By David Ortiz,
PBN Staff Writer | Aug. 20, 2007
Two years after the national real estate and hotel management company The Procaccianti Group announced its ambition to acquire and develop a “power block” of marquee properties surrounding a renovated Dunkin’ Donuts Center and the R.I. Convention Center in downtown Providence, the plan is taking shape.
On Aug. 1, the Cranston-based developer began demolition of the city’s former police and fire headquarters across the street from the Dunk in La Salle Square, which it will turn into a surface parking lot while designs are drawn and approved for a new mixed-use office tower with street-level restaurant and retail shops.
On the same day, Procaccianti opened 200 new hotel rooms in the 380-foot tower addition it is building to its landmark Westin Providence Hotel. The 103 luxury condominiums being built in the tower’s upper floors will be completed in early November, said Ralph V. Izzi Jr., Procaccianti’s spokesman.
“We expect to have our homeowners moved in by Thanksgiving,” he said.
The exterior construction of the 32-story tower was completed with a topping-off ceremony in March. In addition to the hotel rooms and condominiums, the building houses a Fleming’s Prime Steak House & Wine Bar and other retail shops at street level and several floors of private parking for its homeowners, Izzi said.
Within the next couple of months, Procaccianti expects to raze the Fogarty Building on Fountain Street and begin work to build a mixed-use office and parking complex with a street-level restaurant, he said.
Procaccianti purchased the Fogarty Building and the development rights to the former public safety complex from the Providence Redevelopment Agency in August 2005. The acquisitions were key components of the company’s plan to take part in an economic revitalization of the blocks surrounding the Dunk, which is in the midst of a $65 million renovation that will link the facility to the adjacent convention center.
The upgraded, combined facilities are expected to increase the number of sports and entertainment events at the Dunk and attract larger conventions to the convention center, bringing thousands of new visitors to the area between La Salle Square and Kennedy Plaza.
“Obviously with the investment in the convention center and the Dunk, this is certainly becoming very much a vibrant part of the city, and our role as a developer is to contribute to the momentum,” Izzi said. “This part of the city is just growing by leaps and bounds, and we feel that Providence has all the key indicators that show it’s a great city for us to invest in.”
In February, Procaccianti completed its upgrade of the Holiday Inn that had operated for many years near the Dunk into the Hilton Providence. The $30 million hotel renovation also included the addition of a street-level atrium that now houses a Starbucks café and Shula’s 347, an upscale steak house founded by the NFL football coaching legend Don Shula, which opened in the hotel in February.
Construction crews began tearing down the vacant public safety complex almost immediately after Providence’s top building official said the building posed a safety hazard, clearing the way for demolition.
Then on Aug. 14, an employee of AA Wrecking & Asbestos Abatement Co. in Johnston was taken from the demolition site to the hospital with an ankle injury after the excavator he was operating tipped on its side. Izzi said Procaccianti had launched an investigation of the accident, which he said was believed to have occurred when a foundation wall in the basement collapsed under the weight of the excavator.
The demolition, which Izzi said will take about three weeks, already had been delayed by more than a year as the Providence Preservation Society, the West Broadway Neighborhood Association, the College Hill Neighborhood Association and other civic groups mounted a campaign to save the building, which they argued was structurally sound and historically significant.
The Downtown Neighborhood Alliance supported the demolition, saying it will spur economic development.
Some groups also opposed the city’s decision to allow Procaccianti to turn the site into a surface parking lot until a new building plan is drafted and approved.
Jef Nickerson, president of Greater City: Providence, a group that advocates dense, mixed-use development downtown, said he believes the city should not have conveyed the property to Procaccianti before approving a plan for redevelopment that promised to increase pedestrian traffic and contribute to the downtown’s community fabric.
“It gives an incentive to other developers to do the same thing,” Nickerson said. “You buy a building and you tear it down and you build parking, because the city obviously allows that, and it’s something that the city shouldn’t be making so easy for developers.”
Izzi declined to speculate on how long it might take Procaccianti to design a plan for the site and move it through regulatory approval, except to say that “as soon as we can move forward, we will.”
“You can hopefully take comfort in the fact that The Procaccianti Group is committed to investing in downtown Providence, and our intention is to do what’s in the best interests of the city,” he said.
One may have noticed that the repugnant greaser Vinnie “Family Man” Mesolella is being allowed to stay on at his job controlling the state’s Underground Storage Tank Financial Responsibility Fund Review Board (UST) “But what one may not have noticed is that Vinnie is currently doing a deal with the City of Providence to build a hotel on the site of the old police and fire headquarters in LaSalle Square. And guess what, boys and girls? There may be some problem with fuel contamination at the site due to underground storage tanks. This, of course, would run up the cost to the City of Providence, which may then increase the cost to the developers through the still-being-finagled sale and purchase agreement. This means [Vinnie] and his business partners would take a direct hit to the wallet – unless someone were to guarantee that La Prov could get the clean-up paid for by – wait for it – the UST, which Mesolella heads up!
Art Deco facade with deco style details. Otherwise, plain concrete structure. Anyone who has ever been inside for traffic court knows how institutional the halls were.
The 60-year-old building has been falling apart for some time, to the dismay of those who work in it. One city employee called the five-story structure a sewer. With dangling wires, chipping paint and an emergency generator that operates only when it wants, the current headquarters is not the friendliest work environment. The state fire marshal found 27 code violations.
In 2000, the Police and Fire Departments moved into their new building beside Route 95 at 325 Washington Street, known now as the Public Safety complex. We personally think the new building must be modelled after the chemical structure of a testosterone molecule.
The new complex cost $32 million, and is 129,000 sf. It is home to the city’s police and fire departments as well as the Public Safety Commissioner and staff, Providence Emergency Management Agency, Providence Municipal Courts, and a fully equipped Communications Department facility.
The complex includes separate police officer and firefighter locker and training areas, booking and detention areas, police forensic laboratories, fire battalion dormitory, fire apparatus bay, courtrooms, a 100-seat auditorium, below-grade parking and sally ports. An adjacent 525-car parking garage was also built.
Mike P July 31 2008 Is anything going on with this site, or is downtown doomed to have another surface parking lot taking up valuable real estate?
Jason Simonelli Having been born and raised in Providence I had frequented the Police station a few times as a youth for minor random offenses. Though my memories of the building are not the most pleasant i must admit that i’m sad to see it gone.
josh If the Procaccianti group is so interested in the redevelopment of downtown, why don’t they move their offices there?
E. Micallef So appears that Providence is also owned by the Tony Soprano type people… Why was this building left in such disrepair? Providence has money to put into it’s own infrastructure. What would it have cost to renovate the structure? This building is built superior to anything built today… Wasted.
The information about each building grows as visitors let us know about their experiences. Did you or a member of your family work here? Did you grow up near it as a child? Let us know. All entries will be moderated and may be posted in an edited form. We will use your name unless you tell us otherwise. We will not make your email public.