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April's Providence Monthly

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April's Providence Monthly has a good article about rehabilitation Downcity and in Olneyville. Check it out.

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April's Providence Monthly has a good article about rehabilitation Downcity and in Olneyville. Check it out.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

And, check out next weeks Providence Business News. There will be articles about development projects.

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There's also an article about Thayer Street in the Providence Monthly.

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They interviewd me for the article, and I come off sounding a bit like a naysayer and an ass, but whatever, there needs to be a voice of dissention sometimes. I did get this email soon after, though, and I thought it was interesting:

This is in regards to the thoughts and opinions of J Hogue as presented in the April issue of Providence Monthly. I'm 30 years old and have lived in the 2nd cheapest apartment in the Alice Building since Nov 2002. I work in Boston at an interactive advertising agency and commute. The reason I commute is less because of rental prices and more because I hate Boston. You are so spot on that it's one big expensive vanilla-based sea of blah. Your comments were right out of my own head, almost word for word, and I wanted you to know that there are current residents down there who agree with you 1000 times over. I helped create and am actively involved in the Downtown Neighborhood Alliance (the first neighborhood group ever for downtown) and am doing what I can to make these thoughts heard as all these grand, yuppified visions seep into current thinking. If all goes to plan on the current path, I won't be able to afford to live downtown much longer, let alone stand to. I love the scene as it is now. There is a fantastic mix of students, professionals, retirees, couples, singles, friends ?- and they?re all enjoying a neighborhood in transition. Every little triumph at this point sends a high-speed ripple of excitement throughout the area -- it's great. But my fears are your fears and not a day goes by I don't miss the Lupo's murals outside my front door and wonder what else I'll soon miss, too. I write to you as a resident who still has hope that we can turn this hood into a St. Mark's and not a SOHO, and that not every new building built will out price the next - may it stay fun, diverse, funky, cool, and above all else, not Boston.

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...as all these grand, yuppified visions seep into current thinking...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

While I get the point and even agree with it to a certain degree, I can't help but dislike the hint of class-warfare that permiates these arguments. It's kind of like Miriam's rant earlier about how all of the idle professionals are now standing on the backs of and exploiting everything that the artists have built (sarcasm intended)...

I attended a gallery showing (at the Union Station gallery AS220 extension?) several months ago about the Olneyville evictions. You couldn't help but miss, between the true and evocative points made about the evictions and affordability, some serious anti-middle class, anti-professional, anti-education points being made as well that, in my opinion, undermined the exhibit.

I've never liked the implied connotation that the choice here in our future urbanism is between a savy, sassy, hard-working, creative class and an idle, bland, boring, overeducated professional class. It's too stark, and both alternatives are unrealistic and unappealing. It's as if people say we can only have either the cast of "Rent" or the suburban family from "Pleasantville."

If people want to argue neighborhood affordability, stablility, and sustainability, that's fine... But I sometimes think these arguments cross over more into not wanting certain types of people as much as it being about money...

- Garris

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I couldn't more agree with you, Garris. Very well said. As someone working on the private development side, I often become very frustrated when artists complain that there is no housing being provided for them or that vast promises were never fulfilled. It is very difficult and expensive to rehabilitate historic buildings. As you all know, it is rarely economically feasible without federal and state subsidies. While I can't speak for everyone, I know it to be true that with the current rents (which price artists out of the market), most of the properties barely break even.

Sometimes I think people need to learn a dose of real world economics. I find it shameful when people criticize the downtown rehabilitation projects without knowing the pro-formas or how tenuous they are. Had former residents been forced to move to make way for the so-called yuppie housing, I would understand the issue, but these buildings were substantially vacant and increasingly dilapidated. They are finally being put to use! I think many fail to understand that this type of economic development adds more money to the entire pie, in tax dollars, economic opportunity and revenue for small scale entrepreuners. These added dollars could (and should) be applied to artist and non-profit ventures, but without them these ventures stand little chance of increasing their funding. After all, no matter how wonderful, artists were inhabiting buildings illegally and often dangerously. Updating them to code costs money, and somehow these expenses need to be covered.

