April 4, 2019
Attention: Chris Ise
Providence Downtown Design Review Committee
Department of Planning & Development
444 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903
Re: Hope Point Tower
Downtown Design Review should ensure that the proposed Hope Point Tower is compatible with the existing historic building fabric and the historic character of downtown (Zoning section 600) and that this new construction complements the historic character and architectural integrity of existing structures (660).
Many objectors to the project have noted the extreme dichotomy between the Tower’s proposed height of 550 feet and the surrounding zoning height limit of 100 feet that makes it impossible to achieve “compatibility” with existing building fabric and the character of downtown.
For people living, working, or visiting in the area of the Tower, the six- story podium that contains five levels of parking and ground-level retail and reception will be as visually prominent as the 43 story apartment tower. The over-sized parking garage is directly related to the over-sized apartment tower. People who use the waterfront park, who walk or drive on Dyer Street, or who visit or work at surrounding properties will experience Hope Point primarily through the design and materials of the podium’s facades and its presence in the streetscape. For this reason, Downtown Design Review should apply high standards and careful review to the podium structure.
In the current design, the primary design features of the podium are large awkward grids framing ventilation grills for the parking garage. The proposed retail use at ground level is shown as an unarticulated repetition of windows and doorways along Dyer Street and the south side of the building. The view of the building for park users is the parking garage ramp and more grids and grills.
In order to meet the design goal of compatibility with the architectural character of downtown, the podium structure should have an architectural presence as a six-story building in its own right. It’s design should respect the public realm along Dyer Street, and it’s park-facing east facade should be responsive this important public space. A plan should be required to regulate storefront design and signage for ground-level retail spaces. Above the retail level, the perimeter of the podium should have non-parking occupied spaces, such as tenant recreational areas, offices, or apartments.
As currently designed, Hope Point does not meet the Downtown Design Review goals or the planning goals for the I-195 Redevelopment District. I participated in planning for the relocation of I-195, and there was agreement that the original 1958 construction of the highway through College Hill, the Jewelry District, and Downtown was a destructive intrusion in the City of Providence. The recent project to move I-195 has created the chance to repair the urban fabric by re-establishing historic patterns of development and reconnecting historic neighborhoods along well-designed streets. However, replacing the highway with intrusive and incompatible new development perpetuates the original highway damage in a new form and is no improvement for our city.
Yours very truly,