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Fogarty building

 

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The John E. Fogarty Building (d. 2017), RIP

Written by Doors Open Rhode Island

The John E. Fogarty Memorial Building, of 111 Fountain Street, Providence, passed away on Monday, March 13 after a protracted and debilitating illness. It was 49 years old and was the beloved child of the Rhode Island architecture firm Castellucci, Galli & Planka Associates. Sadly, the firm lost their exuberant geodesic dome, the Maintenance Facility Vehicle Shelter at T.F. Green Airport, only last year, to disassembly and storage.

At birth, the Fogarty served the Department of Human Services; it was later leased to the state’s Department of Human Resources. Between 1999 and 2003, the Fogarty was used sporadically by the Department of Education. That year, hundreds of students were evacuated from the building due to breathing problems and since then, it has been vacant. In 2005, it was purchased by the Procaccianti Group.

As a young building, the Fogarty was part of an enthusiastic family of Brutalist government buildings that expressed the energy and confidence of Lyndon Johnson’s 1960s Great Society programs. To its neighbors, the building could be difficult, challenging — abrasive, even. It had a strong personality and was not always easy to engage with. Those who loved the Fogarty valued its strong sculptural form and the texture of its reinforced concrete, which looked like molded sand up close, while those who felt less love for it saw the building as ugly, rough and imposing.

Other members of the Brutalist family predeceased the Fogarty building, including cousins like Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Building (d. 2015) and John Johansen’s Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore (d. 2015). Some relatives are on life-support, their future uncertain. A lucky few have found a new lease on life through sensitive renovation, including Marcel Breuer’s old Whitney Museum (now the Met Breuer), Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building in New Haven and — closer to the Fogarty’s old stomping grounds — Boston’s City Hall and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus (another Rudolph creation).

Jana Planka, the daughter of one of the Fogarty’s lead architects, H. Michael Planka, remembers her father’s excitement about designing the building: “He was a very progressive man and was looking to do something different and a little left of center – he was looking to break the mold.” Its baby pictures reveal an energy and sense of confidence that jibe with the era’s muscle cars — the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, and Plymouth Road Runner. But the world changed around it, and tastes changed and by the 21st century, the Fogarty had few friends left. The death knell sounded a couple of weeks ago on March 1, when the replacement building’s permit was issued.

Who are the Fogarty’s heirs? What inheritance does it leave? For a new generation of architects and architecture fans, some aspects of Brutalism are in favor again, such as a new interest in texture; in industrial materials, roughly handled; and in sculptural forms that can be achieved by molding concrete.

For those of us who live in Providence, and love Providence, the Fogarty was always a formidable building. Even in death, it remains so. Demolition began on Monday, March 13 and at the end of the day, one corner of the building had succumbed, leaving a gaping hole. The steel bars known as rebar that “reinforce” the sand and stone that make up concrete were left exposed and deformed, having been cut through by the nearby excavator. But some sense of strength remained: Daniel Govoni, a project manager with Northstar Project and Real Estate Services, was quoted in the Providence Journal on March 9, saying “The bones of the building, they’re still intact.” No longer. RIP.

Authors: Marisa Angell Brown, Assistant Director of Programs at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage Brown University; Steve Lubar of Brown University; and Caroline Stevens, Director of Doors Open Rhode Island.

Providence Design Review Committee OK’s demolition of Fogarty building

From the Providence Journal: The Downtown Design Review Committee unanimously approved a series of requests Monday that officially cleared the way for the Procaccianti Group Inc. to start tearing down the old John E. Fogarty Building on Fountain Street, possibly within three months.

[…] The planned hotel would be one of Marriott International Inc.'s Residence Inn extended-stay units, architect Harry Wheeler of Group 1 Partnership in Boston told the committee. It would have 154 rooms, each with a kitchenette. Wheeler said the most recent trends at Marriott's reservations system show visitors booking stays for between four and six days.

[…] The nearly 50-year-old Fogarty building is one of downtown’s most striking examples of the post-war Brutalist style of architecture. Formerly owned by the city, it has been vacant for more than a decade and has been the target of significant vandalism. Residents and business people in the area have repeatedly claimed its only apparent purpose in recent years has been to attract undesirable people to the neighborhood, especially after dark.

