Two other Boston-based companies, Eden Properties and Parent and Diamond, were also in the running after submitting their plans in September.
the I-195 Redevelopment Commission, which is a state committee that controls the land, evaluated the three proposed plans and public comments before choosing Urbanica to develop apartments near the bridge in plot 2 during a meeting Wednesday evening after an executive session nearly an hour. Parcel 2 is a parcel between South Water and South Main streets and is one of seven lots located on the former freeway land on the east side of Providence.
Proposals from Urbanica and Eden Properties included bachelor, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments; rental prices were not disclosed. Parent + Diamond Real Estate Development proposed a plan for 120 condo units that would be owned.
Low-income housing was not featured in most of the original plans, but Urbanica would have added 12 units to be reserved for affordable housing in their proposed plans. The company also said it would include “live work lofts” and “compact units.”
Each proposal showed a towering five- or six-story mixed-use building, which caused pushback from current East Side neighbors.
The Commission received dozens of letters from area residents and stakeholders, including of Councilman John Goncalves of Ward 1. Some who lived near the plot expressed concerns about the height of the proposed building and called it an “atrocity”. Others asked for additional parking spaces and said there was a loss of green space.
Committee members said they met with Goncalves to address his concerns and that their talks were “positively received”. Goncalves released a statement to The Globe on Wednesday, in which he praised Urbanica and said their development terms responded directly to public letters.
Letters of endorsement also came from the Providence Chapter of the NAACP, which said the project offered opportunities for construction jobs to be given to women and people of color. Michael Sabitoni, president of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council, which includes 16 local unions, wrote in support of the job creation project. But he said in his letter that he was in favor of Eden Properties’ proposal, saying it was “of the appropriate size and scope for this parcel”.
The Providence Preservation Society told the Commission that Urbanica’s design was the most thoughtful, but suggested the company bring more ground-level retail or gallery space along South Main. Street, where artist studios are supposed to be located.
Urbanica offered to purchase the land for $2.04 million and did not seek any state subsidy, according to the Commission.
Urbanica also planned to include a covered walkway at ground level so the public could walk underneath to get from College Hill to the pedestrian bridge. Their proposal also included a multifunctional plaza, a café terrace to be used as active “shared” spaces with the public, and a large restaurant with an adjoining plaza for outdoor dining and entertainment, according to plans.
Along South Water Street, the company also proposed a waterfront public market as a “cultural food emporium” designed to provide small rental spaces for local food artisans and small business entrepreneurs. At the intersection of James and South Water Streets, there is a cafe offered with other food and beverage programs, patio seating, and a digital screen for showings or advertisements.
During the public comment period, Sharon Steele, President of the Jewelry District Associationasked the commission to begin both a parking study and a traffic study of the proposed project.
Robert Davisthe Chairman of the Commission, said that this selection is only the “first step” in the process of redevelopment of plot 2. He said during the meeting that there will be a preliminary and final examination with two other opportunities additional public comments.
“It’s the first step in that process,” Davis said.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that each of the proposed plans had rental units. Parent + Diamond Real Estate Development proposed a plan for 120 condo units that would be owned instead of rented.