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About this Property
For the third time since 1990, a developer proposed a project for the vacant land known as Parcel 2 A & B in Capital Center. The Intercontinental Real Estate Corp. planned to build two towers containing 275 high-end apartments, sitting atop a garage with space for more than 500 cars on the 2.1 acre lot at a cost of about $100 million. Eastman Pierce, one of the first developers to bring a plan forward, proposed a 225-room, luxury Hilton hotel at Parcel 2 in 2000. Three years later, the company downsized it to a 176-room, mid-priced Hilton Garden Inn after the economy and hotel industry soured following 9/11. Tourism boosters say the city needs more hotel rooms to attract conventions to the Rhode Island Convention Center and more visitors to Providence, but Intercontinental saw potential in the residential market.1
In mid-May 2005, crews broke ground on Waterplace. The final design included one 19- and one 16-story tower of condominiums and apartments at 235 and 213 feet, respectively. The 307,470-square-foot project included retail and some office space as well as 480 underground parking spaces. 193 units averaged 750 to 2,500 square feet, and were offered at prices ranging from $300,000 to more than $1 million. Residents have fitness and business centers and community rooms, but no swimming pool. Developers rode a demographic wave of empty-nester baby-boomers downsizing by selling their houses and, in some cases, moving to cities to enjoy the amenities.2 A website went up to market the condos in spring 2005 (now defunct, but can be seen on Archive.org).
Gilbane was the contractor. The first almost 10 months of the project construction was just the underground parking garage and the pilings to support the towers. Once steel started to go up, it came together quickly.
This was part of the redevelopment boom of the mid-oughts, which included the redevelopment of the Masonic Temple (2004), the proposed OneTen (2005), the new GTECH headquarters (2005–2006), and the expanded Westin Tower (2005-2007). The original proposals included a potential third or fourth tower of office and/or hotel space. Instead, Blue Cross Blue Shield purchased the adjacent parcel and built a tower for their headquarters in 2008.
We were a little surprised, frankly, that the “Miami-beach“ inspired exterior design flew through the approval process with the Capital Center Commission so easily and quickly. Just a few months previous to this proposal, the GTECH headquarters building was going through several rounds of design review, with members of the committee worried that the glassy, short structure would steal too much attention from the State House behind it. Then these towers come along to dwarf the GTECH building, and arguably the State House with an almost tacky mix of exterior materials.
While we do not always agree with David Brussart, formerly of the Journal’s editorial staff concentrating on Architecture critique, we both dislike the tower design but for different reasons. For him, the design was not traditional enough — he contends that the public at large does not care about modern design as much as the members of the Capital Center commission. The active members of the UrbanPlanet discussion forums at the time, however, got most excited by height and modern designs. But for us, the design was not modern-enough, described as “quasi-modern” by the architects. The towers had a chance to make a bold modern statement, but instead, the mix of exterior materials used makes a strange “coat of many colors” statement. Material contrast seems like a simple and cheaper way to go rather than a strong design concept.
“Capital Center panel hears new proposal”, Michael Corkery for the Providence Journal, March 31, 2004. Captured March 31, 2004 on UrbanPlanet.org. https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topic/3974-in-progress-waterplace-intercontinental/, http://www.projo.com/metro/content/projo_20040331_capcen31.2772df.html ↩
“Towering changes in the air”, Gregory Smith for the Providence Journal, March 9, 2005. Captured March 9, 2005 on UrbanPlanet.org. https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topic/3974-in-progress-waterplace-intercontinental/page/2/#comments, http://www.projo.com/news/content/projo_20050309_inter9.2468cbc.html ↩