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About this Property
The Rhode Island Convention Center Authority put the state-owned Westin up for sale in the fall of 2004. In 1998 the Convention Center Authority solicited proposals for the hotel, but the state didn’t receive any offers that were high enough to consider seriously. In the hotter market of the early 2000s, the authority had received a dozen unsolicited inquiries from national hotel developers for the property. Putting it up for sale officially was the next step.1
Carpionato, Cornish, C.B. Richard Ellis expressed interest while Starwood Worldwide Hotels & Resorts, managers of the Westin, have the first right of refusal. The state borrowed $354 million to build the Westin and the convention center in the early 1990s and still owed $285 million. Any sale of the Westin will be used to pay down the debt.2
15 international, national, and local companies submitted bids for the property. Whichever buyer is chosen for the Westin will be required to build a 200-room tower next to the hotel, must agree to reserve a certain number of rooms that can be rented by people attending conventions, and be required to honor the hotel’s union contract and keep the existing hotel employees. Selling the Westin alone might not generate enough money to pay off all the outstanding bonds, which is why the authority is requiring potential buyers to build the 200-room tower next door. More rooms will also allow the convention center to book much larger conventions and meetings.3
The Authority and The Procaccianti Group entered into negotiations in December 2004 to transfer ownership of the property. Procaccianti bid $95.5 million for the Westin. The privately-owned company said it planned to spend $40 million to $60 million to improve and expand the hotel.4 The new Westin Tower would be the northern anchor to its “power block” concept.
Before the sale was finalized, there was a controversy surrounding Procaccianti’s default on a $3-million loan in 1991 for a 250-acre property in Hopkinton. When the state foreclosed on the loan, the land was sold at auction in 1993 for only $145,000. The buyer turned out to be Kuehn Road Associates LLC, also owned by James Procaccianti. Since the land was sold for less than the loan, the state was left with a $2.9-million debt. The state sued the Procaccianti Group for $2.9 million 10 years ago in Superior Court while Procaccianti fought the suit, arguing that the land is worth about $2 million — and that the state should have sold the land for more money to pay down the loan. The Procaccianti Group originally borrowed the $3 million from Marquette Credit Union for a building project. But when the credit union was shut down during the banking crisis in 1991, the company was unable to finish the project, suffered financial losses and stopped paying on the loan. In late 2004, the Town of Hopkinton had the land assessed at $911,700.5
Eventually, Procaccianti agreed to pay $6.53 million, which amounted to the original $2.9 million plus interest. Governor Carcieri came out against their bid for the Westin but it did not stop the sale from being approved in February, 2005.
The original Westin towers are fine. This hotel always makes us think of Monopoly game piece hotels, though — it looks pre-fabricated. So we aren’t impressed with the new tower, which adds more of the same. We are supporters of density, though. The mix of retail, hotel space, and high-end condominium residences is interesting here. In 2005, this was one of the first residential projects at the start of a boom time that would last until the financial crisis of 2008–2009. Some projects made it through, like the Waterplace Towers, while other projects remained on the drawing boards, like the OneTen and the rest of the so-called “power block.”
#In The News
Procaccianti Group Unveils Its Design
by Andrea Stape
Providence Journal | April 13, 2005
At 356 feet tall, or about 31 stories, the proposed hotel tower next to The Westin Providence is being designed to make a statement. The hotel and condo tower The Procaccianti Group is planning to attach to the Westin will include 105 condominiums, 200 hotel rooms, a parking garage for residents and an arcade filled with restaurants and shops on the first floor, according to a presentation by the Cranston company’s architectural firm yesterday.
The Procaccianti Group is in the process of buying the state-owned Westin for $95.5 million. In order to buy the hotel from the state, though, Procaccianti is required to add additional rooms to the Westin – expanding the state’s ability to host conventions.
The rooms will be built in the proposed tower and in a shorter building on the grass-and-tree-covered park next to the downtown hotel. The shorter building – about 149 feet high – will connect the current, domed entrance to the Westin with the new hotel high-rise. The tower and the connecting building will dramatically change the way drivers and pedestrians view the corner of Francis Street, Memorial Boulevard and West Exchange Street.
“We see it as an extremely important project for the city,” said Duncan Pendlebury, president of Jung Brannen Associates Inc., of Boston.
Since the piece of land the tower will be built on is considered a part of the capital center district – a special development zone in front of the State House – the Design Review Committee of the Capital Center Commission must approve the building’s design before it can go forward.
Procaccianti wants the panel to waive a number of design requirements. For example, the city wants buildings in the capital center area to be between 200 feet and 300 feet tall. The company is eager to get through the design review process since the state has required Procaccianti to finish the hotel tower by July 2007.
Yesterday, though, the committee kept its feedback fairly positive. “You should leave here feeling that the committee is in favor of what you are presenting here,” said Wilfrid Gates, chairman of the Design Review Committee and a landscape architect.
The proposed tower and the shorter connector building will both be red brick, matching the existing brick on the Westin, and have gabled roofs. But the tall tower will feature a concrete accent running up the sides. It will also have balconies for the condos, and larger penthouse balconies for the top floors. Also, the company has proposed making the side of the building facing Francis Street a pedestrian mecca that provides people with a covered walkway up the outside to access shops and cafes.
The building’s look, however, could change dramatically through the design review process. The Procaccianti Group is expected to come back before the Design Review Committee for another public workshop on April 21.
“Convention board weighs proposal to put Westin on the market”, Andrea L. Stape for the Providence Journal, August 26, 2004. Captured August 26, 2004 on UrbanPlanet.org. https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topic/5847-in-progress-the-residences-at-the-westin/, http://www.projo.com/business/content/projo_20040826_cca26x.202146.html ↩
“It’s official: Westin Providence up for sale”, Andrea L. Stape for the Providence Journal, August 27, 2004. Captured August 27, 2004 on UrbanPlanet.org. https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topic/5847-in-progress-the-residences-at-the-westin/, http://www.projo.com/business/content/projo_20040827_hotl27x.19ae41.html ↩
“Westin generates interest”, Andrea L. Stape for the Providence Journal, November 24, 2004. Captured November 24, 2004 on UrbanPlanet.org. https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topic/5847-in-progress-the-residences-at-the-westin/, http://www.projo.com/business/content/projo_20041124_hot24x.1b77d9.html ↩
“Cranston firm picked to negotiate to buy Westin Providence”, Jack Perry for the Providence Journal, December 22, 2004. Captured December 22, 2004 on UrbanPlanet.org. https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topic/5847-in-progress-the-residences-at-the-westin, /http://www.projo.com/digitalbulletin/content/projo-20041222-westin.350a1c9a.html ↩
“Westin suitor regained land lost in loan default”, Andrea L. Stape for the Providence Journal, January 7, 2005. Captured January 7, 2005 on UrbanPlanet.org. https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topic/5847-in-progress-the-residences-at-the-westin, http://www.projo.com/metro/content/projo_20050107_proc07.1ab1b9.html ↩