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About this Property
#Reason for Demolition
While the news story below says “no one knows why” demolition was requested, we know why — Money is always the answer. There is money to be made in new development, and some, but not as much, to be made owning and maintaining old houses for rent.
Let us also say that developers in this area have been given a pass to do whatever they want. It bears repeating that in 10 years, the four blocks bounded by Angell, Brook, Cushing, and Thayer Streets saw the loss of almost 30 late-19th century houses and the conversion of 3 more away from historic status. At this point, demolishing another three homes continues the trend of loss and a pivot away from a historic neighborhood.
For opinion, we side with Nina Tannenwald, a board member of the Wayland Square Neighborhood Association. Her op-ed in the Providence Journal was penned in 2020, around the time when the second Smart Hotel proposal came before the City Plan Commission. We’ll let her words stand:
Back on the agenda at the Providence City Plan Commission on Tuesday is a controversial hotel project proposed for the corner of Angell and Brook streets on the East Side. The project would involve demolishing three historic houses at 209-217 Angell St. and replacing them with a 118-room hotel/restaurant complex. The developers are Ed Bishop, longtime local real estate agent and owner of the three houses, and Smart Hotels LLC, an out-of-town developer who builds hotels in college towns. […]
Instead of tearing down the old houses, he [Ed Bishop] should incorporate them into a new hotel. It is puzzling why he does not take this approach. His most likely clientele, Brown alumni, parents and visitors, would be just the kind of people who would love a new-old hotel that evokes the historic Victorian East Side. The Nassau Inn at Princeton and the Hanover Inn at Dartmouth come to mind as similar examples. Repurposing old buildings also provides one of the best opportunities for head-turning, creative (and perhaps award-winning) architecture.
A second idea is to build the hotel on the location of the current Citizens Bank building on the corner of Waterman and Brook streets. Why tear down attractive historic houses when, only one block away, there is a lot with a small, ugly building and a parking lot that cries out for a more attractive structure? Of course, Citizens Bank might wish to have a say in this. But a new hotel could provide space for a bank office. Here is where city involvement might facilitate the project.1
Right on, Nina. We’re with you. This is a wasted opportunity from someone with little foresight or creativity who clearly has some sort of plan to make a few bucks.
The houses stand as of November, 2023, but they may not stand for much longer.
From the College Hill Historic District nomination form, Edward F. Sanderson & Keith N. Morgan, January 1976
209 – House, 1857-75. Second Empire; 2-1/2 stories; mansard roof; siding; shallow L plan; side-hall entrance under Doric portico; bay window flanking entrance; gabled dormers retain detail; other detail stripped.
211 – House, after 1895. Colonial Revival; 2-1/2 stories; hip roof; siding; entrance in enclosed porch on east; bay window above entrance; large front dormer with pedimented gable; detail stripped.
217 – House, 1892. Colonial Revival; 2-1/2 stories; massive end-gambrel roof; clapboard; fine large-scale, compact dwelling; off-center entrance covered by central porch with paired Tuscan columns; bay window over porch contains stucco relief panel with foliate ornament and date; entablature trim between floors and 1st-story corner pilasters; bracketed side overhangs over 1st story and end overhangs over 2nd; side bays and dormers; chimney projects through dormer on west.
#In the News
Providence city councilor wants to save three historic College Hill homes from demolition
by Luis Hernandez
The Public’s Radio | November 16, 2023 (abridged)
Luis Hernandez: What’s so important, what’s so special about these three houses?
John Goncalves: Well, I, I think they’re historic in nature. They’re not in a historic district overlay, per se. But they’ve been around for quite some time. And I think one of the challenges that we’re experiencing just broadly is the degradation of historic homes across the city of Providence. Historic preservation is incredibly important. Obviously, we need to grow as a city. We need to address our tax base. We have to address affordability in the city, and that is going to require more building. But unfortunately, when you demolish properties, you’re just taking units off the, off the market. And also it just, it just leaves a, black eye on the neighborhood.
Hernandez: There’s still a pitch or an idea to put apartments or a hotel or retail in that spot. I’m just wondering, what do you, what do you know about, they want to demolish the site, they want to demolish these three buildings, and then what?
Goncalves: Well, that’s, that’s the thing. There is no plan. So currently there are no plans before the Providence Planning Department, which would, it’s a, it’s a department that would know if there were proposed developments on these … particular lots. … So that’s another issue here. We don’t want to have an empty lot here. That would just leave a scar on the neighborhood, and that needs to be addressed. There needs to be transparency as to what, what is the plan? And certainly stakeholders deserve to know, because razing these properties without any transparency especially to local neighbors and stakeholders is absolutely unacceptable.
That’s the thing. There is no plan. We don’t want to have an empty lot here.
Hernandez: What have you been hearing from residents about, you know, everything they’ve been thinking and learning about this situation?
Goncalves: I think they’re incredibly frustrated. The only reason why they found out is, I think there were a couple of astute neighbors who had realized that there were, there were notices posted on, on the, on the properties. You know, I got notified at the 11th hour as well. … But as soon as folks started to find out about this, clearly people are very, very upset. And unbeknownst to me as well, they were going to move forward with this demolition on, on Monday, and essentially in the darkness of night. And that’s why we had to intervene and say, “Whoa, not so fast.”
