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Urban Revitalization

Cornish Associates prepares to renovate more historic buildings in the heart of Downcity Providence

The Lapham, Wit, and Trayne Buildings will join the 8 other buildings that make up Westminster Lofts

Rendering of the Trayne, Wit, and Lapham Buildings by Union Studio Architecture & Community Design

Cornish Associates’ Westminster Lofts, a collection of award-winning, magnificently restored historic buildings are comprised of 240 residential apartments and 98,000 square feet of retail, restaurant, and office space. The Westminster Lofts include the Peerless Building, the Smith Building, the Burgess-O’Gorman Building, the Wilkinson Building, the Alice Building, and the Kinsley Building all located in the historic Downcity District of Providence. We have redeveloped the Harkness Building and the Biltmore Garage and are co-owners with Burlington, Mass. based Nordblom Company of the Gardner Building and 75 Fountain Street, both office buildings, located in downtown Providence.

Renovations to the historic Lapham Building, Wit Building, and Trayne Building will add 52 apartments to Westminster Lofts, 6 ground-floor restaurant/retail spaces totaling 11,771 square feet, and 8,956 square feet of office space to the second floor of the combined Lapham and Wit Buildings.

Lapham/Wit Buildings

The Lapham Building, located at 290 Westminster Street and wrapping around the neighboring Tilden-Thurber Building to 158 Mathewson Street, was designed by Hoppin & Ely Architects and built for the heirs of Benjamin Lapham in 1904. The building originally was home to the Mutual Benefit Insurance Company and has had various office tenants throughout the years. The building has been largely vacant since the late 1990’s.

Adjacent to the Lapham Building to the east is the 2-story Wit Building. Located at 276 Westminster Street, the Wit Building was built by the I. Wit Realty Co. sometime in the mid-1930’s. The building’s longest tenant was Jean’s Department store, which existed from 1933 to 1979. In later years the building was home to the Black Repertory Threatre, Roots Cafe, and most recently Aurora.

Lapham & Wit will be combined into one building with the second floors connected to provide 9,000 square feet of flexible commercial office space. The ground floors will be built with space for up to 4 restaurant or retail tenants. Floors 3 through 9 of the Lapham Building will be renovated into 35 one and two-bedroom apartments.

Trayne Building

The Trayne building is located at 270 Westminster Street and is best known locally as the building where the Movies on the Block screen is located. The building was constructed for Alice and Elizabeth Trayne and Anne Hale, as an investment property for the three women and their heirs. In 1953 the Old Colony-Newport National Bank moved into the building performing a large renovation which removed the original two-floors of the front facade.

The renovation of the Trayne Building will include an addition to the east side of the building, extending approximately 20 feet into Grant’s Block Park. The existing building and addition will include two restaurant spaces on the ground floor (one opening up onto a redesigned Grant’s Block Park) and 17 apartments on floors 2 through 5.

In addition to the Lapham, Wit, and Trayne Buildings, Cornish Associates is renovating two smaller buildings in the neighborhood.

Clemence Building

Located at 91-93 Clemence Street, behind the Wit Building, the Clemence Building underwent exterior and partial interior renovations in 2015. The ground floor and part of the second floor is leased to commercial office tenants. The final interior renovations of this building, which will feature a total of four studio apartments on the 2nd and 3rd floors is taking place now. The apartments in the Clemence Building are expected to start leasing in December.

31 Aborn Street

Earlier this year, Cornish Associates acquired the one-story commercial building at 31 Aborn Street. Repairs to the exterior walls and roof are taking place now. The 3,240 square foot building should be ready to lease in early 2019, suitable for a restaurant or retail tenant.

The architect for the project is Union Studio Architecture & Community Design of Providence who also designed the renovation of the historic Kinsley Building on Westminster Street in 2015. Construction will be lead by Site Specific of Providence.

Additional support for these projects provided by Rebuild RI, BankRI, Providence Revolving Fund, The City of Providence, and The Peregrine Group.

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The Providence Journal: GE Digital relocates to Journal building in Providence

Cornish Associates and Nordblom Company are pleased to welcome GE Digital to 75 Fountain Street. As reported by The Providence Journal:

GE Digital’s new information technology center moved this week from temporary office space at Davol Square into its permanent space in Providence — on the third floor of The Providence Journal building at 75 Fountain St.

The company has now hired 52 employees in Providence, spokeswoman Amy Sarosiek said by email with The Journal.

