Providence developer wants grocery store for downtown

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – One of Providence’s most prominent developers wants to add a grocery store to downtown.

Arnold “Buff” Chace confirmed this week he and other partners have proposed a 146,493-square-foot mixed-use development that would include apartments and a market to replace a surface parking lot located across from the Providence Journal building on Fountain Street.

Chace, the managing general partner of Cornish Associates, partnered with Massachusetts-based Nordblom Company in 2015 to purchase the Journal building as well as several parking lots, including the lot that will be used for the new project.

The project would include the surface lots at 78 Fountain St. and 93 Washington St. and the former Coffee King building at 66 Fountain St. The total assessed value of the existing properties is about $2.5 million, according to city tax records.

In an email, Chace said he hopes to include an “independent” market that would face Washington Street. He said his team is still in talks with the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation regarding the project. Once a construction schedule is set, he said, a search for a tenant for the market will begin.

The group is also seeking a 20-year tax-stabilization agreement from the city for the project, which would include paying a base tax for three years followed by a gradual phasing in of taxes on the new structure over the 17 years.

The deal was introduced to the City Council Thursday night and referred to the Finance Committee. The fiscal impact of the agreement will be vetted in committee.

Chace – whose family founded Berkshire Hathaway, and whose father sold his piece of the company to Warren Buffett – is widely credited with helping transform Westminster Street into one of the most vibrant sections of downtown Providence by converting decaying buildings into residential space. But some groups, including the city’s landlords, have accused him of taking advantage of the city’s tax-stabilization policy.

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Dan McGowan ( ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan