Rialto Furniture


A discussion thread on this condo project atUrbanPlanet.org


Providence Journal | Feb. 18 2005

Rialto Furniture and a couple of shops would be razed to make way for a luxury apartment complex whose proposed bulk and height have people talking on Federal Hill.

The ambitious $30-million-plus project at 333 Atwells Ave., with a costly three-level underground parking garage, would cater to empty-nesters who have a taste for large apartments, said developer Robert R. Gaudreau Sr.

While its scale is a concern for some people, members of the city Plan Commission praised the project when it was unveiled at a public informational meeting on Tuesday. “I think it’s wonderful,” said commission member Harry Bilodeau.

Eight- and six-story towers would shoot up from the site, significantly exceeding the 45-foot height limit for buildings in the area set by the city zoning code. On the Atwells side, the six-story tower would be 77 feet tall, and at the rear, the eight-story tower would be 102 feet tall. The property slopes down a maximum 9 feet to the rear.

While Atwells has a mix of building and facade styles, modest and quaint wooden structures of 2 to 3 1/2 stories are typical of the busy boulevard. The 82-unit apartment complex is the second massive project to appear on the public agenda for Atwells in the past five months. With public opinion polarized, the city Zoning Board of Review last September approved a 10-story luxury condominium building nearby, across the street from Holy Ghost Church.

Some people fear that the projects have begun a wave of real estate development in which tall, hefty structures would engulf Atwells and spoil its charm and historical character.

“I see Atwells Avenue as one of Providence’s great, great streets,” a street for which the city is widely known, said Kari Lang, executive director of the association. People are worried, she said, about the multistory buildings that have been proposed, as well as others waiting in the wings. Lang said she is wary of the scale and the height of the apartment complex but admires what she called its “sensitive design” and spacious garage.

Gaudreau initially proposed 10- and 8-story towers, according to his spokeswoman, Rebecca Pazienza, but agreed to reduce them to eight stories and six stories after consulting with city officials and neighborhood “stakeholders.” Ladds showed the commission how he designed the building with varying proportions and included stepbacks and segments in the facade in an effort to relieve its massive feel. Its base, middle and top are distinguishable, he pointed out.

A public courtyard inside, visible from the sidewalk, would provide interaction that also would lighten the scale, he said. Pedestrians would be welcome to come inside to sit, and, if a restaurant is in business there, dine al fresco. Commission member Samuel Limiadi still appeared unimpressed, saying that the building seems to loom too large for the area.

The apartment complex would be built with a brick veneer, precast stone accents and either zinc-colored copper or painted metal trim. Its features would include a fitness center and a swimming pool that would overlook the courtyard.

Its one- to three-bedroom apartments, ranging in size from 925 square feet to 2,160 square feet, would rent for $1,800 to $3,000 or more. Twenty-four units would be larger than 2,000 square feet, which Gaudreau said is a size that would give tenants an alternative to a condo. There are few apartments of that size available, he said. Many of the units would have porches and balconies.

On the ground floor, the complex would have 30,000 square feet of retail space. The 268-stall garage would allow enough space for the cars of residents and retail customers; 30 to 40 stalls would be for use by others in the area, which is pinched for parking.

Targeted for demolition are Rialto Furniture, at 321-327 Atwells, a one-story building with an attached cinder-block warehouse that stretches to Spruce Street, and Garbolino, at 333 Atwells, a women’s clothing shop in a boxy three-story wooden building with an attached two-story brick building. Also to go is a pitched-roof, 3 1/2-story tenement house at 144 Spruce St. that contains apartments and Spellbound, a hair and nail salon.

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