After announcing in June 2016 that it would create the Providence center, GE Digital signed a seven-year lease in November for office space in the Fountain Street building.

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Chace plans downtown digs


Reposted from Architecture Here and There

Posted on February 7, 2017


When it was announced several years ago that Providence developer Buff Chace would purchase the Journal Building and the parking lot across from it on Fountain Street, he expressed the hope of erecting a new building on the latter site. Now Chace has in fact announced a six-story residential project with a grocery store on the first floor facing Washington Street and a restaurant facing Fountain. Good news!

Here’s the Journal’s Saturday story: “6-story building proposed for downtown parking lot.” Mark Reynolds’s article ran without any illustrations of the proposal – perhaps there are none yet – but a couple of quotes inspire hope that the building, if built, will add to the character of downtown.

Chace says he intends his first effort at an entirely new building will be “a modern building that is harmonious with the downtown historic fabric.” For those who see some unwanted backsliding in the word “modern,” any new building that has plumbing and other such advanced systems is a “modern” building, no matter what it looks like. I don’t think he meant “modernist.” Anyway, zoning requires the design of new buildings in downtown to protect its historical character. Nobody expects it to be made of marble. “It has to be affordable, too,” he says, “Otherwise it doesn’t happen.” So, he says, it will be a brick building. Good.

Chace told Reynolds that this will be “the first time that he has built a building from scratch in downtown.” Not his first attempt, though. A decade or so ago he hoped to build a new building, elegantly classical, across Union Street from his Alice Building on what is now called the Grant’s Block, where he hosts free movies weekly in the warmer months. He showed me a picture, which I could not find in my files, and it was lovely. But while looking for it I came across an earlier proposal from a version of the Downcity Plan (led by Chace and his friend Andrés Duany, the New Urbanist guru) for a couple of new buildings, traditional in style, on the Grant’s Block, which is the illustration at the bottom this post.

Later, Chace and Duany imagined, in 2004 or ’05, as part of a charrette to expand the Downcity Plan, placing a new building on the Journal’s other lot on Fountain, behind the Biltmore Garage, and a second new building that would have replaced the Journal’s executive garage (the green snubnose eyesore) and the modernist addition above it with a hotel (I think) facing a renovated Emmett Square off Kennedy Plaza. An illustration of that proposal is at the top of this post.

Pardon me while I roll my eyes. Howard Sutton, who was then the Journal’s publisher, went nutso at the audacity of someone even thinking of (let alone actually drawing!) fictional buildings on land they did not own. What a baby! It diminished Sutton in my eyes – after all his vaunted editorializing in favor of revitalizing the city.

Good grief! So it’s time something was built on that old parking lot, which I know so well. I recall the Journal demolishing several buildings on it back in the 1980s, I think. Likewise on the block behind the Biltmore Garage. These are mistakes that merit correction, and I am pleased that Buff Chace has proposed to make a start in that direction. Good on him!


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Developer: Four little-used buildings in downtown Providence to be renovated


Reposted from the Providence Journal

Posted Jan 23, 2017 at 9:14 PMUpdated Jan 23, 2017 at 9:14 PM

By Kate Bramson
Journal Staff Writer

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PROVIDENCE – Longtime Providence developer Arnold B. “Buff” Chace Jr. told the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation Monday that he hopes within six months to begin renovating four downtown buildings, which in recent years have been “more or less abandoned,” and complete them within a year.

The Commerce board approved Chace’s request for a Rebuild Rhode Island loan of $7.3 million, with an additional $500,000 sales-tax exemption on construction and other materials.

Including that project, the Commerce board approved $12.7 million Monday evening in tax credits and other economic incentives for four projects:

– $4.35 million of Qualified Jobs tax credits and $250,000 in First Wave Closing Funds for Johnson & Johnson’s planned health technology center in Providence;

– $255,000 of Qualified Jobs tax credits to Whiting and Davis, a North Attleboro, Mass., mesh-fabric and jewelry manufacturer that’s relocating to East Providence; and

– An amendment to an earlier $459,720 in Qualified Jobs tax credits awarded to Greystone of Lincoln, so the company may use an exemption in state law for manufacturers that may pay lower annual salaries than area median income.

Chace, founder and managing partner of Providence-based Cornish Associates, plans to create 65 apartments and 26,000 square feet of commercial space in the four buildings: 270, 276 and 290 Westminster St. and 91 Clemence St.

Commerce board member Bernard V. Buonanno III asked about the buildings’ current conditions and what else the neighborhood needs, and Chace told the board:

He has focused redevelopment efforts along the intimate, quiet Westminster Street, for the area’s appeal in attracting both younger and older tenants;

With a Massachusetts partner, he is also redeveloping The Providence Journal building at 75 Fountain St., and expects soon to build new apartments on the Journal’s former surface parking lot, at 78 Fountain St. (The latter, $48.4-million project won Commerce incentives last spring worth about $7 million, but contract negotiations continue and construction has not begun);

Cornish now has 240 residential units along Westminster Street;

44 lower-priced “workforce housing” apartments were full in about four months, after opening in fall 2015 to expectations it would take eight months to do so;

Although much of his work is residential, Chace said most also have street-level retail shops, which now include 35 businesses that employ 400 to 500 people.

Speaking after the board’s approval of Johnson & Johnson incentives for 75 jobs with a median salary of $137,000, Chace said: “Even though they’re not jobs like Johnson & Johnson, they’re still jobs, and they should not be overlooked.”


(401) 277-7470

On Twitter @JournalKate

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North Bakery opens in Biltmore Park

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PROVIDENCE – North Bakery has opened in Biltmore Park in downtown Providence. The business is an expansion of the North Bakery founded by James Mark, located on the West Side of the city. Mark also founded North Restaurant.

It will feature lunch sandwiches, coffees, sweets and artisanal treats, according to a news release. The bakery is located across from the Biltmore Hotel, near Kennedy Plaza, and was formerly a small News Channel 10 building. It will be open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

At a ceremonial opening, Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza said the little bakery reflects the changing dynamics of downtown Providence. “I wish them the best of luck and I look forward to being a frequent customer,” he said.

Cornish Associates LP, a real estate development company based in Providence, renovated the 400-square-foot space. Outdoor seating is available near the café, in a park managed by the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy.

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Cornish welcomes Betaspring and Founders League to the Clemence Building

Cornish purchased the building at 91 Clemence Street last year and has been working to shore up the detiorating structure. We’re happy to announce that Betaspring and The Founders League will become the first tenants of the renovated building.

As reported in Providence Business News:

Betaspring, a startup accelerator, and Founders League, a shared work space for companies and entrepreneurs, will occupy about half of the space in the building at 91 Clemence St., according to Arnold “Buff” Chace Jr., the managing partner of Cornish Associates.


Melissa Withers, managing director of Betaspring, and a co-founder of the Founders League, said Cornish Associates listened to what the companies wanted and needed for their space, and created a unique setting. The interior includes open space, as well as individual offices. About 35 people will make the move, she said Friday.

“The space was built out to fit the needs of our community, for the entrepreneurs we service,” she said. “It is a leap forward for us.”

The Clemence Street building most recently was occupied by a bar, and is thought to have originally been built as a warehouse. It has two sections, including one with three levels and another with two floors. It was acquired by Cornish about two years ago.

Four live-work spaces will be available in the upper floors of the Clemence Building early next year.

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Historic Kinsley Building Opens

Governor Riamondo, Congressman Cicilline, Mayor Elorza, Council President Aponte and members of the business community join Buff Chace and Cornish Associates in an unveiling of the newest mixed-use addition to the Downcity neighborhood.


The five story historic Kinsley Building on Westminster St in Downcity Providence was built in 1912 and was originally intended for commercial use as a department store. Cornish Associates have renovated the nearly 40,000 square feet of the building to include 44 units of residential work force housing and two locations on the ground floor for food and beverage tenants. The residential units rents range from $900-$1,600 a month. The units include large windows, refurbished hardwood floors, quartz countertops, stainless appliances, dishwashers and are all high speed internet ready. Each residential floor shares laundry facilities. The project architect in Union Studios of Providence, RI.


Cornish Associates have leased one half of the ground floor to the well know Westerly RI restaurant, The Malted Barley, for their second location, due to open in winter 2015. 



For more information on the residential units email us here. For more information on the commercial space for lease please email us here.

Follow #TourKinsley for more announcements in the near future.

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Unpacking Authentic Placemaking


On October 6th, AS220 hosted a panel at the Peerless Building entitled “Unpacking Authentic Placemaking” as part of the programming leading up to their 30th Anniversary Celebration. This panel, moderated by Marc Levitt, comprised of Bert Crenca, Rick Lowe, Myrna Breitbart, and a Cornish Associates’ favorite, Andrés Duany.

With a packed atrium, the group engaged in a lively conversation about place-making in cities, touching on a gentrification, youth, and city politics.

