Councilman John Goncalves Calls for a Pause in the Demolition of Historic Homes

Nov 13, 2023

The City of Providence’s Planning Department and the Department of Inspections and Standards could soon issue demolition permits to raze three historic homes at 209, 211, and 217 Angell Street,” said Councilman and Senior Deputy Majority Leader John Goncalves (Ward 1).

 “The Planning Department and the Department of Inspections and Standards did not inform me until Tuesday, 11/7, as required by ordinance. 

The only reason why I was notified, as the Councilperson, is because of Providence Code of Ordinances Chapter 5, Article 1, Section 5-8, an amendment to expand demolition notification requirements that I authored, introduced, and passed with my City Council colleagues after the historic Duck and Bunny restaurant was demolished, in the darkness of night, on an Easter Sunday. Had this law not been passed, demolitions would continue to occur without expanded notification.

I have contacted the Planning Department and the Department of Inspections to ask if there is any recourse to prevent the razing. Since this is not in a local historic district, demolition is allowed by right. With the City Planning Commission’s approval of an appeal, it appears that the buildings can be removed by the owner. DIS’s only recourse is to ensure that the process is complied with. 

However, notices on these properties indicated that the “date of the proposed razing of structure” was today, Monday, November 13. As the ordinance states, “Any applicant who obtains a demolition permit for the complete removal of an existing structure through the building official shall post at the property a notice alerting the public of the pending demolition for seven (7) days prior to the commencement of said demolition.”

As such, this notice posted on 11/7 is defective, and the current notices of proposed demolition need to be revoked at this time. 

Had contractors gone ahead with demolition during a long holiday weekend – without transparency to the neighbors, neighborhood, and local stakeholders – this would have been catastrophic. Additionally, Angell and Brook Street are highly traversed and are in very close proximity to many students, families, employees, residents, schools, and businesses. The hazards posed by demolition, including dust, debris, airborne particles, noise, equipment, etc., are not to be taken lightly and should not come as a surprise to our constituents. 

Neighbors need to be briefed and not blind-sided, waking up only to discover a hole in the ground and an empty lot in their neighborhood and community. This is unacceptable. 

We will not stand by idly while this continues to happen. We are calling on the departments in the executive branch of government to urge all contractors not to begin work and halt the issuance of demolition permits. As of Sunday, I’ve been notified that a Legal Notice/Stop Work Order has been posted on the proposed sites for now.

It is beneficial to develop our city and grow our tax base. However, demolition and development without a clear plan informed by neighbors and abutters is inappropriate, and as a result, if demolition does occur, I will strongly oppose any forthcoming zone changes proposed at this site.”

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