Waterman Street, #116

A new five-story apartment building set on two adjoined lots on the edge of the Thayer Street shopping district

About this Property

Proposal

New construction at this site replaced two houses that were lost in 2023 — 383 Brook Street and 116 Waterman. While we at ArtInRuins are in favor of density, we seldom like to see historic homes lost in the process. And the four-block section of College Hill has seen much erosion in the past 10 years, which these houses were a part of.

The proposals for this new apartment building came from developer and property owner Walter Bronhard and Brook Holding LLC. Mr. Bronhard also owns the nearby Rufus Waterman House at 108-100 Waterman Street and is proposing a similar fate. This is a five-story mixed use building with ground-floor retail and 25 two-bedroom apartment units. The proposal sought and was granted a dimensional zoning adjustment for height and a design waiver for locating residential development within 20’ of a main street.

No parking was required as the lot measures less than 10,000 sf. Five bicycle spaces are required to meet the bicycle parking requirement of one space for every five units and will be located in the basement level along with a gym and communal space. The retail unit is a little over 1000 sf while each two bedroom unit measures between 800 and 1000 sf.

There is a roof deck as part of the 2022 proposal, but we had heard that neighbors pushed back on that idea, fearing late night noice coming from the building. We have not been able to verify if the building was approved to have a roof deck.

While a new building is all shiny and nice for a period of time, reports of the owner’s preference to spend as little maintenance money as possible makes us think this building won’t look so shiny and new on the inside for very long.

Design Reception

We are not a fan of the “darkitecture” design. It looks cool now, but it feels like it will look very mid-2020’s in a few years. Hindsight does not usually look favorably upon trendy designs such as this.

We are a fan of the density that this brings, and while the City Plan Commission (CPC) wants to increase density and will approve almost anything that comes before it, at least it seems to be staying within the bounds of these four blocks. While we lament the loss of the houses in this area, to sacrifice this commercial and dense rental center in favor of keeping other parts of the city single-family focused, we’ll take it.

In the News

College Hill apartment project approved

by Wheeler Cowperthwaite
Providence Journal | February 23, 2023 (abridged)

The Providence City Plan Commission has approved a five-story apartment building on College Hill with a storefront on Brook Street on the condition that management or security be on the premises at all times.

That condition, as well as devices that will monitor the sound level and number of cellphones on the roof, on balconies and in common areas of the would-be building at 116 Waterman St., came in response to complaints from the neighborhood association, Ward 2 Councilwoman Helen Anthony and residents that college students will menace the neighborhood with loud parties.

Critics of the 25-apartment proposal asked the Plan Commission to exercise its discretion and deny two elements of the plan − an “adjustment” to allow the building to go up one story plus eight feet and a design waiver to allow apartments on the first floor along Brook Street.

The Plan Commission granted both, after the developer reduced the amount of residential space along Brook Street by moving one apartment into a cellar and turning the space above it, facing the street, into an 800-square-foot community room or a small business space opening onto Fones Alley.

The city ordinance prohibits residential spaces on the first floor within 20 feet of a “main road.”

City Planning Director Robert Azar said the project met the intent of the city ordinance, with a storefront on Waterman Street and that Brook Street was added later as a “main street” after lobbying by the Thayer Street District Management Authority, which wanted to begin increasing storefronts on Brook Street as Thayer Street becomes saturated.

The Plan Commission voted 3-to-1 to approve the preliminary plan with the variances for height and commercial space and delegated final approval to the Planning Department. Commissioner Harrison Bilodeau was the single no vote. He did not give a reason to deny the variances but said he voted against the preliminary plan because he wanted authority over the final plan. […]

Why were people opposed to the development?

Central to the complaints about the development were a rooftop terrace, which opponents said would become a nuisance as college students party long into the night. Opponents were not assuaged by the commission requiring sound-monitoring devices and security guards always on the premises.

“This business about monitoring the noise is nothing but smoke and mirrors,” Anthony said.

She said complaints about owner Walter Bronhard’s other properties have gone unaddressed. […]

In all, seven people spoke against the proposal and two people submitted letters against it.

Who was for the project?

In all, four people spoke in favor of the project, while one letter of support was submitted.

Matthew Schaelling said he was for the project and for the adjustments, and that the project would put dense housing where Providence needs it.

“I don’t understand the noise concerns given the location of the development,” he said. “I’m in this neighborhood every day, and it’s already very noisy, primarily because of heavy trucks and cars, but not from any students in the area.”

Christian Roselund was the only person to speak against the surveillance requirement imposed by the Plan Commission and said the development, and more housing, is in the public’s interest.

Cowperthwaite, Wheeler. “College Hill apartment project approved.” Providence Journal (RI), PFO-Journal ed., sec. News, 23 Feb. 2023, p. A6. NewsBank: America’s News, https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info%3Asid/infoweb.newsbank.com&svc_dat=NewsBank&req_dat=D4BD6B42F1AB4706B5E1244D477DEE03&rft_val_format=info%3Aofi/fmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Actx&rft_dat=document_id%3Anews/18FDD170984F4828. Accessed 22 May 2024.