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Coming soon: One Union Station reimagined as a foodie destination

A 16,000-square “Chelsea Market”-type foot food hall on the ground floor will feature more than a dozen separate restaurant concepts and bars

The ground floor of Providence's iconic Union Station will be reimagined as a 16,000-square-foot food hall.
The ground floor of Providence's iconic Union Station will be reimagined as a 16,000-square-foot food hall.Alexa Gagosz/Alexa Gagosz, Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — Foodies in the Creative Capital can soon celebrate: a new food hall is coming to one of downtown’s most historic buildings.

The Marsella Development Corporation announced Monday a $13 million plan to redevelop the ground level of One Union Station, which will feature a 16,000-square-foot food hall with more than a dozen separate restaurant concepts and bars.

Evan England, a spokesman for the company, said the style will be similar to the Chelsea Market, which is a collection of shops and restaurants inside the historic National Biscuit Company complex in New York City’s Meatpacking District; the Harrods Food Hall in London, which features seasonal food, gourmet confectionaries, charcuterie, and rows of sourdough in a multi-market hall; and Union Market, known as Washington D.C.’s hippest feasting ground to find Chesapeake Bay oysters, informal diners, and gift shops.

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The operator hired by Marsella ran Harrods Food Hall for four years, and helped open the Time Out Market locations in Boston and Miami.

The space previously held Bar Louie, which permanently closed last year; and Capital Grille, which relocated in 2015 to nearby 10 Memorial Blvd. in a space previously occupied by Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and is now downstairs neighbors with IGT and Fidelity Investments.

The Marsella family has been connected to the One Union Station complex for more than 35 years. They undertook the painstaking process of restoring the property to its former glory after a fire in 1987.

England said the building offers the right amount of square footage with striking historic details that would be impossible to replicate. He said part of the story they want to tell with the food hall is the story of Union Station.

“As we emerge from the most challenging of times, we know that people will once again come together, as they always have, around food,” said Chris Marsella, president of Marsella Development. “We are building a space that will bring people together, foster talented members of the culinary community, and showcase the very best of Rhode Island.”

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Marsella said the family wants to build a space that connects three iconic outdoor spaces in downtown — Waterplace Park, the Riverwalk, and Kennedy Plaza — while creating a new space that celebrates Rhode Islanders’ creativity. Founded in 1979 by Romolo Marsella, the Marsella Development Corporation has a long history of working on projects in Providence, including the transformation of the Providence Performing Arts Center, the creation of One Citizens Plaza, and the redevelopment of Capital Center that involved the relocation of the railroad tracks and station.

Construction will begin this summer and the food hall will open in summer 2022. As part of this plan, they will update and use the outdoor plaza.

Under the tentative agreement, the 49,000-square-foot building will be divided into two spaces. The ground floor of the building, which opens onto Waterplace Park, will be sold to Marsella Development. The upper levels of the building, which overlook Kennedy Plaza, will remain under the existing ownership and occupation of the Rhode Island Foundation. Some of the Foundation’s space is currently leased to The Public’s Radio and Rhode Island Kids Count. The Foundation will continue to pay property taxes on the space it occupies, as it has since it purchased the building in 1999.

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Marsella Development and the Foundation are still negotiating the sale of the ground level, which served as the city’s train station for most of the 20th century.

“We’re excited about the Marsella family’s vision for Union Station, and see this as another step in our decades-long commitment to supporting downtown Providence,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s chief executive. “From grants for street workers in Kennedy Plaza to supporting the redevelopment of Downcity through a partnership with the Providence Revolving Fund, we continue to invest in the capital city.”


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz.