Sat.’s downtown living tour

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Telephone Building; right, the Smith,where author lived 11 years. (Providence Foundation)

Among the most delicious of downtown events, and well on its way to being a Providence tradition, is the tour of downtown apartments hosted annually by the Providence Foundation and the Downtown Providence Improvement District. This year’s Downtown Providence Living Tour is on Saturday, June 10, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $7 at or, on Saturday, $10 at AS220, on Empire Street. Kids under age 10 tour for free; free for all are shuttles and pedicabs between sites.

All units on the tour are for rent. Here is this year’s itinerary:

  • 95 Lofts: 59 units in the Irons & Russell Building. 95 Chestnut St.
  • 225 Weybosset: 12 units in two historic buildings across from PPAC
  • Arcade Providence: 48 micro-lofts in the nation’s oldest shopping mall
  • Avalon at Center Place: 225 units near train station. 50 Park Row West
  • G Reserve: 60 units in the Union Trust Building. 170 Westminster St.
  • Peerless Building: 97 units with atrium and roof deck. 150 Union St.
  • Providence G: 56 units in three historic buildings. 100 Dorrance St.
  • Regency Plaza: 473 units with pool and tennis courts. 1 Regency Plaza
  • The Sampalis Building: 15 units across from PPAC. 199 Weybosset St.
  • Telephone Building: 12 units in ornate office building. 112 Union St.
  • Wilkinson Building: 12 units in smallest Buff Chace rehab. 90 Eddy St.

Each year, as the number of places to live downtown multiplies, it must be ever more difficult for Joelle Kanter, of the foundation, to keep the list of buildingsĀ  on the tour within manageable limits. The tour has become an adjunct of last weekend’s Festival of Historic Houses tour hosted annually by the Providence Preservation Society, but more utilitarian in purpose. It is intended mainly to help people thinking about moving downtown, but while the society’s festival offers a peep into the home lives of the owners of the houses on the tour, the foundation/PDID tour’s sites feature unoccupied apartments – that is, you could live here! How titillating is that!? If you also fancy yourself a connoisseur of apartment design, indulge!

As a denizen of this tour and a reporter covering new building rehabs downtown for decades, I have seen ’em all. Or so I thought. This year’s tour has apartments in six (6) buildings whose renovations I have yet to see. Those six represent part of downtown’s boom in apartment construction but not the whole thing. Several apartment rehabs are not done yet, including the (former) Paolino World Headquarters on Dorrance, and the dear Lapham Building on Westminster, and also include rehabs that are done though I have not seen them and they are not on this year’s tour. Large apartment buildings have also been proposed, including the Procacciantis’ building along the Woonasquatucket behind Providence Place, and Buff Chace’s proposed building on the parking lot across Fountain Street from my old place of toil, the Providence Journal building, which he now owns.

No doubt the developers of these living spaces are anticipating the habitation needs of the flood of workers expected to take jobs in the new buildings that will soon be arising along the I-195 corridor, our very own innovation district. Although I’d rather that those new buildings embrace traditional design, I say good luck with that. If a sandbox for the modernists will help further enliven downtown, I can get with the program. At least it may be said that those new workers, after spending eight hours in an ugly glass box, will have nice places to go home to. Where? Well, that’s what Saturday’s tour is all about. Check it out!

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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2 Responses to Sat.’s downtown living tour

  1. Pingback: Shots of d’town living tour | Architecture Here and There

  2. Deborah Dunning says:

    David –

    Thanks for this inspired blog which I’m
    Sending along to several friends who are prospective “Downtowners”


    Sent from my iPhone


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