Rather than criticizing positive development or trying to block the inevitable market forces (i.e. downtown becoming increasingly attractive to yuppie and empty nester types), artists should take matters into their own hands ala AS220 and the Dreyfuss Hotel and PUENTE. Those striks me as amazing projects, and far more constructive than simply complaining that Buddy Cianci didn't foot the bill for creating a socialist-esque artist district. The organization ArtSpace, based in Minneapolis, develops live/work space for artists in cities around America. Artists in Providence should collaborate with them. There are plenty of buildings downtown that remain vacant and underutilized and are still relatively affordable. The Lapham Building, the old Projo Building, the Roger Williams Building, the Mercantile Building (Cogen's Press) and many others are screaming out for revitalization. The Lapham on Westminster, for instance, is for sale at the right price (of approximately $2.8 million). Why don't artists band together, incorporate, raise money and convert the building into subsidized live/work artists lofts rather than complain that the free market isn't doing it for them? Surely the conversion to artists space is less expensive than building luxury condominiums.

This strikes me as the classic breakdown of economic socialism. Rather than complaning that they're being cut out of the market, do something about it. Until then, private developers are going to view artists as antagonists and barriers to constructive development. Don't cut your nose to spite your face.

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As someone working on the private development side, I often become very frustrated when artists complain that there is no housing being provided for them or that vast promises were never fulfilled.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

A couple of things:

I understand Garris' frustration with the labels being tossed about and the ranting in other places on this board and other boards, but I don't understand why it was brought up in response to J's post of what I think was an insightful view of what is happening downtown from someone who is and has been happily living there. Besides maybe one unfortunate use of the word "yuppie" which seems to have gotten extra-charged lately (maybe with good reason), it was dead-on and should certainly not be discounted from the discussion.

There IS in fact a reasonable level of distrust and a feeling of being wronged in certain sectors of our community. The fact is, some really great places were lost in the "name of progress," other people had what they thought were legal leases broken and were thrown out on the street in the dead of winter, and there is indeed a serious problem with housing, artist and non-artist, in this town and the entire state. The economics are certainly clear, but many have legitimate concerns about a myriad of things, and while its cool to be excited about all the new projects going on, its also cool to bring up concerns. Hey, even a rant is needed and called for every once in a while. I think the important thing is balance and keeping things in perspective here.

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Perhaps I should clarify. I don't disagree, dissension is very important. There are many important issues that need to be addressed. I know J and find him to be a very knowledgeable resource and I certainly did not want that to come across as a personal attack. I was responding to Garris' perspective, not Js.

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Perhaps I should clarify.  I don't disagree, dissension is very important.  There are many important issues that need to be addressed.  I know J and find him to be a very knowledgeable resource and I certainly did not want that to come across as a personal attack.  I was responding to Garris' perspective, not Js.

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Yep, I understand that. I mean, if anyone has read what I was posting over on the Lots of Noise board, you'll see that I get pretty frustrated with all the yuppie and hipster/filthy artist bs being thrown all over the place too.

The G-word always brings up all sorts of bad feelings, but these developments do affect people's lives, their homes, for good and bad, and its not all just complaining and NIMBYISM. Ultimately, I think we end up a much much better city for it.

Actually, you hit it right on about getting more AS220 type projects going...Now, how 'bout Buff buys the Lapham building and hire me to work on a REAL mixed-income, mixed-use development? Or just give me $2.8 mil and I'LL do it? :rofl:

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I'm workin on him, man! He's interested but he wants to get Grant's Block off the drawing board first.

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...The organization ArtSpace, based in Minneapolis, develops live/work space for artists in cities around America.  Artists in Providence should collaborate with them....

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I have been in touch with them and they are very, very nice. They only enter into a project, of course, if they think it is economically feasible. They just finished a building in Bridgeport CT that I'd like to see. Unfortunately, Providence is already out of their price range. But, I think that might be the way it has to be. Let Pawtucket, Central Falls, Olneyville, and maybe even Warwick and Cranston pick up the bill when it comes to cheaper housing (for anybody). Frankly, i think real estate in Prov is over inflated, though not as bad as Boston. Maybe Providence needs to have a higher strata of rents to keep its cache and hold on to cultural institutions like the VMA, PPAC, Trinity and the like.

