Main Streets Matter: Future of 1292 Westminster

Above: 1292 Westminster Street, formerly New Covenant Church, built 1960

Since the writing of the below post, WBNA has gotten word that a new set of plans will be submitted to the Providence Planning Department – possibly today, June 23 – that would include ground floor retail. Please come to the HDC meeting to see the architect's presentation of these new plans and to hear from historic preservation consultant Ned Connors, who will speak about the date and style of 1292 Westminster Street and how it contributes to our historic main street and district. This is a public hearing and public testimony will be taken. Come have a voice at our neighborhood planning table!

Update: See new plans submitted to HDC on June 23, 2017.
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Most urban planners agree that one of the keys to a vibrant and healthy city is the mixed-use nature of its built environment: commercial properties fueling the local economy by offering services and jobs mixed with diverse residential dwellings and open spaces such as parks and green space. Influential urbanist Jane Jacobs described this vital city mix as "intricate minglings," and most citygoers intuitively feel its place-making power.

On Monday, June 26, developers of 1292 Westminster Street will come before the Providence Historic District Commission (HDC), which will review plans to demolish the existing mid-century modern historic storefronts at this important central location on Westminster Street. In place of these structures, developers seek to build a four story residential building with 36 market-rate one bedroom units, 20 parking spaces and no retail or commercial space on the ground level.

The current buildings (most recently owned by New Covenant Church) contain four ground floor retail spaces that were built in 1960 and designed by Montagne & Delsesto Architects as a radio, TV and sound store. These units have the potential to be the central anchor of a commercial core on our main street of Westminster, which WBNA, neighbors, local developers and city planners have been working to sustainably revitalize for decades.

New owner, Mike Lemoi, has a previous development plan for the property that included mixed use and ground floor retail utilizing the existing historic building. WBNA asks neighbors and local businesses to come to the HDC meeting on June 26 (property is item #9 on the agenda – suggested arrival time is 6:30pm) to testify and appeal to Lemoi to retain ground floor commercial space in his plans, so that his development can contribute to the growing vibrancy in the neighborhood.

WBNA has 3 goals for a successful 1292 Westminster Street project

  1. Retain ground floor retail
  2. Include a percentage of affordable housing
  3. Save the existing building (for historic and environmental/embodied energy reasons)

See WBNA Development Guidelines and Blueprint for Responsible Development for more information.

There are two upcoming opportunities to weigh in on the 1292 Westminster project: the HDC Meeting on June 26 at 4:45pm and the Providence City Plan Commission (CPC) which meets monthly but has not yet published the agenda for its July meeting date. The HDC evaluates if the existing historic buildings are contributing to the historic district and, therefore, whether or not they should be demolished, whereas the CPC addresses issues such as affordable housing among others.

Great strides are being made towards revitalizing our main streets with the recent and pending opening of new restaurants, stores, and cafes along Westminster and Broadway. This important part of Westminster Street could bring us one step closer to the densely commercial urban stretches of Wickenden Street, Olneyville Square, and Hope Street.

These streets serve neighbors, contribute to the local economy and make for a SWELL (Shop, Work, Eat, Live, Learn Locally) neighborhood. Economically, providing ground floor retail along the Westminster Street side of the property makes good sense, and would be a winning situation for both the community and the developer.

Local business owners, please let 1292 Westminster's new owner know about the vitality of your business and the importance of growing our neighborhood's commercial main streets. Neighbors, please be heard on what it means to you to live in a walkable community that has access to local services and products.

Historic District Commission Meeting – June 26, 2017
What: Project Review of 1292 Westminster
When: Monday, June 26, 2017, at 4:45pm (Property is item #9 on the agenda – suggested arrival time is 6:30pm) 
Where: 444 Westminster Street in 1st Floor Conference Room (Joseph A. Doorley, Jr. Municipal Building)
Why: Advocate for development that benefits both developer and the community

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