First Federal Bank

also known as Downtown “Buck-a-Book”

A non-descript downtown commercial building probably faced with enamel and steel details in the 1950s. Razed in 2005 for a condomuium tower that was never built.

About this Property

#Reason for Demolition

The march of progress came down hard on this glass- and steel facade building from the 1930s in the summer of 2005. A proposed luxury high-rise tower – the One Ten Westminster – was supposed to take its place. A small price to pay for progress, as the newly proposed replaced the old. Another building next door at 90 Westminster Street, the Providence National Bank, was razed in the name of new luxury as well.

#Current Events

Alas, that was when the market was very hot, and projects like the new towers at Waterplace Park Towers were just starting. The high-end of the market had been met by projects like that. Once the land was cleared and made ready, and people were excited to see a building as tall as the Superman building (the Industrial Trust building), the bottom fell out of the housing market. Fifteen years later (in 2020), the land is still vacant and only home to a surface parking lot.

Will developers ever be held accountable for demolishing buildings of historic importance? Should they put up some guarentee or hold money in escrow or something to prevent demolition by proposal? Probably not, but it would sure be nice. But, in the meantime, downtown could really use some more surface parking lots.

#In the News

32-Story Condo Tower Would Hold R.I.’S Highest Homes

A city ordinance preventing demolition is voided by a Superior Court judge.

By Gregory Smith
Providence Journal | February 25, 2005

A joint venture of Providence and Boston developers plans to build a $90-million, luxury condominium tower on Westminster Street in the city’s business center. The 32-story tower would be the first skyscraper built in the Financial District in 20 years, since the Fleet Center opened across Westminster Street from the project site.

At 360 feet, the tower would be Rhode Island’s tallest residential structure, according to the developers. But it would not match other skyscrapers on Westminster Street. The Industrial National Bank Building is 420 feet tall, and One Financial Plaza (more widely known as the former Rhode Island Hospital Trust tower) reaches 408 feet.

The 130 new condos would sell for $500,000 to $2.5 million and would appeal to empty-nesters, young professionals, students, people associated with Brown University and RISD, and people from the Boston area.

The project would straddle the tapered end of a city block, behind the Turks Head Building, stretching from Westminster to Weybosset Street. It would feature a ground-floor grocery store and cafe on the Weybosset Street side, and the second through seventh floors would be parking levels, providing about 170 spaces.

Featuring a glassy, modern design, the tower announced yesterday would be connected to the nation’s oldest indoor shopping center, the Arcade (which dates to 1828), providing a new stream of customers for the lightly patronized commercial building.

But it would doom a Colonial Revival building at 90 Westminster St, put up in 1929, that historians consider integral to the Downtown Providence National Historic District. If the city gives permission, the developers would raze that building as well as another at 110 Westminster St. The building at 110 Westminster, which used to house a Buck-a-Book store, separates the parking lot from the Arcade.

The building at 90 Westminster was extended through to Weybosset Street in 1950, and at the city’s request the developers would save the neoclassical frontage on Weybosset to a depth of about 20 feet. That would serve as the front of the 7,500-square-foot grocery store and cafe.

Cicilline and the developers said the project, to be called One Ten Westminster, would be financed privately and not require any public subsidies. O’Marah said the developers hope to break ground this year and to complete construction by late 2007.

The building would contain about 390,000 square feet, with the condos ranging in size from 900 square feet to 3,500-plus square feet for two-story units. Its seventh floor would be dedicated to an 11,000-square-foot, outdoor garden, a fitness center and a residents’ lounge with a full kitchen.

“This will not be just another development, but a piece of notable architecture for Providence, a centerpiece the city can point to and be proud of,” Lloyd Granoff said. The Granoffs considered creating office space at the site, but opted for residential use because, Lloyd Granoff said, the market for first-class office space in Providence has been static for years.

Asked whether the changes planned for the Financial District represent its decline as an office center, Granoff said, “I wouldn’t use the word decline. After 5 o’clock it is totally dead. I think now you’re going to find a mixture [of uses] there. At night you’re going to have people walking around. And that’s a lot nicer thing.”

Lloyd Granoff, of Providence, is chairman of the Providence Public Buildings Authority. Evan Granoff, of Bristol, is chairman of the Downtown Providence District Management Authority. The authority is a new public agency that will oversee a special safety patrol and cleaning crew in Downcity and parts of the Financial and Jewelry districts.