195 Commission selects developer for S. Water Street apartment building

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PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission voted on Wednesday to select developer Urbanica to purchase and develop Parcel 2, a section of the old freeway on South Water Street, to construct a 194 apartments on the ground.

Urbanica’s proposed purchase price is just over $2 million, higher than other sales to date for the former 195 lot. A final purchase and sale agreement has yet to be negotiated and the price could change.

Urbanica was competing with two other developers to buy the land for residential use, even though one of the three developers was offering condos for sale rather than rent. The vacant lot is known to host thousands of annual sunflower blooms, a project by a local artist.

Commission 195 — which markets and sells the state-owned land that was once Interstate 195 — imposed a series of conditions on the developer after several neighbors and Councilman John Goncalves, D-Ward 1, raised concerns. concerns about building size and design, obstructed views of the river, and traffic and parking issues. (The development offers 90 parking spaces, far fewer than the number of tenants who would live there.)

Under new terms approved Wednesday, Urbanica will have to conduct a parallel study before design approval, as well as provide more details on a parking plan for tenants and their visitors. The developer is also required to make other changes to the design before final approval, including possibly reducing height and breaking down the building to preserve views.

The commission also voted to give each of the local neighborhood associations (Fox Point, Jewelry District and Downtown) one representative to participate in working sessions with the Design Review Committee, which will review the design plans for the building before final approval.

“They pretty much responded to everything we asked them to do,” Goncalves said in a text message Wednesday night. He released a statement congratulating the developer and said he looked forward to working with Urbanica “to ensure design excellence and sensitivity to our wonderful neighborhoods.”

The vote was 5-0 to select Urbanica as the preferred developer.

195 Board Chairman Bob Davis said the panel chose Urbanica because of its design flexibility and the price the developer was willing to pay.

Eden Properties, one of the other applicants, offered $500,000 and wanted a state grant, in addition to having less design flexibility, Davis said. The third developer, Parent + Diamond, had offered more than $3 million for the land but was offering condominiums, which Davis said raised concerns about its viability due to the scale of the project.

Urbanica estimates the project to launch in January 2023, according to documents submitted to the commission, with occupancy by March 2025.

The 194 units are currently offered to include 120 studios, 40 one-bedroom units, 22 two-bedroom units and 12 artist workspaces. The building would also have retail and dining space on the ground floor, a gym and a rooftop garden.

The vast majority of apartments would be rented at market price. Only the 12 artists’ studios would be considered affordable housing, rented to those earning 60% or less of the region’s median income.

Assuming it wins final approval, the project will be the fourth apartment building to be built on the former Lot 195; the commission sold three other plots for residential projects. They include the Emblem 125 building on Clifford Street (sold for $100,000), the grocery store apartment project on Plot 6 (also sold for $100,000), and the Chestnut Commons apartment building on Friendship Street (sold $751,838).

Non-residential land sales so far have included the Wexford Building on Dyer Street (sold for $1) and the Aloft Hotel on Dorrance Street, which opened in November and sold for $250,000.

The commission also has pending sales for the Fane Tower on plot 42 on Dyer Street and the Pennrose residential and child care development on plot 9.

Steph Machado ([email protected]) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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