Special Permit Needed Before RWU Can Use ProJo Building

Dec 10, 2013

Roger Williams University is pursuing negotiations to use part of the Providence Journal building at 75 Fountain Street. Since the building is not part of a City of Providence's institutional zone, a special use permit is needed before part of the structure could be re-purposed for university use, according to David Ortiz, spokesman for Mayor Angel Taveras.

"The building is in the D-1 zoning district, outside of an institutional overlay zone," Ortiz says via email. "College uses at this site require a special use permit from the zoning board of review, not a zoning change from the city council.

Ann Gooding, spokeswoman for the City's Department of Planning & Development, previously told RIPR that a zoning change would be needed for RWU to reuse part of the Journal Building. Ortiz says that's not the case.

Roger Williams University has been cited in media reports (here) as a prospective user of part of the Journal Building, which was first offered for sale by the newspaper's owner, A.H. Belo, in 2008. Belo last week announced it was putting the ProJo up for sale.

University spokesman Brian Clark on Tuesday said RWU is continuing negotiations to utilize part of 75 Fountain Street. "The negotiations are going well and will continue," Clark says, adding that Roger Williams University trustees may vote on a related proposal in February. He says trustees got an update on the negotiations during a meeting last Friday.

Roger Williams is interested in increasing its footprint in Providence. Clark says the university wants to pursue a mix of classroom and administrative space, as well as a possible presence for its law school, which will remain based in Bristol.

Meanwhile, questions continue about what individuals or companies will emerge as prospective buyers of the Journal.

This post has been updated.