PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission voted Wednesday to select developer Urbanica to purchase and develop Parcel 2, a section of former highway on South Water Street, to build a 194-unit apartment building on the land.
Urbanica’s proposed purchase price is slightly more than $2 million, larger than the other completed sales thus far for the former 195 land. A final purchase-and-sale agreement still needs to be negotiated, and the price could change.
Urbanica was competing with two other developers to buy the land for residential use, though one of the three developers was proposing condos for sale rather than rentals. The vacant plot of land is known for hosting thousands of annual sunflower blooms, a project by a local artist.
The 195 Commission — which markets and sells the state-owned land that used to be Interstate 195 — put a series of conditions on the developer after multiple neighbors and Councilman John Goncalves, D-Ward 1, raised concerns about the size and design of the building, blocked views of the river as well as traffic and parking issues. (The development proposes 90 parking spaces, far fewer than the number of tenants that would live there.)
Under the new conditions approved Wednesday, Urbanica will need to conduct a shadow study prior to design approval, as well as provide more details on a parking plan for tenants and their visitors. The developer also is required to make further design changes prior to final approval, including possibly lowering the height and breaking up the building to preserve views.
The commission also voted to give each of the local neighborhood associations (Fox Point, Jewelry District and Downtown) a representative to participate in working sessions with the design review panel, which will review the apartment building’s design plans before final approval.
“They pretty much responded to everything we urged them to do,” Goncalves said in a text message Wednesday evening. He issued 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 Commission chair Bob Davis said the panel selected Urbanica because of its design flexibility and the price the developer was willing to pay.
Eden Properties, one of the other contenders, was offering $500,000 and wanted a state subsidy, plus it had less design flexibility, Davis said. The third developer, Parent + Diamond, had offered more than $3 million for the land but was proposing condominiums, which Davis said raised concerns about its viability due to the magnitude of the project.
Urbanica estimates breaking ground on the project in January 2023, according to documents submitted to the commission, with occupancy by March 2025.
The 194 units are currently proposed to include 120 studio apartments, 40 one-bedroom units, 22 two-bedrooms and 12 artist live-work spaces. The building would also have ground-floor retail and restaurant space, a gym and a rooftop garden.
The vast majority of the apartments would be market-rate rents. Only the 12 artist studios would be considered affordable units, rented to those who make 60% or less of the area median income.
Assuming it wins final approval, the project will be the fourth apartment building to be constructed on the former 195 land; the commission has sold three other parcels for residential projects. They include the Emblem 125 building on Clifford Street (sold for $100,000), the grocery-apartment project on Parcel 6 (also sold for $100,000), and the Chestnut Commons apartment building on Friendship Street (sold for $751,838).
The non-residential land sales thus far have been for 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 Parcel 42 on Dyer Street, and the Pennrose residential and childcare development on Parcel 9.