PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Three vacant Angell Street properties are scheduled to be demolished as early as Tuesday, but neighbors and neighborhood preservation advocates are unsure why.
Notices of proposed demolition were posted on the doors of the homes of 209, 211, and 217 Angell St. on Nov. 14. The proposed date to raze each property is listed as Nov. 21 on the notice.
A review of the notices shows the razing date appeared to be written over and written a second time showing the 21st.
Josh Estrella, a spokesperson for Mayor Brett Smiley, confirmed that the owner posted a notice with incorrect dates earlier in the month. He said the Department of Inspection and Standards (DIS) reached out to the owner and posted a stop-work order last Sunday, Nov. 12, to ensure a seven-day posting requirement was met.
“The owner of this private property requested this demolition and has followed all of the necessary processes required by our zoning ordinance,” Estrella said. “The City of Providence has a robust process for preserving historic landmarks, however, these properties are not in a historically protected zone.”
Estrella also confirmed the Planning Department has no submitted proposals for what to do with the property post demolition.
The three vacant homes are located on a one-way street, directly across from a private school, with the oldest being 166 years old. Goncalves pointed out that hazards posed by demolition like dust, debris, and noise “are not to be taken lightly and should not come as a surprise” to neighbors.
According to the Providence Preservation Society, the homes were previously the site of a proposed location for the Smart Hotel, but the city and the public rejected the proposal twice.
“This proposal would have resulted in a six-story boutique hotel with no parking in an area zoned for residential and professional purposes only,” according to PPS.
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City documents from 2020 show the owner and applicant were listed as 217 Angell Investments LLC. The proposal was to construct a 118-room hotel with a restaurant and internal parking.
According to city property tax records, the three properties were sold for $4.5 million on Oct. 4 and are now owned by 217 Angell Investments II, LLC. A search of the R.I. Secretary of State’s website shows the business became registered on Sep. 13.
Last week, Providence City Councilman John Goncalves — who represents Ward 1 where these homes are located — said the Planning Department and the Department of Inspections and Standards did not inform him of the demolition until Nov. 7, as required by ordinance.
Goncalves said he was only notified thanks to an amendment to a city ordinance he introduced, authored, and passed in 2021. Goncalves pointed out the ordinance was introduced “after the historic Duck and Bunny restaurant was demolished, in the darkness of night, on an Easter Sunday.”
“Had this law not been passed, demolitions would continue to occur without expanded notification,” Goncalves said in a news release last Monday.
Goncalves said he contacted planning and inspection officials to ask if there is any recourse to prevent the razing.
“Neighbors need to be briefed and not blind-sided, waking up only to discover a hole in the ground and an empty lot in their neighborhood and community. This is unacceptable,” Goncalves added.
At Monday’s vigil, he told Target 12 he’s taking another look at the city’s ordinance.
”The current ordinance doesn’t require abutters to be notified, so that’s something that we’re going to look at and we’re going to get something on the docket sooner rather than later,” he said.
Neighbors and preservation advocates held a vigil outside of the homes on Monday afternoon.
Chris Tompkins, a College Hill resident, told Target 12 he’s frustrated about the situation.
“This is the rapid erosion of one of the first national historic districts in the Unites States. Providence used to be a national leader in historic preservation and neighborhood preservation,” Tompkins said.
“It is open season of devaluing established neighborhoods,” he added.
Don McClure told attendees that a company he used to work for owned 209 Angell St in the 90s.
“We brought it back to life; we did a lot of restorative features of the building. Sad to see it go,” he said.