Clark’s Flower Shop

A neighborhood battle and a prolonged redevelopment took down Clark’s to replace it with mixed-use residential and commercial space

About this Property

#Reason for Demolition

One thing was clear — the flower shop was closing and something would replace this site. Because the property was zoned R3, the only uses they could pursue without permission were residential or continued use as a flower shop. A non-flower-shop proposal came to the fore — a drive through coffee place, Brewed Awakenings. The neighborhood got involved and fought for what they thought was right — or more precisely, opposed a development they saw as the opposite of what they wanted in the neighborhood. In the end, they got a more sensitive redevelopment of the property, but it took some time.

#Current Events

400 Hope Street is the home to two retail spaces and three condos. City Kitty is the main tenant, who moved from a long-occupied space in the Jewelry District and whose owner was a partner in the development project. A day care facility also occupies a spot here. There are three large condominiums — 2 and 3 beds, 2 baths.

#In the News

Democracy and the flower shop

by David Brussat
Providence Journal | September 30, 2010 (abridged, captured November 2010)

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, preservehopestreet.org, 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 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.

[…] 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.