The Providence Preservation Society has named the entire Providence public school system as one of the city’s most-endangered properties as the organization continues its recent tradition of highlighting broader societal problems in its annual list of properties that are in dire need of a lifeline.
Although not every school in the city is crumbling – PCTA is a palace – the preservation society noted that the district comprises 4.2 million square feet of building space, and the average age of each school is 75. Only 5 percent of the district’s buildings are considered high-quality learning facilities.
”The crisis in education in Providence is quite literally structural,” said Brent Runyon, executive director of the society. “The best investment this city can make is revitalizing its schools. These buildings are both the laboratories of Providence’s future and repositories of its past.”
Keeping with tradition, the preservation society’s list of most-endangered properties largely includes underutilized or vacant buildings – think the “Superman” building – but under Runyon’s leadership, the organization has also added the entire city to its list because of the threat of climate change.
The addition of the city’s schools to the list comes at a time when hundreds of millions of dollars have been borrowed to invest in education infrastructure, but decisions on school repairs are often made by obscure panels that don’t always communicate with one another, let alone with families.
For its part, the district does have a website that highlights some of its plans.
Here’s a look at the rest of the preservation society’s list of the most-endangered properties for 2023.
Industrial Trust Building, aka Superman Building
111 Westminster St., Downtown (1928)
This will likely be the last year that the state’s tallest building is on the list because a plan to convert the former bank tower into apartments is in the works.
Asa Messer Elementary School
158 Messer St., West End (ca. 1890)
This building is still owned by the district, but is used only for storage.
Providence Gas Company Purifier House
200 Allens Ave., Lower South Providence (1899-1900)
The property has been a target for various reuse projects for many years, but nothing has ever moved forward.
Humboldt Fire Station
155 Humboldt Ave., Wayland (1906)
This is the fire station that former mayor Jorge Elorza’s administration repeatedly claimed wasn’t closing, but it has been decommissioned.
Former RIDOT Headquarters and Garage
30 Arline St, Smith Hill (1927)
A perennial member of the most-endangered list, there has been little progress on the redevelopment of this art deco building.
Standard Wholesale Liquors
115 Harris Ave., Smith Hill (1920s)
The preservation society notes that there may be plans for a residential redevelopment here, but a recent fire caused more damage to the building.
Urban League of Rhode Island
246 Prairie Ave., Upper South Providence (c. 1970s)
This could be the last year on this list for the Urban League site because the city has secured millions of federal dollars to rejuvenate this treasured community space.
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.
Dan McGowan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.