This little skinny building was scheduled to be demolished, but finally was saved by the Providence Revolving Fund with David Stem and friends. It is being rehabilitated for office use with ground floor retail is already available.
A city ordinance preventing demolition is voided by a Superior Court judge.
BY GREGORY SMITH
Journal Staff Writer | September 27, 2004
Three Downcity buildings, two of which are considered historically significant, could be demolished because a special zoning district created to protect them has been invalidated in court.
The owners of the buildings have submitted applications for city demolition permits, apparently intending to use the cleared land for parking. The buildings under threat are in the Downcity district, which the city created a decade ago to preserve the distinctive 19th- and early 20th-century architecture of the older part of downtown.
The vacant three-story Providence National Bank Building, which was the longtime home of Fleet Bank’s trust department but is sometimes referred to by the name of a more recent tenant, the former Downing Corp. Carrying two addresses, 90 Westminster St. and 30 Weybosset St., the building stretches from one street to another, angled like a slightly closed elbow. The Colonial Revival brick frontage on Westminster dates to 1929 and the Weybosset frontage, also inspired by classical design, to 1950. (Ed Update June 2009: This building was razed in December 2005 for a new development that has yet to happen, the OneTen.)
The vacant First Federal Savings and Loan Building at 110 Westminster St., adjacent to The Arcade, a national historic landmark. The two-story building carries the signs of a former tenant, the Buck A Book store. (Ed Update June 2009: This building as well was razed in December 2005 for a new development that has yet to happen, the OneTen.)
The three-story George C. Arnold Building, 100 Washington St., at the corner of Mathewson Street. Its current occupants are Kevin’s Corner Smoke Shop, Honorbilt apparel, Downtown Liquors and a telemarketing office. Built in 1923, it is the most shallow Downcity building, with a depth of only 12 1/2 feet.
Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Procaccini ruled in June that the ordinance underpinning the Downcity district was technically flawed, improperly implemented and is void. City officials are moving to reinstate the district by reenacting the ordinance in a way that would withstand court scrutiny, as well as taking other steps. His ruling is under appeal.
But, for the time being, some property owners believe the city’s legal shield has dropped and they are free to knock down what they see as functionally obsolete buildings that stand in the way of economic development.
“Not every building is beautiful” and worthy of preservation, declared developer and property owner Joseph R. Paolino Jr., who filed the successful lawsuit to have the Downcity District nullified.
Jim Litsey, a lawyer and president of the Providence Preservation Society, sees the court decision as ominous. “It would be a real shame if we were to have a building demolition in this interim period just because the Downcity District had what I would call a technical defect,” Litsey said.
Building Official Paxson has refused to accept the demolition application from PCRL Realty, owner of the George C. Arnold Building, which he called “wholly inadequate.” Pat Cortellessa, owner of PCRL Realty, said he will improve his application and resubmit it. “You might have a window of opportunity“ for demolition while the Downcity district is in disarray, Cortellessa said. “So take advantage of the opportunity.”
Downcity and the Financial District together comprise a district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A register listing confers no protection from demolition unless government money is involved in the redevelopment of the site. The Providence National Bank Building and the George C. Arnold Building are considered to be “contributing structures” to the importance and the integrity of the national district.
George c Arnold 4th Nov 25 2009 Great building, its my great uncles.
Whitney Easton I can’t believe that Mr. Cortollessa may knock this building down. I used to live in it when I was in highschool from 1994-1996. My family was living in Florida from 92-94 and when we returned to Providence we all moved in to this building. There were four apartments total and we rented three of them and rehabed them over the two years we lived there. I used to walk to Classical High everyday, and my friends obviously thought my family was crazy for living there, but it was always a lot of fun standing in the windows of my bedrooms and watching the lines for concerts at the Strand. I remember waking up one morning and the Shepards building right next door was engulfed in fire with flames practically licking my window. I haven’t been back to Providence for a few years (I am living in New Haven now) but I hope that they have not torn down this building, I have a lot of fond memories from my time living there.
Corey Rossi It’s still there, as of now, May 2006. I went to high school in the old Shepard’s, and this building was always really interesting to me because there seems to be no plausible reason for it to have been built this way. A February 1923 photograph of a fire at Shepard’s shows the western end of the lot where the Arnold building is supposed to be, and it isn’t yet there.
Jeff Allcock I don’t know how the Geo. Arnold building fared ( I’m writing this in April of 2005 ) but I hope it survived. Its current occupants are Kevin’s Corner Smoke Shop, Honorbilt apparel, and Downtown Liquors. Businesses supplying some of the things that make a city liveable, where anyone can go for cigarettes or a newspaper, a six-pack of beer or shirts and socks. It’s a short-sighted, one-sided vision of economic development that considers these businesses and the goods and services they provide as obsolete in the Renaissance Providence of creeping parking lots, luxury high-rise condos, swank hotels, but nowhere to get your hair cut, or to buy a used book.
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