images of this Property
5 images: Press to view larger or scroll sideways to see more. All renderings by Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel Architects, DPC
About this Property
First proposed September 9, 2019 in front of the Downtown Design Review Committee (DDRC) Meeting, the Florida developer Pebb Capital wanted to construct a 12-story building with 131 apartments. In what we consider to be smart urban planning, no on-site parking was included, but, that meant that the audience for these apartments would be young students and recent graduates who would not need or want a car.
The building would have included mostly small apartments, which further limited its tenants to a younger set. 50 studio apartments from 440 to 500 square feet, 64 one bedrooms from 489 to 608 square feet, and 17 two bedrooms from 800 to 990 square feet.
Another interesting feature of the building would have been its construction. The architect proposed a modular construction, meaning that each of the apartment units would be constructed off-site and then lifted into place. Some of the apartments would be constructed as double studio units. We believe this would have meant that after a long construction period of ground preparation for the foundation, the rest of the building would have gone up very quickly. This would have been good for the abutting neighbors — or at least, one small silver lining to suddenly having a 12-story neighbor.
The proposal requested the following waivers:
- Setback requirement — “Buildings over six stories tall have a recess line at least 10 feet above the third story and below the seventh story.” This design rule is intended to break up large walls of building mass but providing a change in scale between the 3rd and 7th stories.
- Storefront Glazing Percentage — “All building façades shall provide areas of transparency equal to at least 70% of the wall area between the height of one and 12 feet.” We believe the architect’s design required less glazing, but we must admit that we do not entirely understand this rule.
- Demolition of existing buildings in a Historic District
The building’s construction required the demolition of the 1941 Campbell Machine Shop currently at 155 Chestnut Street. This building used to abut the 1823 Pardon Clarke House which was demolished in 2009. It would abut the 1886 Arthur B. and Laura Weeks House on the southwestern side and the Samuel Lewis House on the northeastern side.
One of the main complaints of the building was its height. We at ArtInRuins see the need for a city to have more density that the current older stock of mill building might allow. While we are not fans of needless demolition, we are fans of smart construction and higher car-free density. The members of the Jewelry District Association and the abutting neighbors did get the DDRC to reverse a decision that gave the building a 30% height bonus, knocking it down from the proposed 12 stories to 10.
The developer pulled the plans off the table in July of 2022, citing other reasons instead of neighbor opposition.
PPS does not oppose the design of this modular construction high-rise in the Jewelry District. In fact, it would be a welcome addition and exciting infill. We do find the proposed location, requiring demolition and shoehorning between two rare surviving residential buildings to be wholly inappropriate when the Jewelry District and the neighboring I-195 Redevelopment District are full of available—and vacant—parcels.
[Proposed] for demolition are the Pilgrim Manufacturing Co. Building (1941) at 155 Chestnut and a less prominent commercial accessory at 151 Chestnut. What is not visible is the already lost Pardon Clarke House (c.1823), a Federal period side-hall frame dwelling. It was unnecessarily demolished in 2009; today the lot is surface parking.
— From the write-up about the 1825 Arthur B. and Laura Weeks House which placed the property on that year’s Ten Most Endangered List
We agree with the above statement. The developer, Pebb Capital, had access to vacant parcels left behind from the removal of I-195. There would be little opposition to such a tower in that location. But here, shoehorned onto a tiny lot surrounded by mostly 2 1/2 story buildings, it makes little sense. Across the street, the brick-mill style Doran building at 8 stories is the largest mass nearby. Perhaps if the renderings tried to include that building for a sense of scale, the design would have won more approval.
For what it is worth, Will Morgan seems to have been on the same page, saying “The 100-foot-tall glass and steel box is not of itself a bad design, with its crisp, low-key Modernism, but it is hardly anything exceptional.” He goes on to say, and we agree, that “Just because zoning allows a nine-story envelope here does not mean there is a mandate to build one. It doesn’t take an urban designer or an astute city watcher to realize that a 100-foot-tower with ninety-five apartments will overpower everything around it, physically, visually, and psychologically.”1
https://www.golocalprov.com/business/providences-new-apartments-wrong-building-wrong-place-architecture-critic-w. Accessed 02 September, 2022.
In the News
Developer abandons apartment building proposal in Jewelry District
by Patrick Anderson
Providence Journal | July 8, 2022 (abridged)
A Florida developer has abandoned plans for a 12-story modular apartment building in Providence’s Jewelry District to focus on winning a contract to build a new state health laboratory.
The building proposed in 2019 by Pebb Capital would have stood at 155 Chestnut St., the current site of a small office building and parking lot purchased from tax-credit broker Michael Corso.
The original design would have included 131 apartments over ground-floor shops and other commercial space. It had no off-street parking.
Pebb was planning to take advantage of federal “Opportunity Zone” tax breaks on the development and a city tax treaty that was never approved.
“Pebb Capital has decided to allow the entitlements to expire for 155 Chestnut Street… ” Pebb spokeswoman Suzanne Perez-Bernal wrote in an email, “in order to focus its attention on its larger development site located at 31, 41-51 Bassett Street, which is currently a finalist for the pending Rhode Island Department of Health RFP.”
Although it may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, the design was complemented for at least being a departure from the squat, blocky 4-to-6-story apartment buildings that have proliferated in recent years.
But despite giving the building positive marks for appearance, Jewelry District neighbors objected to the development and sued the city, successfully, to chop three stories off the building height.
But Perez-Bernal said the litigation and neighborhood opposition were not major factors in the decision to abandon the proposal.
The health lab development “is the first piece of their multi-parcel development plan in the jewelry district, and it is a strategic, long-term opportunity to focus on this asset first,” she said. […]
Pebb was one of four developers to bid on building the state health lab and the only one not to propose using a piece of the state’s former Route 195 land. […]
Anderson, Patrick. “Developer abandons apartment building proposal in Jewelry District.” Providence Journal, 08 July 2022. https://www.providencejournal.com/story/news/politics/2022/07/08/developer-abandons-jewelry-district-apartment-building/7830970001/ Accessed September 2, 2022.
Morgan, Will. “Providence’s New Apartments: Wrong Building, Wrong Place.” GoLocal Providence, 15 February, 2021. ↩