Hope Point Tower heads to Elorza’s desk after winning City Council support

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Hope Point Tower heads to Elorza's desk after winning City Council support

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The future of the Hope Point Tower is now in the hands of Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.

The City Council on Tuesday gave final approval to a zoning change that would allow a New York developer to build the state’s tallest skyscraper on the former I-195 land, sending the proposal to Elorza’s desk where he has the option to sign, veto or let it pass without his signature.

Elorza has 10 days to make his decision on the change.

If it becomes law, the change would amend the city’s zoning ordinance to increase the maximum building height on Parcel 42 along Dyer Street from 130 feet to 600 feet. Developer Jason Fane has said he wants to build a 46-story residential tower on the land.

Elorza told Eyewitness News Tuesday afternoon that he’d be willing to sign the ordinance only if Fane agrees to a set of conditions, including a commitment to expedite construction and make a public investment to the city. He is also seeking to have final approval over the design of the building.

“For a building of this size, it’s going to reshape our skyline,” Elorza said. “The city should be able to decide and approve what goes forward and what doesn’t. … If I get the assurances, I’m fine with this going forward. If I don’t get these assurances then sure, I’ll veto it.”

Elorza said he has spoken to Fane directly about these conditions.

Dante Bellini, a spokesperson for the Fane Organization, made no commitments in an interview after the city council meeting.

“We are fresh off this vote,” Bellini said. “We are open to discussing with the mayor any and all issues. But we will not do it as an ultimatum.”

The final vote tally was 9 to 5 with one abstention from Council President David Salvatore, who said he abstained out of principle because he doesn’t think the tower project was properly vetted by the ordinance committee.

“I think it’s not the right project for parcel 42, and I think additional conversations need to be had,” Salvatore said. “I think there are a lot of unanswered questions…I’m not convinced that he is going to move forward with this project. There’s clearly not a market for luxury housing rents in the capital city.”

Salvatore did not rule out changing his position in the case of a veto override, which would require 10 votes.

“It is possible,” he said. “I’ll weigh those options at that time.”

The zoning change has received a torrent of criticism over a wide range of issues, including the decision to engage in the practice “spot zoning,” the lack of an affordable housing component for the project and an irregular approval process that included the Council Ordinance Committee initially opposing the project and then flipping to support it.

A coalition of City Council members, policy experts, community advocates and developers attended a press conference in City Hall Monday to urge Elorza to veto the proposal.

Supporters of the project, including the building trades and The Providence Journal editorial board, say Providence can’t afford to pass up on the tax revenue that will come with $300 million in new construction in the capital city. The tower would be one of the largest developments to occur in the city since the Providence Place Mall was built in the late 1990s.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) is a reporter for Eyewitness News. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook

Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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