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Fane Tower developer to receive extended deadlines, if he pays $249K

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — If the developer of the so-called Fane Tower pays $249,000 in past-due fees by Friday, state regulators said they are prepared to restructure an agreement tied to the proposed skyscraper project in downtown Providence.

The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission on Wednesday voted unanimously in favor of altering various aspects of the deal, including postponing two key deadlines, if Jason Fane makes good on the payment by 5 p.m. Friday.

Following the vote, Fane spokesperson Jim Malachowski said the New York developer plans on making the payment, and remains committed to the proposed $300 million high-rise, which would become the tallest building in Rhode Island. The project, known officially as Hope Point Tower, was first proposed more than four years ago.

“Mr. Fane remains very committed to the project and will be moving forward with design and development activities incurring considerable expense in doing so,” Malachowski said in a statement.

Despite the verbal commitment, the commissioners — who oversee development on the former Interstate 195 land in downtown Providence — decided to hedge their bets, authorizing chairman Bob Davis to terminate the deal if Fane misses the payment.

The thinly veiled ultimatum underscores the strained relationship between the developer and regulators over a project where extended deadlines have become the norm. Since reaching a purchase-and-sales agreement nearly two years ago, Fane has regularly tested the limit on deadlines, requesting extensions for everything from submitting design plans to paying city and commission fees.

The 195 Commission officials, meanwhile, have grumbled about Fane’s behavior behind the scenes, and sent him several letters expressing frustration with his business approach. But his requests have usually been accepted in one way or another.

And the Wednesday vote, assuming the payment is made, means Fane will receive additional deadline extensions, including a six-month-long delay on the closing of the land deal. Fane will also have until May to submit design documents the commission has been seeking for months.

In one apparent concession, Fane is expected to deliver a letter of credit from a lending institution of the commission’s choice. In the event Fane misses deadlines during the construction phase of the project, the commission will have the ability to tap into the $3.7 million line of credit for penalties. (Fane had originally agreed to pay the penalties, but offered no guaranty.)

The $249,000 payment now slated for Friday was originally due in the spring, but like so many other deadlines related to the project, it was also delayed multiple times. Back in May, Fane requested an indefinite pause on all deadlines, including payments, citing extenuating circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The commission informally agreed, offering him an extension until July. In August, still not having paid, Fane requested a postponement until February, or until an ongoing zoning lawsuit against him has been resolved.

That suit is challenging the authorization of a zoning change in favor of the project, and is currently being considered by Superior Court Judge Brian Stern. Malachowski said the litigation remains “an impediment,” but he was nonetheless bullish about the agreements moving forward.

“We are glad the major issues have been worked out with a few minor things to be resolved this week,” he said.

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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