Two of the guests at our May 11 meeting, Michael A. Voccola, Vice President of the Procaccianti Group and Steve Lewenstein of Stephen R. Lewenstein Associates spoke about their partnership to develop three now-abandoned properties: Sears, Anderson Little and Chip’s Bowlarama.
The Procaccianti Group is primarily a hotel company, including the recent acquisition of the downtown Westin, but real estate is a big part of the business. Mr Voccola said Procaccianti is willing to be a pioneer in its projects – they realize that their development will be the initial impetus for the re-development of North Main Street. He said Procaccianti wants the development to be an asset to the neighborhood.
They also want community engagement and approval. Mr. Voccola told us that Procaccianti welcomes the detailed scrutiny that the the Capital Center Review Commission has brought to bear on their design for the Westin Hotel in downtown Providence. He said that he looked to neighborhood meetings like this one to be the equivalent of the CCRC for the No. Main project.
At this stage, he told us, nothing has been decided and anything is possible. They are open to what the community wants and what is economically viable. The partners are doing sophisticated demographic and traffic studies to more fully establish the market potential.
For now, the partners anticipate putting in a broad variety of retail shops, but are open to possible residential development. They would consider high-rise residential development, but there is no current Providence high-rise residential market to guide them. One rendering showed two rows of stores facing each other across a center parking lot. The ends of the rows would be built out to No. Main Street. Another idea is to open access to retail at the basement level, which was the bottom level of the former Sears.
Steve Lewinstein introduced himself as the developer of the Whelan Square area and cited the Starbucks there as an example of responding to community demand and doing quality work. He shares the Procaccianti commitment to high quality projects that enhance the neighborhood. Mr. Lewinstein already owns the North Main Street properties occupied by Blockbuster Video and Brooks Drug Store at the intersection with Smithfield Avenue.
Following up suggestions from many neighbors, SNA board members privately urged the developers to pursue a Trader Joes food store as a possible tenant. The offbeat grocery chain would be an nice alternative to Shaws and Stop and Shop and a great anchor for a prosperous shopping area on North Main Street.
If you have a vision for North Main, or would simply like to learn more about how our commercial environment will be shaped, please contact SNA. We would like to put a resident group together to check in an comment on the plans as they develop.