PROVIDENCE — The New York developer who sought to build what would have been Rhode Island’s tallest skyscraper has scrapped his plans.
Fane Organization President Jason Fane said the $300 million Fane Tower project at 250 Dyer St. in the city’s Jewelry District, first proposed in 2016, is “no longer feasible.”
“I came to Providence with a vision for a great and iconic project that would provide much-needed housing, quality jobs, and revenue for local government and have worked long and hard to make it a reality,” he said Friday in a statement. “However, due to recent risk factors outside of my control, it is no longer feasible to move forward with this project. I wish the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, the City of Providence, and the State of Rhode Island success with their plans for further development in the I-195 District.”
If it had been built, Fane Tower would have been about 100 feet taller than the state’s tallest building, the Industrial Trust Bank building in downtown Providence, often called the Superman building.
In December, the Globe reported that after seven years of legal battles and redesigns, Fane announced he had made changes to the plan.
“The current economy of inflation, recession, and supply chain issues, increased construction costs and higher financing costs required cost reduction by more efficient design to maintain project feasibility,” he said in a statement to the Globe in December. “We now have an elegant design that can get built.”
Fane went in front of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission in January seeking to alter the design of his proposed 46-story luxury residential tower to allow for additional apartments (from 557 to 618). The new proposal would have reduced the size of a parking podium and the amount of indoor retail space.
The scaled back design had eliminated two floors of parking, reduced the parking podium, and scrapped many of the exterior’s balconies. The construction costs remained within the $300 million price tag that Fane previously estimated, and the revised structural concept did not change the height of the building — 550 feet high.
Fane, who has developed buildings in New York and Toronto, told the Globe in 2019, “I have to say that if I understood the delays that were associated with it, I probably wouldn’t have done it.”
In a written statement Friday, Marc Crisafulli, head of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, said Fane’s contractual rights to the Dyer Street parcel would lapse later this month, and that the commission was looking forward.
R.I. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said in a statement that he was disappointed, and that the tower project would have provided badly needed housing and jobs.
A number of Providence council members and groups have voiced opposition to the tower project or its location over the years.
Following Fane’s announcement Friday, Brent Runyon, executive director of Providence Preservation Society, told the Globe the area could now be used for a project that will complement the city.
“I think what it means is that those parcels on the park can now be made for a developer that will add to the vibrancy of that area and be good Providence,” Runyon said. “Because they [Fane Organization] never provided a market study or anything like that, that supported development, we didn’t think that it would happen.”
Runyon said community pushback, the pandemic, and inflation slowed the project.
“It was probably a death knell,” he said. “Certainly glad this thing is finally over.”
In a post on the city website, Ward 1 Councilman John Goncalves responded to the announcement.
“I’m aware of the Fane Tower news today. We all know this process took time, energy, and resources, and we want to thank the parties involved for their due diligence. Now we move in another direction,” he wrote. “As the city councilor representing the Jewelry District and Downtown neighborhood, I look forward to working with our constituents, Marc Crisafulli, Caroline Skuncik, and the 195 Commission to find an alternative investment and feasible economic project for this integral parcel in the great city of Providence.”
Former Providence Mayor Joe R. Paolino Jr. said in an email that “Mr. Fane dealt with an onslaught of opposition from the start and the real culprits are City Hall during the Elorza administration and the court cases.”
Opponents ran out the clock on the project, Paolino Jr. said.
“Time kills development,” he said. “The world has changed dramatically since the pandemic started more than three years ago. And, the development world has also changed due to rising interest rates. Six years ago, interest rates were 3%. Today, they are 8 to 10%. There is no way a project of this magnitude could be successful with such high interest rates right now.”
“I now think about what this means for the Superman building,” he continued. “With everything the city and state have invested in the project, interest rates have risen with no sign of them falling anytime soon. My suggestion would be for all the Fane Tower incentives to now be given to the Superman project, so we are able to complete at least one project in Providence.”
Paolino said the only way for big development projects to thrive is with help subsidizing interest rates.
“We are at a crossroads,” he said. “In Rhode Island, our public leaders want to create jobs and promote economic growth, while the Fed wants to promote unemployment and halt economic expansion in order to curtail inflation. They’re in conflict with each other.”
“The Fane Tower project being killed is unfortunate because it would have created a lot of jobs, more housing, and been a great addition to the Providence skyline,” he added. “Mr. Fane deserves an apology.”
The former mayor said he hopes the former I-195 land is “designated for Life Sciences including any project Brown University wants to undertake. Brown has a large investment in Providence and their continued investment always creates jobs.”
This story has been updated with additional statements and reactions.