PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The I-195 Commission has granted developer Jason Fane another delay in the deadline to close on a $3 million land sale for his proposed residential skyscraper on Dyer Street.
The fate of the tower has been in limbo as the Rhode Island Supreme Court weighs a zoning challenge from neighbors. Fane, a New York-based developer, has argued he can’t close on the sale until the high court rules. (Fane prevailed in the lower court.)
The most recent closing date — already a result of numerous delays — was set for June 30 of this year, with an interim “exercise date” no later than May 1.
But the latest amendment to the purchase-and-sale agreement between Fane and the commission, signed April 30, sets the new exercise date to 10 days after the Supreme Court decision — if the court rules in the tower’s favor — with a closing date up to nine months after that.
The high court heard oral arguments in the case earlier this month, and is expected to issue an opinion in the coming weeks.
The nine-month delay means the sale of the land likely won’t close until spring of 2023.
“During those nine months, they will be finalizing construction documents, securing final permits (including building permit), securing all financing, etc. so that construction can begin soon after closing,” said Cara Cromwell, a spokesperson for the 195 Commission.
The commission has amended Fane’s purchase-and-sale agreement eight times. Cromwell did not respond to a question about whether this is the final delay the commission is willing to grant.
Fane signed the purchase-and-sale agreement in 2019, with an original exercise date of April 2020, and a closing date no later than Dec. 31, 2021. (The agreement had a stipulation that if the United States GDP was negative for multiple quarters of 2021, the closing date could be delayed into 2022. The GDP rose every quarter of last year.)
But the project was essentially on pause during the pandemic, and Fane has argued he cannot close on the sale until the legal challenge is resolved.
“It is also not reasonable to expect anyone to close and pay $3 million for a parcel of land when the core issue is still tied up in court,” Fane spokesperson Jim Malachowski said last year.
Reached Wednesday, Malachowski said Fane remains “very committed” to building the tower, and will need to use the full nine-month extension to negotiate and secure a construction contract, final design and construction plans, and financing.
It was not immediately clear when construction would begin after the sale closes.
Fane’s soaring luxury apartment tower has been controversial ever since it was proposed, in part because of its design and soaring height, which is much higher than the city’s comprehensive plan would typically allow in that area.
But the Providence City Council approved a zoning change in 2018, overriding a veto by Mayor Jorge Elorza, to allow for the skyscraper’s height. If built, it will be the tallest building in Providence. The project does not currently include any affordable-designated apartments.
A group called Building Bridges Providence filed suit over the zoning change, and lost in Superior Court. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the R.I. Supreme Court, which is where the case is now pending.
Sharon Steele, president of the Jewelry District Association who leads Building Bridges, expressed outrage at the nine-month extension on Wednesday.
“They seem to think that the world revolves around Jason Fane,” Steele said. “It just shows an amount of chutzpah that at this point is insufferable.”
The skyscraper will be located on Parcel 42 of the land that used to be part of I-195 before the Iway project moved the highway. The plot of land is across the street from the Wexford building on Dyer Street, on the west side of the Providence Pedestrian Bridge.
The building was originally called the Hope Point Tower, but Fane recently dropped that name, which never caught on with locals.
195 Commission chair Bob Davis has expressed some frustration with the pace of the Fane project.
“We were somewhat troubled by his reaction to the pandemic, when you contrast it to the other developers with whom we’re dealing,” Davis said of Fane last fall. “They never wavered.”
The commission has recently increased its own pace in selling off parcels of the former 195 land, mostly to apartment projects.
Davis said the commission will not close on the sale of the parcel unless Fane has a construction contract and financing in place.