An agenda item for an upcoming meeting brought home to me the sadness and even the anger attending some of the more pernicious projects being sold around here as “economic development.”
The agenda for the Tuesday, Feb. 20 meeting of the City Plan Commission notes that the city has been asked to abandon Throop Alley, between Canal Street and North Main Street. In recent years, the alley had been the front door to loud music blasting from local clubs. It was not my kind of place, really, but it was one of those little urban nooks that might be described as “authentic.” (Who was Throop, anyway?)
The other day I mentioned that a major proposed development on the east side of the Providence River would preserve Dollar Street. Development news now puts two other gangways at risk. Gangways are narrow old streets that once linked to wharfage along the river in many old waterfront cities. The hotel proposed for Parcel 1A of the Route 195 corridor along Water would eliminate Doubloon and Patriot streets. Regulations require that Doubloon and Patriot be preserved, but the real sticking point for the hotel developer is the land between the hotel and the water’s edge. Seems under the current hotel configuration there would not be enough of it.
A ruling of the Coastal Resources Development Council against the hotel on those grounds would probably doom it. That’s what Olin Thompson told attendees at the Jewelry District Association meeting last night. Just when that decision will be made is unclear.
Far clearer is a ruling that could doom an even more damnable project, the Fane tower, whose proposed 46 stories is about 36 stories higher than zoning allows. That is too much for an exemption from the rules: a change in the rules is required. It can be made only by the city council, which must act within 90 days of the 195 commission’s decision, on Feb. 1, to give the project a Level II approval. So the clock is ticking, Mr. Fane.
Providence now has a zoning ordinance that to some extent reflects the will of its citizens. If Jason Fane is able to convince council to change the height requirement to permit a building almost four times the currently allowable height, then for all intents and purposes no zoning ordinance exists. Anyone will be able to change any rule. All rules will beg to be ignored. That is why people must monitor the meeting schedule of the council and attend that meeting to oppose that change.
The JDA and other neighborhood groups will play a major role in marshaling a big thumbs down on this sore thumb in the Jewelry District.