AAA Surgical

A simple art-deco-inspired mid-century storefront in Federal Hill demolished for the promise of a new hotel.

About this Property

Reason For Demolition

A 10 story condo project was proposed and passed the zoning board for this parcel of land. The AAA Surgical store, which sold supplies for elderly home care, had been vacant for at least two years prior. Its notable architectural details are the Art Deco-wrap, marquee-style entrance and the stepped facade top above the main entrance.

It wasn’t a great building and it was not in great shape, but it was located on a very busy and important street. One must think that a renovation was possible, even desirable. Instead, the demolition left a hole that went unfilled for at least a year. And now, 15 years later (in 2020) it is still an empty lot.

Condos approved for Federal Hill

Providence Journal | September 14, 2004

The Zoning Board of Review last night voted unanimously to relax zoning restrictions to allow construction of a 10-story luxury condominium building on Federal Hill despite misgivings about its height. The decision came after board members were presented with clashing visions for the future of Federal Hill at a public hearing at City Hall.

Premier Land Development of Providence displayed a 43-unit condominium building with ground-floor retail that it wants to build on a site bounded by Atwells Avenue and Knight and Marcello streets near Holy Ghost Church.

Witnesses for the developer and advocates said the project is well-conceived, good-looking and would enhance the Hill and boost nearby real estate values. But critics said it would be grossly oversized, towering over the one-, two- and three-story buildings that typify Atwells Avenue and most of the Hill.

Rep. Steven Costantino, D-Providence, urged the board not to diminish the things that give the Hill its romantic character and historical cachet, such as its modest scale and older buildings, by allowing such a tall and massive structure. The zoning ordinance limits the height of buildings in the area to 45 feet, but Premier Land Development wants to put up a building of 145 1/2 feet. It sought five exceptions to the zoning ordinance, including a waiver of the height limit.

Department staff reviewed the application and met with the developer’s representatives before the hearing. Richard A. Licht, lawyer for Premier Land Development, said the developer modified its plans to accommodate department suggestions to make the project more pedestrian-friendly and to improve its landscaping.

Jeff Lykins, project architect, and Thomas O. Sweeney, a real estate expert hired by Premier Land Development, testified at the hearing that the developer needs to have a building with more height in order to make the project financially feasible. There are certain fixed expenses that the project would have to carry even if shorter, they testified, such as the extra cost of building two levels of underground parking designed to meet the minimum-parking requirements of the zoning ordinance.

In response to a question by Zoning Board member Scott Wolf, Lykins said six stories would be insufficient to “provide a building of this quality, to be a catalyst for Atwells.” He said he designed “a very inviting building” with “strong cornices” and “classic proportions in harmony with the traditional properties of Providence.”

In opposition, alarmed by the scale of the project, are the Providence Preservation Society, Federal Hill Community Coalition and West Broadway Neighborhood Association. The Federal Hill Neighborhood Association presented a petition from neighborhood residents against the project. “This is a building that belongs on one of Joey Paolino’ s surface parking lots downtown,” said Raymond Perreault.

Several critics said sponsors of other large-scale projects for Atwells are waiting in the wings, hoping that the condominium building will be the precedent they need to justify their projects. “This is the first of what may be a runaway train” of developments that will permanently dilute the historical nature of the Hill, Costantino warned.