Hernandez: So this is a stopgap. Eventually they’re going to be able to move forward with the demolition if they, if they choose to. What do you want to see happen and what, what is it you plan on doing now?
Goncalves: Well, what we want to ensure happens is that the stakeholders particularly the neighbors in this neighborhood are kept abreast of what the plans are moving forward. … This is a highly traversed street. It’s in close proximity to a school, in fact. So whether it’s dust, debris, the airborne particles that are, that are coming from this demolition site, the folks who are in the immediate area, the abutters need to be notified as to when that is going to happen. And that’s to ensure everyone’s safety. Moving forward, if there are any potential plans that will be filed with the city, it’s incumbent on the folks who are behind this LLC to make those plans be known, and to be transparent about what the plans are. I think people in their respective neighborhoods deserve to know what’s going to happen in their backyards. And that’s what we’re going to ensure moving forward.
Hernandez, Luis. “Providence city councilor wants to save three historic College Hill homes from demolition.” The Public’s Radio, 16 November 2023. Captured 20 November 2023 from https://thepublicsradio.org/article/providence-city-councilor-wants-to-save-historic-college-hill-homes-from-demolition-
DEATH ROW MYSTERY - Three old homes on Providence’s Angell Street are under threat of demolition, and no one knows why
by Amy Russo
Providence Journal | November 16, 2023
Three houses on Angell Street may be demolished in the coming weeks, and no one seems to know who requested the demolition or why.
The houses – 209, 211 and 217 Angell Street, all of them in the College Hill Historic District – have been a longtime source of concern for East Siders worried about plans for a hotel that raised the prospect of traffic-clogged streets and a dearth of parking.
Twice the city considered proposals for the so-called Smart Hotel, pitched by developer Edward Bishop. Twice he was turned down, including by the public, with nearly 1,000 names on a local petition opposing the idea.
Yet last week, a neighborhood resident, Christopher Tompkins, was taking a walk when he noticed stop-work signs posted on a couple of the buildings in response to a pending demolition that had not been planned with sufficient notice. Though it was slowed by a technicality, it appears the demolition will soon move forward.
Who wants the three buildings demolished? That’s a mystery.
Until October, a company called 217 Angell Investments LLC owned the three properties. That company was overseen by Bishop, who had fought unsuccessfully for the hotel.
“He has been defeated at every turn,” said Tim More, a lawyer representing neighbors.
More recalled that the City Plan Commission had rejected Bishop’s six-story hotel proposal. His five-story revision was subsequently denied a variance by the Board of Zoning for lack of adequate parking. Bishop had also requested a zoning adjustment to build his hotel, which current zoning won’t allow. All in all, the requests for a change here and a change there were too much to be approved.
“Smart Hotels, after being turned down by the zoning board, basically said we’re out of here,” More said. “So it appeared as if the project was dead. So it was with considerable surprise that one of the neighbors noticed the property had been sold by the longtime owner, 217 Angell Street Investments, and the new buyer is 217 Angell Street Investments II.”
That sale happened in early October for $4.5 million. But it’s unclear who is behind the new LLC, which was only registered with the state in September. More said the mailing address matches Bishop’s insurance office in Burrillville, but beyond that, there isn’t a clue to who registered the LLC. A Providence Journal inquiry to Smart Hotels in search of Bishop went unanswered.
City Councilman John Goncalves called the demolitions “very problematic,” as there is no plan to build anything new on the land.
“Razing the properties to create an empty lot, without any transparency to neighbors and local stakeholders, is unacceptable,” he said in a text message.
Councilwoman Helen Anthony said no plans, applications, variances or subdivisions have been filed for the property and that she has no idea what is happening to the area.
“This is how it goes,” Anthony said. “That plan is dead, the hotel, that’s done … So it’s not that plan. No one knows what’s being done there or proposed to be done.”
The only apparent hint lies in the secretary of state’s corporate database where the public can look up LLCs and limited details on their existence. Each company may state their purpose for being. For 217 Angell Street Investments II LLC, that’s “the ownership and operation of commercial real estate, including without limitation a hotel, multi-family apartments, retail or office, and other ancillary commercial activities attendant to such activities.”
Tompkins, distressed over the prospects, is among those calling for answers.
“I’m not being a NIMBY here,” he said, referring to the “not-in-my-backyard” phrase used to describe those opposed to new development. “I’m calling for some transparency. This is across from the Wheeler School. You’re going to have dust issues, maybe other particles floating up in the air.”
Wheeler School spokesman Max Pearlstein said the school is still learning more and trying to understand what may happen to the area.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the city said a work permit was awaiting Department of Public Works approval, and already had approval from the Department of Inspection and Standards. Once a permit is fully approved, a seven-day notice must be posted before demolition can occur.
“Somebody’s making a plan,” Anthony said. “Whoever’s knocking them down I’m sure has a plan.”
Russo, Amy. “DEATH ROW MYSTERY - Three old homes on Providence’s Angell Street are under threat of demolition, and no one knows why.” Providence Journal (RI), PFO-Journal ed., sec. News, 16 Nov. 2023, p. A1. 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/19557C7048337CC0. Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.
Tannenwald, Nina. “MY TURN Don’t sacrifice history for hotel project.” Providence Journal (RI), sec. RI Opinion, 15 June 2020, p. A11. 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/17BA127C669E7980. Accessed 18 Nov. 2023. ↩