In September 2016, developers for a proposed Best Western Glo Hotel came before the WBNA Community Development Committee to discuss plans to build a six story, 70 foot high hotel at 322 Washington Street across from the Fire/Police Station and along Service Road 7.
Earlier this year the same developers came before the Providence City Plan Commission (CPC) seeking Master Plan Approval for this hotel as well as height, frontage and parking variances to the city's zoning code. WBNA received very little notice about this large project being proposed within its focus area, but was able to attend the CPC hearing along with several abutters to the site (read our post about it here).
The CPC voted to approve the Master Plan and all requests for variances but made its approval subject to a requirement that developers "engage with neighbors to discuss the project." Nearly five months later, Best Western representatives shared its proposal with the WBNA CDC, but none of the concerns expressed by neighbors at the April CPC hearing had been addressed.
These concerns include:
- The proposed hotel's parking plan and the burden of traffic it would create in the areas of Dean, Lyman, Washington and Westminster Streets that would abut the hotel and garage
- Lack of high quality architectural design or one that fits with the specific urban context and existing built environment of the neighborhood
- Lack of adherence to best practices in urban design and construction (as well as some of the City's own zoning codes) that stipulate building to the street (versus building with a setback) and creating a building's strong presence at a corner thereby architecturally anchoring a structure within the urban environment
The CPC did require that a traffic study be conducted for the proposed site as well as a revision of the Washington Street facade so that it conforms to a zoning requirement that ground floor facades maintain at least 50 percent transparency at street level. While the plans have been revised to adhere to the window and transparency codes, a parking study had not yet been completed at the time of the CDC meeting.
In a letter sent to developers this week, WBNA CDC expressed that it cannot support the Best Western Glo Hotel as proposed, citing that – among other concerns – the proposal maintains a suburban chain hotel design that does not fit within or complement an urban landscape.
The letter also draws attention to the importance of the site as a gateway location to our neighborhood and this proposal's failures in designing a building that contributes architecturally to our urban historic neighborhood or to the City of Providence:
Given the prominence of the site (both in terms of geographic height and significance as a gateway to our community), our neighborhood and the city as a whole have the expectation that a project at this location will contribute architecturally, and complement the surroundings, both built and natural. Unfortunately, your design does not do this. The opinion of this committee is that your current design represents standard office-park hotel design sensibilities, indistinguishable from any number of other hotels, and makes little to no effort to relate to its surroundings.
The WBNA has just learned that another hotel chain – Holiday Inn Express – is seeking approval before the CPC this week to build a hotel along the same service road as the proposed Best Western Glo. It appears that the Holiday Inn's proposal may have many of the same issues as that of Best Western Glo, mainly an ill fitting design for an urban context. More to come.
Development projects like those of Best Western Glo and Holiday Inn Express that propose to build along the Service Road can play an important role in helping reconnect our neighborhood to downtown Providence through innovative urban design. Instead of creating a wall along the highway, these kinds of projects could work to bridge the deep divide caused by Interstate 95 and serve as gateways between the West Side and Downcity.
WBNA's mission is to preserve and promote our diverse, historic, urban community. One of the ways we work towards our mission is through advocacy for positive development that benefits our west side community. It is our position that new development projects – from a corner store to a large hotel – should contribute to the neighborhood and fit our urban landscape, and should strive to be exceptional to reflect the great city we live in.
RELATED WBNA POST
WBNA Community Development Committee Letter to Bill Anderson for Best Western Glo Hotel
This just in! Holiday Inn Express Master Plan Submission
322 Washington Master Plan Submission
Providence City Plan Commission's Notice of Master Plan Approval