Foe dubs proposed Providence high-rises ‘towers of evil’
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A New York City developer who said he wants to transform the skyline of Rhode Island’s capital city is meeting skepticism from some Providence leaders, including one who has jokingly coined the project the “three towers of evil.”
The Fane Organization President Jason Fane said his proposed trio of luxury residential skyscrapers — the tallest at 55 stories — could be a new symbol for the city’s ambitions to become a hub for high-tech innovation. The complex would dwarf the state’s tallest structure, known as the Superman building. Built in 1928, the Art Deco-style bank building is now vacant.
“If you look at Providence now, your first reaction looking at the skyline is of this place that doesn’t look like it’s on the forefront,” Fane said.
He described the 380-year-old city as having “cutesy” historic districts but in need of a modern icon.
“Providence is a great city. I’ve been delighted by it. But if you’re honest about it, a lot of Providence doesn’t look up to date,” Fane said.
Fane and Toronto architect Sol Wassermuhl unveiled the project last week to a commission overseeing the redevelopment of land made available when the state moved Interstate 195. Shifting the freeway has freed up 26 acres for a proposed life-sciences research complex, condo and retail development, university expansion, public parks and a pedestrian bridge over the Providence River.
Providence City Council President Luis Aponte first called Fane’s surprise proposal the “three towers of evil” in an interview with The Providence Journal last week. The term has stuck for critics who compare the towers to the grandiose buildings of Dubai and Malaysia. The proposals far exceed the district’s current height limits. Aponte and others have also described the renderings as unattractive.
“It’s completely out of scale and out of sync with the district,” Aponte said. “I hope this is a first draft, a first attempt to show what’s possible and that cooler heads and clearer thinking prevail.”
Wassermuhl said the skyscrapers would be connected by a landscaped platform made of masonry and stone that’s meant to blend in with the historic character of the neighborhood, a former jewelry district. The three towers “would grow right out of the podium,” he said, with “material becoming glassier and glassier as we rise to the top of the buildings.”
Fane’s company has built residential projects in Harlem and Toronto and is a longtime owner of apartment buildings for Cornell University students in Ithaca, New York.
The developer said he met briefly with Rhode Island’s Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, who has been eager to foster new development. She helped persuade Boston-based General Electric to open a software development office in Providence. Raimondo hasn’t said what she thinks of the tower design, only that Fane’s interest is a sign of the state’s economic momentum and that the I-195 commission will need to vet it properly.
Fane plans to seek government tax credits to help with construction.
“Basically the government in Providence will have to decide if they want something big like this and if their vision is the same as my vision that it’s important to do something that’s iconic and symbolic and that people will notice,” Fane said. “Or not.”