Another nice overview piece about the Brutalism movement in architecture.

Previous News: 2007

Vincent Mesolella, chairman of the Narragansett Bay Commission and a former state representative, has proposed building a $57-million hotel on the Fountain Street site. The 13-story, all-suites hotel would have a restaurant, swimming pool and fitness center. (Ed: Mesolella, as we understand it, also owns the former Police Station site, and built the new Public Safety Complex in a no-bid contract with the department)

The existing vacant building would be razed to make way for a 250-room all-suites hotel on Sabin Street across from the Rhode Island Convention Center. The hotel would be connected to the Convention Center by a footbridge and would have dedicated parking for 240 cars in the Convention Center garage. The authority would prefer to have more rooms and amenities to suit its convention-goers, and to have as close an association with the hotel as possible in order to get guaranteed blocks of rooms at the times and the prices it would like.

At the building’s 1998 assessed value of $5.9 million, the annual tax bill would be $196,300, according to the city tax assessor’s office. If Mesolella’s hotel project were brought to fruition, he would also pay a personal property tax, which would generate an estimated $199,600 a year for the city.

Last year, Governor Carcieri vetoed the General Assembly’s attempt to grant Mesolella $20 million in tax credits to help finance the hotel. Mesolella says he is still going forward with the project, however, and may seek financing through the Procaccianti Group, which is developing a second tower at The Westin Providence hotel and has plans to reconstruct the nearby Holiday Inn Downtown.

Mesolella said last week that he is on track to meet the guidelines set by the Providence Redevelopment Agency. His agreement with the agency requires him to purchase the Fogarty building by June 30, and to begin construction within 120 days of the closing. (Ed: What is the status, then, since it is obvious no construction has been done?)

Mesolella will need demolition approval from the city Historic District Commission, design approval of the hotel building from the Downcity District Design Review Committee, and a waiver of the building height limit from the Zoning Board of Review. The building would be about 5 feet taller than the maximum allowed by the city zoning code, according to architect Duncan Pendlebury.

The Redevelopment Agency owns the Fogarty Building, having bought it from the city in the financial preparations that were made for the construction of the Public Safety Complex. There was a package deal between Mesolella and Cianci in which Mesolella and a partner agreed to build the Public Safety Complex and a luxury hotel on the site of what was then the police-fire headquarters at LaSalle Square.

The Fogarty Building is valued at $2,965,570 and the land at $1,353,630, for a total of $4,319,200, according to the company revaluing Providence’s real estate.

History

One of several government buildings constructed in Providence in the 1960s and 70s, the John E. Fogarty Memorial Building was designed by Castellucci, Galli, & Planka architects in 1968 to house the state welfare office (now Rhode Island Department of Human Services), which remained in the building until 1999. Since then, the building and site have been proposed for various forms of redevelopment, from a sports museum to a temporary home for the police department to a hotel. It was occupied for a period by a middle school while a new structure was being constructed. — from Brown University’s Library collection

Jeffrey Allcock Apr 7 2016 I never had any experience of this building when it was in use (thank god) but I used to work next door when it was vacant, and it was a good place to smoke a j and even take a piss if you had to. I’ve sort of grown fond of it since, despite or maybe because of its defiant ugliness: it’s certainly like no other building downtown. I think I’ll be sad to see it go, especially if it’s replaced by another Lego-style hotel like the Westin.

john Mar 6 2011 This building used to facilitate the “state wellfare office” growing up pretty poor, me and many i know can remember spending many grueling hours in early 80’s sitting/playing in multicolored plastic chairs in a vast waiting room. Back when food stamps were actual paper money lol.

Cotuit (Ed. note: This property previously languished in our RIP section) It may be a bit premature to label this one a RIP, though not too many tears may be shed if it were to come down. TPGs latest proposal for the building calls for glassing in the ground floor arcade and attracting restaurant/retail on the ground floor with offices above. There is a *chance* that they may add more floors to the building, the structure apparently can support it. The building has been dubbed OneEleven Fountain.

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