William Wilkinson Building

also known as Lerner Department Store

A small, five-story commercial building that underwent a modern renovation into 12 apartments on a busy downtown street

About this Property

#Redevelopment

The former Lerner Department store was renovated around the same time as the larger Peerless Department store up and across the street. It was converted into 12 residential units and 3200 square feet of commercial space by the end of 2004.

The stone and stucco covering of the upper first and entire second floor was a byproduct of the 1970s and 1980s when the architectural fashion favored smoother, sleeker details instead of the more intricate and ornamental styles of these turn-of-the-century buildings. Most of the buildings along this commercial corridor from the blocks of Dorrance to Mathewson were redesigned in this manner, including an unfortunate covering of the ornate Providence Journal building. The building was also painted gray but has since been sandblasted back to its natural red brick.

Each of the 4 residential floors of the building has the same layout with three loft-style units of varying sizes. The 01 unit is 1,065 square feet, the 02 unit is 1,281 square feet, and the 03 unit is 1,369 square feet. Rents range in price depending on the unit size and location within the building.

Prior to renovations, the Lerner Department Store was vacant for almost 20 years — since the mid 1980s. Prior to that, the upper floors were underutilized as well. While it was undergoing a complete to-the-studs renovation, there were one or two great art shows in the ground floor raw space in 2001-2002 associated with the RISD graduate program.

#Current Events

More photos of the spaces can be found at @WestminsterLofts on Instagram. Leasing information for commercial storefront space and residential lofts is available from WestminsterLofts.com.

#History

From the National Register nomination form for the Downtown Providence Historic District, prepared by William McKenzie Woodward, Principal Historic Preservation Planner, 1984

210-216 William Wilkinson Building (ca. 1900): 5-story, brick-sheathed structure with mid-20th-century plate-glass storefront; novelty brick sheathing over second story; 4-bay articulation on upper stories with paired sash windows in three wide bays on third, three windows per bay on fourth; and four windows per bay on fifth story; broad stringcourse above fourth story; corbel cornice.

This commercial structure, similar in scale and massing to adjacent contemporary structures, makes fine use of the “base-shaft-capital” building form then popular in American commercial building. It is well-integrated part of the Westminster Street streetscape.