Gateway Building

also known as American Express Building

An early-addition to Capital Center, built next to the new train station after Waterplace Park was created

About this Property

#Development, Funding, & Construction

The origins of the funding for the building expose a lot of what was wrong in the late 80s and 90s with politics and business in the Ocean State (and what very well might still be wrong). Gateway Eight LP was the developer of the building and in 1989, the Rhode Island Industrial Facilities Corporation issued $23 million in bonds to fund the construction. The state pension fund then bought all of the bonds and became a major investor.

Gateway was required to pay back the bond money by 2000 but in 1999, Gateway restructured the mortgage with the pension fund and established a new due date of Dec. 1, 2004. The company started talking again with the pension fund about extending the deadline further, but the discussions were complicated by the building’s primary tenant — Boston Financial Data Services — pulling out of the state and terminating its lease in 2004.

Gateway presented an arrangement which included borrowing part of the money it owed as well as securing a new primary tenant, but the deal was rejected by the pension fund because it would have only paid back $15 of the $23 million owed. The building had a market value of about $25 million at the time, but since the pension fund was not an actual owner, they could not sell the building for the proceeds. Instead, Gateway Eight LP filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Boston in the fall of 2004. 1

Nearly six months after entering Chapter 11, Gateway and the Rhode Island pension fund agreed on a plan to sell the structure in May of 2005. Instead of foreclosing, the pension fund will market the building and expects to start considering offers this summer. The pension fund, which was given management control of the building as well, will enter a minimum bid of its own of $17.9 million. Interested buyers will have to offer $18 million or more to buy the building. Gateway started paying off its debt as part of the agreement, and gave the pension fund about $1.1 million in April 2005.2

Meanwhile, Governor Carcieri’s position was to hold onto the building in the short term, then sell. He pointed out that with the GTech building, the new Marriott hotel going into the Masonic Temple, and the new condos going up at Waterplace, the building would be worth more on the open market after these projects are completed.3

Then, in October 2005, Fidelity Investments moved workers into the building while their new campus was under construction in Smithfield. 400 employees moved in and Fidelity agreed to pay $18 a square foot. The pension fund got a short-term tenant and money in their pocket while the state kept a major employer in state.4

A permanent sale was completed in August of 2006 to Commonwealth Ventures, an established company who knows the city and how to market the area, so the hope was that they would be able to find a tenant once Fidelity left in 2008 or ‘09. Commonwealth Ventures owned both the GTech Building and One Financial Plaza at the time.

In August of 2009, only three years later and after Fidelity moved out, the building was put up for auction.5 The bank that held the mortgage on the Gateway Center purchased it back at auction in September, 2009, for $13 million.6 In March 2010, the Big East moved its headquarters from a smaller location in Providence to this building, and then in November Admiral’s Bank signed a lease for space as well, moving out of Cranston7 — presumably all while bank owned.

In August 2013, CBRE/New England’s capital markets team completed the sale of Gateway Center located to Albany Road R.E. Partners for $13.225 million. The 117,981 s/f, class A office building leased space to TIAA-CREF, The American Athletic Conference, Admirals Bank, and Andera.8

The Big East Conference did not stay at this location for very long, announcing a move to Manhattan in September of 2014.9 2013 also marks a split in the Bog East Conference itself, becoming a basketball conference and a football conference (deeper history at Wikipedia.

#Current Events

TIAA CREF and Admiral’s Bank still show locations here on their websites. The building is still active though currently (June 2021) shows available office space for lease on Loopnet.

#History & Architecture

Opinions of the architecture of the building are not high — when asked, most people dislike it, and you have to ask, because it is not a building that many people think about. Its not so terrible that people openly hate it, but we have also never heard that anyone really likes it. To us, the façade facing the State House is almost a different building than the façade facing the Park Row West — one is flat while the other has a bulbous indent to serve as a focal point for the main entrance.

It was built at the end of the 80s, just when Capital Center as a real estate idea got started. Therefore, it was a timid introduction to building upon lands that were once railroad tracks and parking lots. It was too low to be exciting, and the style was too “suburban office park” for its urban surroundings. All of that, coupled with its tumultuous ownership history makes it a building that is easy to loathe.

Just take this scathing (and vaguely racist?) review of the building from 2003:

From “PPS/AIAri Guide to Providence Architecture,” Wm McKenzie Woodward, 2003, page 303

The transitions in Capital Center unfortunately show immediate shifts from the best to the worst. This gangly building makes adolescence look appealing. It’s included here only as a fine example of what developer’s desires filtered through committee review can get you. Designer by Elkus/Manfredi Architects, Inc. (Boston), this is undoubtedly the gamiest building in Providence and, unfortunately, right at its heart, just across the street from McKim, Mead & White’s superb State House: the tattooed stevedore next to the bespoke-clad aristocrat. Perhaps best described as Gamy Chinese Modern, something better suited to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, it should have encouraged rioting upon its completion instead of the almost bovine acceptance that it seems to continue to enjoy.

  1. “Taking ownership; The American Express property may be transferred to its mortgage holder, the Rhode Island Pension Fund,” Andrea L. Stape, Providence Journal, February 23, 2005. Captured at an UrbanPlanet thread about the property June 13, 2021, from https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topic/11024-vacant-amex-building-to-change-hands/ 

  2. “R.I. pension fund to sell vacant downtown building,” Andrea L. Stape, Providence Journal, May 19, 2005. Captured at Archive.org on June 13, 2021, from https://web.archive.org/web/20060808045239/http://www.projo.com/business/content/projo_20050519_gate19x.1d12eab.html 

  3. A paraphrased conversation transcribed by someone who watched a Channel 12 report on the subject. Captured at an UrbanPlanet thread about this property June 13, 2021 from https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topic/11024-vacant-amex-building-to-change-hands/page/2/?tab=comments#comment-218071 

  4. A synopsis of recent news developments in the UrbanPlanet thread. Captured June 13, 2021 from https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topic/11024-vacant-amex-building-to-change-hands/page/3/?tab=comments#comment-232956 

  5. A synopsis of a recent news development in the UrbanPLanet thread. Captured June 13, 2021 from https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topic/11024-vacant-amex-building-to-change-hands/page/4/?tab=comments#comment-1086909 

  6. A synopsis of a recent news development in the UrbanPLanet thread. Captured June 13, 2021 from https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topic/11024-vacant-amex-building-to-change-hands/page/5/?tab=comments#comment-1087129 

  7. A synopsis of recent news developments in the UrbanPLanet thread. Captured June 13, 2021 from https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topic/11024-vacant-amex-building-to-change-hands/page/5/?tab=comments#comment-1130633 

  8. “CBRE/NE sells 117,981 s/f at 15 Park Row West for $13.225 million,” New England Real Estate Journal, August 8, 2013. Captured June 13, 2021 from https://nerej.com/cbre-ne-sells-117-981-s-f-at-15-park-row-west-for-13-225-million 

  9. “BIG EAST Settles into New York City Office Space,” BigEast.com, September 29, 2014. Captured June 13, 2021 from https://www.bigeast.com/news/2014/9/29/BIG_EAST_Settles_into_New_York_City_Office_Space.aspx