Developer Arnold "Buff" Chace Jr. is working to acquire the Providence Journal Building at 75 Fountain Street, and he expects the ownership of the property to be resolved by the end of this month.
Working with "an outside investment company" that he declined to identify, Chace said he has the Journal property under a tentative purchase agreement. He said he's pursuing a review of the condition of the site, which includes two parking lots. Chace declined to discuss terms for a possible acquisition of the property.
Chace, who has played a leading role in adding downtown residential units over the last 20 years, was more effusive in talking about what he sees as the possibilities afforded by the Journal property.
He said he hopes to retain the Journal as a tenant at the Journal Building while improving the site and attracting additional business tenants. Chace also hopes to remake the two Journal parking lots, at 78 Fountain Street and another on the corner of Eddy Street, as four to five-story buildings with a mix of first-floor commercial, residential, and possibly parking.
"This is a wonderful place," Chace said, referring to downtown Providence. He said the idea of buying the Journal Building appeals to him since adding more residents and businesses will bolster downtown's appeal and vitality.
The Journal's building on Fountain Street was first put up for sale years ago by the newspaper's former owner, A.H. Belo. New Media Investment Group, which bought the newspaper last year, has explored options for possibly moving the operation to another location. The outgoing interim publisher of the Journal, Bernard Szachara, said via email he had "nothing to share on the building or move at this time."
Chace's Cornish Associates has pursued numerous residential conversion projects in the historic core of downtown Providence. (Chace was also part of a local group that unsuccessfully attempted to buy the Journal last year.)
He said 44 additional housing units will become available when the conversion of the Kinsley Building on Westminster Street is due for completion in June. Chace said his firm bought two other properties on Westminster Street last year that could yield 55 more housing units, if the financing can be made to work with possible help from the city and state. Although the financing is more complicated without additional funding for the state historic tax credit program, Chace said, "We think there is the demand for hundreds more [units]."
According to an architectural history prepared by the Providence Preservation Society (see page 11), the completion of the Journal Building in 1934 marked "the ascendancy of the Providence Journal into the state's principal newspaper, a posture reinforced by the building's construction during the depths of the Great Depression." The architect was Detroit-based Albert Kahn, whose business consistently mostly of commissions for car makers.
In related news, Chace said he supports the effort by the new ownership of the Pawtucket Red Sox to move the team to Providence and build a new ballpark on part of the land made available by the relocation of I-195. "The idea of walking down Westminster or Dorrance Street and hearing the crack of the bat is a significant [addition] to the revitalization of downtown that we've been working on for more than 20 years," he said.
Chace said he thinks a new ballpark, combined with the South Street Landing project, and an envisioned garage near the Garrahy Court would do a lot to enhance the city's appeal.
This post has been updated.