Edge College Hill II, the follow-on to the nearly complete Edge I residential tower on Canal Street, goes before the Providence City Council today for a huge wad of city cash. Under a tax stabilization agreement (TSA) up for final approval tonight, its developer stands to save some $18 million over 20 years on property taxes. This development incentive is too much for too long. The council, which meets at 7 p.m. today, should give it another look. Citizens should converge there to make their views known.
The two Edge projects seem to have proceeded under cover of the public’s attention to the proposed 600-foot Fane tower in the Jewelry District, just beyond downtown. Which project (Edge or Fane) poses the greater harm to the city is debatable, but the Edge has hid nervously behind the smoke of the furious Fane flap to the south.
And it must be said that Edge II has improved in its design. It has shed four floors in height and its much shorter wings, along Steeple and North Main streets, appear to pay a bit more respect, after some tweaking, to historical context. North Main is the city’s oldest street – it was once called the Town Street. And while RISD has spat twice in history’s face (Museum addition, Illustration addition), and intends to do so again soon (infill of U at RISD Administration), the historical fabric remains strong. (RISD used to be good at fitting its growth into the city’s beauty. What happened?)
Edge II will serve to mask views of the considerably uglier Edge I, but does that means it deserves this Brobdingnagian TSA? No. The city should do more to direct TSAs to projects that better fulfill the original mission to promote affordable housing, inside and outside of downtown.
Again, council meets at 7 p.m. today in City Hall.
Meanwhile, it has been announced that a second public hearing of the Ordinance Committee on whether to let the Fane tower rise six times what zoning permits will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22 at City Hall. Council ducked the issue after Ordinance issued a negative recommendation. Council says that Fane, having bunked the first hearing, deserves a second chance. It does not, but council members are sheepish about voting (before the November election) to sack the city’s zoning, which would be the practical outcome of a pro-Fane vote. (Pun intended.)
Little beads of sweat have been sighted running down the forehead of Jason Fane in recent days. Concerned that Providence can no longer be trusted to ram the 600-foot tower home, state senate president Dominick “Rubbers” Ruggerio has come to his aid, proposing to end what authority the city has in the corridor. Whether the cavalry will arrive in time is doubtful. (Whether Ruggerio deserves to retain his post, having been arrested for stealing condoms from a Cranston CVS in 1990, is another question.)
Reminder: Council meets today to vote on its second approval for the Edge College Hill II TSA at 7 p.m. in City Hall.