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Struever Bros. Planning a 122 room Hotel in a Former Providence, R.I. Power Plant;
$139-million Mixed Use Development Includes Museum, Offices

By Cathleen F. Crowley, The Providence Journal, R.I.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

July 25, 2006 - --PROVIDENCE -- Smokestacks will rise again at the former South Street Power Plant as Struever Bros. moves to capitalize on the relocation of Route 195.

Six of the smokestacks on the vacant power plant will be rebuilt as part of a proposed $139-million development. The project has been dubbed Dynamo House at Providence Point by Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse, the company behind Rising Sun Mills and American Locomotive in Providence and Royal Mills in West Warwick.

In addition to office space, a restaurant, roof garden and 122 hotel rooms, the rehabilitated power plant will house the long-awaited Heritage Harbor Museum.

Struever Bros. and Heritage Harbor are unveiling the plan today.

After 10 years of trying to create the museum on its own, Heritage Harbor sought a private partner and selected Struever. The Baltimore-based developer bought the building from the museum group for $1 and will spend $15 million to renovate two floors of the former electric plant into exhibition space for the museum, said Bill Struever, president of the company.

"It's a huge step," said Albert T. Klyberg, a trustee and founder of the museum. "One of the major obstacles that we faced all along was that very few people wanted to donate to basic infrastructure like doors and elevators and lighting. Struever is supplying all of that."

While some local historical groups withdrew support from the museum after years of turmoil, the Smithsonian Institution remained committed to the project. The Heritage Harbor Museum will be Rhode Island's first Smithsonian-affiliated museum, meaning it can host the institute's traveling exhibits and will have access to material from the Smithsonian collection.

Heritage Harbor has "a great mission and they have amazing stories to tell," said Jennifer Brundage, the affiliation coordinator at the Smithsonian. "We are confident that we can help them and they can help us."

Three elements attracted Bill Struever to the project: the highway relocation, the museum and the building itself.

"We've been intrigued by the wonderful opportunity created by the relocation of I-195 and Old Harbor," Struever said. "We love old industrial waterfronts. It's something of a specialty for us."

The relocated highway reconnects the Jewelry District to College Hill, downtown and the hospitals.

"It really unleashes the opportunity in the old harbor, not just on the jewelry district, but the other side of the river," Struever said.

Struever Bros. has named the waterfront section that runs from the Point Street bridge to downtown Providence Point and it hopes the name sticks.

With a company motto of "Transforming America's Cities Neighborhood by Neighborhood," Struever Bros. hopes to expand its presence along the Providence waterfront, though Struever would not discuss details.

The company's philosophy has drawn criticism in other Providence neighborhoods, such as Olneyville, where some residents have accused Struever of taking over the neighborhood and out-pricing the longtime residents.

The museum partnership appealed to Struever, he said.

"We like the mission of the museum and we embrace the economic development impact potential of having a world-class Smithsonian-affiliated history museum," he said. "I think Rhode Island is one of the only states that doesn't have a state museum. That was a bell-ringer for us."

The third attraction was the building.

"We love challenging old buildings and this certainly qualifies," he said.

Built between 1912 and 1925 by the Narragansett Electric Co., the plant's electric generation peaked in 1950. It was decommissioned in the early 1990s and the electric company donated it to the Heritage Harbor Museum in 1999.

The project is eligible for $50 million in state and federal tax credits.

Originally, the plan called for condominiums, but they were too difficult to accommodate and there are plenty of high-end condominiums coming on the market, said Seth Handy, Struever's development director on the Dynamo House.

Handy grew up in Fox Point in a house that overlooked the South Street Station.

"Personally, it's very exciting for me to be involved in this transformation," he said.

The power plant has three sections. The tall structure that fronts Eddy Street is known as the 400 Pound House because it once contained the boilers that pumped steam at 400 pounds of pressure per square inch into giant turbines. The vault-like space has no floors or interior walls.

Two long sections extend from the 400 Pound House back to the shoreline. On the side next to Davol Square, the 200 Pound House has cathedral-like vertical beams. On the north side is a vast cavern that once housed the turbines.

The designers abandoned plans to make the 400 Pound House into a five-story museum. Visitor flow is difficult in a multi-story museum and the light from the large windows would be a detriment to museum materials, Handy said.

Instead, the museum will occupy two floors and 55,000 square feet of the turbine room and 200 Pound House.

A restaurant with outdoor seating will be on the first floor of the 400 Pound House, which is slightly below ground level.

The hotel entrance will be on Eddy Street above the restaurant. The hotel rooms will be on the fifth and sixth floors, above the roof line in roof monitors, which are raised sections that allowed more natural light into the power plant. The rooms on the outer edges will have courtyards while the interior rooms will share a roof-top garden, Handy said.

The hotel's pool and fitness center will be on a mezzanine between the fifth and sixth floors.

No hotelier has signed on, but Handy said it would most likely be a boutique-style hotel.

Office space totaling more than 130,000 square feet will fill the rest of the floors. The developer hopes a single tenant will rent the space.

"It's a large volume space and a very unique location," Handy said. "It has unparalleled view, huge arching windows and fascinating building conditions."

It will also have high-end prices, he said.

Struever Bros. plans to replicate six of the nine smokestacks that once topped the power plant. They will stand 120 feet, about half as high as the three 321-foot smokestacks of the Manchester Street Station.

"When we get the stacks back up on the building, they are going to be glorious," Struever said.

The company hopes to break ground in October and complete construction in two years.

STRUEVER BROS. IN RHODE ISLAND: Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse, of Baltimore, has invested $500 million in projects in Rhode Island. Its office at Rising Sun Mills in Providence employs more than 40 people.

Here are the Struever Bros. projects in Rhode Island:

American Locomotive Works, 555 Valley St., Providence, 657 residential units, 180-room hotel and 350,000 square feet of commercial space.

Calendar Mills, 50 Valley St., Providence, 11 rental units, 28,000 square feet of commercial space.

Crompton Mills, West Warwick, 300,000 square feet of commercial space.

Dynamo House, 360 Eddy St., Providence, 55,000 square feet of museum space and 270,000 square feet of space for hotel, office and restaurant use.

The Plant, 60 Valley St., Providence, codeveloped with Puente, 14 apartments, 15 live/work studios and 26,500 square feet of commercial space.

Rising Sun Mills, 166 Valley St., Providence, 135 residential units and 138,000 square feet of commercial space.

Rising Sun Mills Townhouses, Donigian Park, Providence, 26 townhouses.

Royal Mills at Riverpoint, West Warwick, 500,000 square feet of housing.


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Copyright (c) 2006, The Providence Journal, R.I.

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