As many Fox Point neighbors know, the 200-year-old Federal-style house located at 312 Wickenden Street, most recently the home of the Duck & Bunny, was demolished in early April. Several residents have expressed distress at the news, not only with regard to the demolition itself, but also the lack of notice to neighbors. In fact, while the owner of the snuggery did not notify neighbors of the specific timing of the demo, he did share his intentions last year. FPNA learned during discussions in January 2020 that the maintenance and restoration of this building – a structure that FPNA President Nick Cicchitelli later described as containing “200 years of Band-Aids” – proved more logistically and financially challenging than the owner ever anticipated. “The situation is unfortunate,” Cicchitelli continued. “I am both sad and sympathetic that the building came down.”
Owners of properties like the snuggery, which was located outside the local historic district, do not have a legal obligation to notify neighbors (or the community) of plans for demolition, nor to preserve such buildings. While the demolition of the Duck & Bunny may be especially disheartening, it is only one of a spate of recent examples in Fox Point. As city officials have suggested to neighbors at FPNA meetings, if residents want to protect beloved old buildings, they may want to consider working with local legislators to enact meaningful changes to public policies. A new historic “overlay” district, the officials suggest, could encompass a different swath of Fox Point than the current historic district. Such a district might function as a “historic district lite” that protects historic buildings from demolition and other major modifications but does not require the same stringent expectations of homeowners as the current historic district. Changing zoning laws would require not only the development of new legislation but also the sign-on of neighbors in what would amount to an enormous volunteer effort. But if residents are to protect the historic character they cherish, such a bold step may be necessary.
Nonprofit studio DownCity Design is currently accepting proposals for projects that will be completed by students during their Summer 2021 and Spring 2022 programming. With a mission of empowering youth and adults to create positive change in public spaces using design skills acquired through free design education programming, DownCity Design is calling on the community for projects that will engage learners and improve their neighborhoods. Working with local partnerships, the organization’s goal is to design programs, products, and built interventions that make these spaces more welcoming, functional, and attractive. DownCity Design’s request for proposals is specifically seeking projects that involve design challenges their youth builders could work to solve and that can help a school, organization, or community group function even better. Applicants are encouraged to review project guidelines online to see their criteria, and proposals will be reviewed by their panel of educators, staff, and students to select the project for their 2021-2022 cycle. Proposals will be received through June 13.
The Providence Preservation Society is working hard to conclude a near decade-long effort to designate an area approximately bounded by Angell Street, Governor Street, Hope Street, and Young Orchard Avenue as part of Providence’s newest local historic district. The area encompasses 90 parcels, including some of the area’s most historic residential buildings and streetscapes, spanning three National Register Historic Districts. Local historic districts enjoy design review for exterior changes (excluding paint color and maintenance), demolitions, and new construction. The next steps in the process are a second public hearing at the City Council Committee on Ordinances, which will be scheduled in June, and two votes by City Council. The ordinance has the strong support of Ward 1 Councilman John Goncalves, as well as several other City councilors. PPS is working to win Brown University’s support to include three of their architecturally significant properties in the district (1 Young Orchard/105 Benevolent, 154 Hope, and 137 Waterman). For those interested in voicing their support when the meeting is held, email PPS at firstname.lastname@example.org using the subject line: “Sign me up to support the LHD!”.