I love to see these buildings restored, whatever the cost. And I know they were vacant. Hell, they even put some of the Olneyville kids up for a while when they got evicted. I know most of these idealistic ideas are beyond the real world. But I'd like to see some things stick around, like that person who emailed me said, that attracted me to Providence in the first place. We (me and that other woman) like Providence because it is NOT Boston. It freaked me out when a few months after i moved here Urban Outfitters, Tealuxe, and the Garment District (all things we had in Boston) moved to Thayer. That was weird.

On the other hand, I do have to hand it to Francis at Cornish... he is getting some great, off the beaten path shops into Westminister. And while I thought there might have been a way to integrate Lupos into the mix, i understand why they moved, and the Peerless bldg will be jaw dropping when the roof is done. Kudos, really. But you have to understand, too, I talked to that writer girl for over an hour. Typically, I am the dissenting voice in these articles. And I'm ok with that, someone has to do it, and I knew Prov Monthly wasnt going to be hard hitting journalism, I knew they would be basically optimistic, like I am most of the time. I respect all the players in the city's redevelopment, I just like to push the pendulum hard so it swings back closer to my standpoint...

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I really like what you wrote, J. I think the key is collaboration. Antagonism and unfounded opposition doesn't accomplish much besides hard feelings and impossible future relationships. Providence is a small, tightly-knit place and providing housing for a wide range of people is beneficial to hipsters, yuppies, artists, developers and especially hard working lower income families. If we all work together, I think we can do amazing things out of the reach of our neighbors to the north (Boston) and to the south (New York).

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As evidenced by plans from people like Pat Conley (see the recent Pheonix article I posted about the Dunlop building) you can see why I am skeptical at times. He has plans (which may never come to pass) of million dollar condos rising over the waterfront. Great, if there weren't already a glut of expensive condos on the market. And, I would be even more skeptical of his motives of using art space as a goof filler for now, had he not entered into an agreement with PCIS (Lisa Carnevale and Erik Bright) and signed a five year lease, I think, with them. Once million dollar condos move in, what chance does the art space have of sticking around?

It just seems like everyone is building for the upper class, of which Providence has little of who dont already own on the East Side, so we have to import them. From where? Where are the jobs for these people? Why aren't we importing more companies like Gtech to move their headquarters to the state, let alone the city? Where will the middle income and lower people live?

Because I fall into this middle to lower income bracket, and even though I contribute so much to the city (with a small business and property taxes from my house), and maybe because I love it so much (as evidenced by AIR), I cant help but feel like Providence doesn't want me.

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I 100% see what you're saying, J. Providence has been down-and-out for so long that these kind of issues never surfaced. Now, all of a sudden, there is enough upper-class demand to render the East Side too small? That seems to be the case, for a number of factors. First, is the controversial Boston yuppie influx. Second, suburban Rhode Islanders who had written off Providence are giving it another look. Finally, older East Siders with big homes and places in Florida (believe me, I know 500 of them), want to downsize and for the first time would consider being downtown.

Providence needs economic development, there is no disputing that. Of course, that depends on a number of microeconomic and macroeconomic factors. I guess the question that I want to ask is, "what can we do for the artists?"

You've given many compelling reasons as to why we should do something, and you know I am very wary of interfering with market forces. What's your "wish list" for what 1) artists, 2) the city and state, and 3) private developers can do to make sure that Providence maintains the amazing artists presence that has catalyzed this whole thing in the first place?

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Which building is the Lapham building? ( is it the large white building with city cuts and a few other retail spots? )

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Lapham is diagonally across from the new Hotel Providence on the corner of Westminster and Mathewson. It is an L shaped 9-storey building that envelops the smaller Tilden Thurber building. The store fronts are vacant with the exception of a copy place and a small jeweler. I can give you details on the interior if you want more info.

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Hello-

I noticed in the assisted living industry that once the concept took hold, everyone aimed for the cream of the market. They built luxury because it's glamorous but also that's where the fattest margins are. Once the luxury market was built out, developers started to figure out how to build for lower paying customers.

It seems to be a sort of learning curve.

