Waterman Street, #134

A new three story, boxy and flat modern apartment building on an important historic East Side corner

About this Property


This building went up in two stages. At first, new construction broke ground late in 2019 without proper permits. The construction was halted in March 2020 and the developer was forced to fill the hole back in while they went through the proper channels. Finally, construction started again after rezoning the land and subdividing it so as to meet requirements of one building per lot.

The lot was zoned R-P (Residential Professional District), which limits buildings to one per lot. The adjacent 1970s professional building occupied the same lot before rezoning, therefore the construction of another building was illegal.1 The parcel was also in the proposed expansion area of the College Hill local historic district, but the expansion does not have the support of this owner. If it were under local historic district purview, the new construction plans would be reviewed by Historic District Commission for appropriateness.2

The building was eventually constructed with the proper rezoning complete and no historic district review, which shows.

Walter Bronhard Real Estate is the developer of this property and more than 30 others. This new construction contains nine, three bedroom, three bath apartments. Units are 1,050 s/f in size with the typical “luxury” amenities like granite countertops, hardwood floors, and central air.[^3]

[^3] “BankRI provides $2.55 million to Walter L. Bronhard Real Estate for construction of 9-unit apartment building.” New England Real Estate Journal, 10 December 2021. Accessed 22 April 2023 from https://nerej.com/bankri-provides-2-55-million-to-walter-l-bronhard-real-estate-for-construction-of-9-unit-apartment-building

“Luxury” these days just means the bare minimum of what you would want. How long before its just considered normal and not deserving of the higher price point?

Design Reception

William Morgan spoke specifically of this building in passing as he was ruminating on the lack of affordable housing that also looks interesting and pleasing:

Providence desperately needs affordable housing. So, why is it that many of the new apartment buildings — at least downtown and on the East Side — are over-priced, under-built Ubiquiboxes? How do luxury apartments, like those at Hope and Waterman Streets, solve our housing crisis? [Photo caption] A thin veneer of masonry and a wrapping of aluminum siding imprinted with wood grain barely obscure the overall cheapness of these flats at the corner of Hope and Waterman Streets. [Back to main story] This visually crucial and historic East Side corner could have been a showcase of affordable housing rather than just another example of a sheep in sheep’s clothing. […] Even so, it is hard to imagine the neighborhood or the preservationists overcoming the idea that affordable housing means people you don’t want in your backyard. We will need to scrap that notion if we are to solve our housing crisis.3

While a good critique of this building, which we agree is largely uninspired, it is also an interesting article about NIMBY-ism that can pervade communities that are well-to-do. It might be one of the reasons why the well-heeled communities in Rhode Island have the least affordable housing (we’re looking at you, Barrington).

Back to this building specifically… Yes, its bland, but it could have been so much worse. For the most part we don’t mind it only because it is not hideous. It might be modern in its blocky-ness, but at least its darker wooden and stone colors blends in with the brownstone historic homes around it, including the Lippitt House across the street.

  1. Providence Preservation Society email newsletter, March 2020. Accessed 22 April 2023 from https://myemail.constantcontact.com/April-Advocacy-Alert–Design-Competition–Waterman-Street–Hope-Point-Tower.html?soid=1102165220207&aid=vCP4RCR3vdk 

  2. Providence Preservation Society email newsletter, January 2020. Accessed 22 April 2023 from https://myemail.constantcontact.com/January-Advocacy-Alert–Our-Streets-PVD–CPC–Advocacy-Week.html?soid=1102165220207&aid=-AahbwFvxJo 

  3. Morgan, William. “Affordable Housing Can Be Good Design.” GoLocal Providence, 11 September 2011. Accessed 22 April 2023 from https://www.golocalprov.com/business/affordable-housing-can-be-good-designarchitecture-critic-morgan