PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence City Council voted Thursday to override Mayor Jorge Elorza’s veto of a zoning change that would allow a 46-story skyscraper to be built on the former I-195 land.
The 10-3 vote to override means New York developer Jason Fane has cleared a significant hurdle for building his proposed Hope Point Tower, although critics – including Elorza – have questioned whether the project will ever move forward.
Councilman Seth Yurdin (Ward 1) was absent. Council President David Salvatore (Ward 14) abstained from voting.
The zoning change increases the maximum building height on Parcel 42 along Dyer Street from 130 feet to 600 feet. Fane has said he wants to spend $300 million to build the state’s tallest skyscraper on the land.
The high-stakes vote from the council came after supporters of the project successfully convinced Democratic Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11) to change her position on the tower. She voted against the zoning change twice, but then agreed to become the tenth vote the council needed to override Elorza’s veto.
The council believed it had secured the 10 votes needed to override the veto ahead of a meeting Tuesday, but Councilman Wilbur Jennings (Ward 8) came down with an illness and did not attend the meeting. That left the supporters of the project with only nine votes, so the meeting was rescheduled until Thursday. He voted in support of the override.
Harris gave a long speech prior to Thursday’s vote, explaining that she prayed and held many discussions with residents before making a final decision.
“The Hope Tower represents more opportunities than threats,” Harris said.
Elorza said he vetoed the project because Fane would not give the city a final say over the design of the project. Other critics of the proposal – including the Providence Preservation Society – said the council should not engage in spot zoning, a practice that involves making changes to the city’s zoning ordinance for specific projects.
The mayor issued a blistering statement following the vote, suggesting every “responsible expert has indicated that this project is not financially viable and will fail under its own weight.”
“As a city, we will not bend to the wishes of multi-millionaires who seek to change the rules for their own benefit, who seek to take advantage of every subsidy and benefit they can grab and yet who fail to consider the interests of the local community,” Elorza said. “Providence is in the middle of a building boom that hasn’t been seen in decades. We are a city on the rise and we are excited about the amazing projects we have in the pipeline that will continue to make Providence such a special place.”
The tower is supported by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, as well as the building trades. The Providence Journal has also published at least 10 editorials supporting the tower.
Dante Bellini, a spokesperson for Fane, issued a statement thanking the City Council for its support.
“The Fane Organization appreciates the support expressed by the City Council in this evening’s vote,” he said. “It represents an opportunity to help move Providence forward with growth and new development. As we have said before, we remain bullish on Providence and Rhode Island. Hope Point (The Fane Tower) will be an exciting and successful project within the Innovation/Knowledge District, where entrepreneurs, innovators, makers and the movers of today and tomorrow will want to work, live and play.”