I expect the same thing to happen with condos and apartments in Prov. First they go for the margin-rich luxury market. Once that's built out they'll go down market. Simultaneously, the economic impact of the luxury units will spur restraunts and other services to cater to them, raising local wages to where many of these workers can afford more expensive units than was possible before. The result will be some artists will play the game well and make it, while others will get pushed out as develpopment spreads into their territory.

I think the artists will have to be clever and proactive to keep a strong pressence in Prov. Some will do well being proffessional and selling their stuff. Others will have to band together and develop space. The Dirt Palace, AS220, Monahassett, we need more of these.

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Lapham is diagonally across from the new Hotel Providence on the corner of Westminster and Mathewson.  It is an L shaped 9-storey building that envelops the smaller Tilden Thurber building.  The store fronts are vacant with the exception of a copy place and a small jeweler.  I can give you details on the interior if you want more info.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'd like to hear more about the interior...

Plus, if Cornish is really serious about doing some mixed income, innovative stuff, I'd love to talk...I have a bit of experience with creative financing and whatnot... :D .

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I have a bit of experience with creative financing and whatnot... :D .

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I need some "creative financing." Maybe I should talk to Conley. ^_^

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I need some "creative financing." Maybe I should talk to Conley.  ^_^

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Ha! He's definitely your man...

Oooh, the more I dig up the worse it gets...

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That building has a law office on the second floor I think. It looks to have nice potential besides one huge fault; you could most likely never put residential housing anywhere near the side that faces into the church bell tower.

For those who don't know this tower, its very loud.

Lapham is diagonally across from the new Hotel Providence on the corner of Westminster and Mathewson.  It is an L shaped 9-storey building that envelops the smaller Tilden Thurber building.  The store fronts are vacant with the exception of a copy place and a small jeweler.  I can give you details on the interior if you want more info.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Also does anone know what is going on with that building next to Peerless. It has city cuts and some little night club / daytime cafe on wesminter. ( remey's? ) It seems that it could be a real option to be turned into something nice. It

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Hotel Providence has actually convinced the church to reduce the frequency of it's bell tolling. The Hotel's luxury suites face the church, I was actually in one of the suites when the bell went off, talk about loud!

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I dont mind the rings on the hour but when it breaks into full song for two or three min; I think its alittle over the top. Lapham building is even closer to the bell tower than Hotel Providence.

Interesting Cotuit I was wondering how loud the bell was from inside the Hotel.

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I expect the same thing to happen with condos and apartments in Prov. First they go for the margin-rich luxury market. Once that's built out they'll go down market. Simultaneously, the economic impact of the luxury units will spur restraunts and other services to cater to them, raising local wages to where many of these workers can afford more expensive units than was possible before. The result will be some artists will play the game well and make it, while others will get pushed out as develpopment spreads into their territory.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That's the big question. What can happen beyond the upscale market? Most of the newer urban development (in many cities) is geared towards the wealthy. In a way that's good because there is clearly the demand and the money to make these things happen. So I think that has a better chance of enduring than vague, government driven attempts at redevelopment. Suppose there are eventually enough high end places to provide a large, stable residential population that can support businesses, restaurants etc. It's not clear what will happen next. Will more people conclude that the city is a desireable place to live, causing a demand for reasonably priced housing expanding out from the center? Or will it look less attractive in the lower price range, compared to the standard suburban house? In the last 10-15 years we've seen the notion of a "luxury" lifestyle, which may have meant a mansion before, broadened to include deluxe urban apartments. Now the question is whether the concept of middle-class family life can be expanded so that people can also picture it in an urban setting. It's a very different challenge. A big issue is the schools of course. Without a better school system the demand for city living will be limited and development may not go much beyond the luxury market.

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The "city cuts" building youre referring to is the Old Providence Journal Building, owned by the same delinquent landlord that holds the Lapham Building and the Kresgey Building next door. His name is Pierre De Bourghenechkt (sp?) and he lives in Boston and Europe. He bought the buildings in a shady deal involving Mayor Cianci at the height of the 1980s office market (when they were all fully leased). We NEED to get him to do something with those buildings. Supposedly he entertains offers from buyers every now and again in the range of $6-8 million for all 3. They are 100% unoccupied with the exception of the sparse first floor "retail."

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