

Amanda Nov 1 2014 This building has been torn down.

Ruth Aug 21 2013 the original Clark’s was at the corner of Thayer and Cushing I believe

kath connolly Mar 3 2011 Developers have put the same proposal from last August on the zoning agenda for March 16. The proposal includes plans to demolish the existing building and asks for variances for a drive thru and for signage. Clarke Flowers neighbors are reaching out to interested organizations and others who can help us spread the word. Steps anyone can take:

  • Come to the Zoning Board hearing, March 16 at 5:30 pm at City Hall, 5th floor. We are 4th on the agenda.
  • If you cannot attend, submit a letter to the Zoning Board which will be entered as testimony. Write to: Providence Zoning Board of Review, 190 Dyer St., Providence, RI 02903 attn: Myrth York, chair
  • Help us get the word out so we will have a strong presence at the hearing. Summit Neighborhood Association, Wayland Square Neighborhood Association and the College Hill Neighborhood Association have all graciously sent news to their circles. We have posted the background to our Facebook group and shared details on our web site: including a flyer folks can download and distribute.

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