Outlet Parking garage

also known as Pine Street parking garage

A mid-century, pre-Brutalist retail amenity in downtown was razed only to avoid maintenance costs

About this Property

Reason for Demolition

We could not find much about the garage — generally a concrete parking garage does not attract much attention or coverage in the local news. Bounded by Pine, Eddy, Friendship, and Garnet in a parcel trapezoidal in shape, the garage’s design was somehow elegant from a distance. The street frontage along Pine Street was unfortunately just a plain wall. Entrances were mid-century modern-inspired, with large plate glass windows or enameled panels.

Built for “The Outlet” retail establishment, the garage was attached to the neighboring multi-story shopping center at the third and fourth floors. It was constructed in 1963 on the site of a former parking garage and storage warehouse.

In October of 1986, the Outlet building suffered a major fire. There was a plan to convert the recently closed Outlet stores into 200 apartments with 90,000 sf of retail space. Days before the fire, asbestos had been removed from the building in preparation for residential conversion.1 The concrete parking structure survived.

Owners of the Outlet, Claremont Development Associates of Boston, considered rehabilitating what was left and then considered building new upon the site. By May of 1987, though, what remained of the building was torn down.2 New residential development never moved forward.

A few years went by with various investments and potential buyers floating ideas. The former Outlet parcel was eventually purchased by Johnson & Wales University for $6.1 million as the site for their new downtown campus in 1990. Johnson & Wales maintained an option to purchase the adjoining, 355-car Outlet parking garage.3 We believe they did make the purchase, but the news source did not confirm.

The garage changed to private ownership at some point in its late life. It is our own speculation that they no longer wanted to maintain the garage, which up until that point, was in use and from what we can recall, was in good shape. It might have only been under light use, but there has always been a need for parking and so we wonder how unprofitable the garage was. Still, the owners obtained a permit to take it down and it was razed in 2011.

Current Events

The land where the parking garage used to be is still an empty, undeveloped surface parking lot.

History

From the Guide to Providence Architecture by the Providence Preservation Society

In 1963, Providence’s Outlet Company anticipated the city of the future with the construction of a new multi-story parking garage, by architects Gage & Martinson, unlike any other structure in the city. A parade heralded its arrival and dignitaries ceremonially cut ribbons. Shoppers were happy for both the convenience and the symbolism of modernity as they streamed across the new “skybridge” from the garage to the department store.

When PPS included the garage on its 2011 Most Endangered Properties list, the owners had announced plans to demolish the parking structure to make room for a surface lot. PPS opposed this demolition because the Outlet Garage was a symbol of urban planning that favors parking structures over surface lots which mar the face of downtowns across the country. The Outlet Garage further represented Mid-Century Modern architecture, a style that is threatened as properties less than 50 years old are often less understood and consequently more vulnerable to inappropriate treatment or demolition.

Captured 22 December 2023 from https://guide.ppsri.org/property/outlet-parking-garage


Maps

  • 1920-1921 Sanborn Insurance Map (page 12) — There was a six-story concrete structure on this site built in 1914 that was built by the Outlet Company. The rest of the block was full of jewelry-related businesses.
  • 1920-1951 Sanborn Insurance Map (page 12) — The previous garage now has an overhead passageway into the Outlet building at the third and fourth floor level.
  • 1920-1955 Sanborn Insurance Map (page 7) — The structure might have remained until 1955, but this digital scan of the Sanborn map is imperfect.

When the new garage was built in 1963, the adjoining jewelry manufacturing buildings were razed. The garage was larger in plan and stretched from Eddy to Garnet, but did not occupy the entire plat.

  1. “The Outlet fire: a blow to downtown hopes.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. EDITORIAL, 17 Oct. 1986, pp. A-24. 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/15252CD992022350. Accessed 22 Dec. 2023. 

  2. HULICK, DOANE. “Outlet to be razed, but developer says new plan in offing.” Providence Journal (RI), CITY ed., sec. NEWS, 8 May 1987, pp. A-03. 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/15252B473B22B3D0. Accessed 22 Dec. 2023. 

  3. CASTELLUCCI, JOHN. “J&W to purchase Outlet site New campus planned for $6.1 million lot.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. NEWS, 4 May 1990, pp. A-01. 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/1525BB1DD3F4CB90. Accessed 22 Dec. 2023.