Big vote tonight on Edge II

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Edge College Hill II center, blocks most of Edge College Hill I. (

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.

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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4 Responses to Big vote tonight on Edge II

  1. Steve says:

    Two comments:
    1) Edge II should be much taller, but not get so much of a tax break.
    2) Thank God for the Senate President, seeing the embarrassingly low 100 foot height restrictions in a DOWNTOWN district driven by “little town” Nimbies, City Council and Mayor.

    The fools see a 9 story hotel as “big”. Delay, deny, dead. Great reputation we are building as a city.


    • 1. No and yes.
      2. Yes, you are correct, citizens should have no say in the development of their cities. (Kidding.)
      That said, Steve, I am encouraged by the design direction being taken by those parts of Edge II closest to the street, but I worry that the architect’s renderings may be misleading – they often are. An architectural rendering is often produced not to reveal but to disguise design features. I hear that the brick of Edge I, at least, is really EIFS, or Dryvit. It actually does look kinda fake even from a distance. But better a bad fake of a good material than a bad material or a bad fake of a bad material.


      • Brendan says:

        David, for what it’s worth, the cladding at Edge I is a rainscreen system called Corium Brick It’s a natural terra cotta thin brick attached to a metal panel over rock wool insulation. Certainly no substitute for the real thing, but it’s loads better than the sticky-brick that is being put on the Homewood Suites or the Station Row buildings.


        • Brendan, many thanks for the information. Of course, the cladding for Edge 1 is much preferable than most claddings these days because it does look like brick. I think the cladding on Homewood Suites looks better but I could be wrong and have not looked at both one after the other with such a judgment in mind. I am hoping I’ll like it more when I take a more sustained look.


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