At the end of the evening, our own Buff Chace was honored for his authentic creative place-making contributions to the city of Providence. He received No.1 of 220 prints (produced by AS220 Print Shop) of a work by nationally recognized Rhode Island artist, Gretchen Dow Simpson.

Photo Credit: AS220

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Congress for New Urbanism in Providence


On Friday September 25, 2015, a group of the first inaugural class of Congress of New Urbanism fellows met in Providence to discuss and define their trailblazing roles for CNU. Many had not been back to Providence since 2006 when the CNU conference was held in the Creative Capital and happily enjoyed a private tour around our lively Downcity neighborhood.

Back Row L to R: Buff Chace, Peter Katz, Stephanie Bothwell, Galina Tachieva, Ellen Dunham-Jones, Dhiru Thadani

Seated L to R: Robert Orr, Emily Talen, Gianni Longo

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Nordblom Company and Cornish Associates Purchase the Providence Journal Building

Nordblom Company and Cornish Associates are pleased to announce their joint purchase of the historic Providence Journal Building located at 75 Fountain Street in the heart of downtown Providence, Rhode Island. This purchase also includes two adjoining parking lots at 78 Fountain Street and 1 Eddy Street. The Seller was A.H. Belo, who had owned these three properties and the newspaper until its sale in late 2014. The CBRE team, lead by Senior Vice President/Partner Alden Anderson, oversaw the transaction.

The building affords exceptional space in a terrific city location. Directly across the street from the Convention Center and Omni Providence Hotel, it also overlooks Kennedy Plaza, generally considered the heart of the city and the state’s transportation hub. Other notable neighbors include the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and the 1 million square foot Providence Place Mall. The location also benefits from proximity to the flourishing retail stores and restaurants throughout downcity.

Cornish and Nordblom plan to commence immediately with improvements to the building. Their plan includes modernizing and revitalizing this iconic property while offering leases to a broad cross section of tenants ranging from full-floor users to 2-5,000 square foot occupants. With the building’s large windows and tall, bright spaces, it will provide exceptional new offices at very competitive rents in the marketplace. This is the first time, since its construction, that significant space has been available in this property and it offers an extraordinary opportunity for a wide range of prospective tenants. When renovations are complete at the close of 2015, the building will feature 160,000 square feet of renovated office space as well as over 10,000 square feet of restaurant/retail space facing the newly re-designed Emmet Square.

Arnold B. Chace, President of Cornish Associates comments, “we are delighted with this exciting new project in the heart of Providence and are pleased to be partnering in these acquisitions with Boston-based Nordblom Company who share a similar vision and considerable experience in the nearby Boston-area markets. Bringing additional office tenants into the building and activating the street-level spaces at Emmet Square will inject renewed vitality into the neighborhood around the Convention Center. The additional tenants and foot-traffic will help support the burgeoning restaurant and retail environment in downcity.”

“Providence is a vibrant city which is recovering nicely from the real estate doldrums, “observed Og Hunnewell, EVP/Partner of Nordblom Company. “This is a wonderful opportunity to acquire and reposition several prime properties into a vibrant mixed-use project in the heart of the city. Renovation and redevelopment of these properties will compliment the work Cornish has done revitalizing properties in downtown Providence over the last decade. The timing could not be better for us to bring this property to market with dynamic new leadership at both the city and state levels and the economy improving.”

The renovation of the building is being done by a team comprised of Site Specific of Providence, RI as the general contractor and Spagnolo Gisness & Associates, Inc. (SGA) of Boston, MA as the architect. Notable projects by Site Specific include the Biltmore Garage retail renovation in Providence, RI, various renovation projects at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, and renovation of the Innovation Lab at Harvard University. Notable projects by SGA include the GTECH Headquarters in Providence, RI, the soon to be built graduate student housing building at the South Street Landing project in Providence, RI, as well as interior renovations of the LogMeIn Headquarters in Boston, MA.

The Providence Journal Building was constructed in 1934 by architect, Albert Kahn. Kahn, known as the architect of Detroit, was first to develop a type of fire resistant construction that would enhance factories. Detroit benefits form a long list of architecturally significant commercial and residential developments done by Kahn. In Providence, his design for the Providence Journal allowed the growing newspaper to expand from its inadequate offices on Westminster Street to the new facility on Fountain Street. Built in the Georgian-Revival style in post-Depression America, the Fountain Street structure was originally three stories with the fourth floor being added in 1948. In 1957, the garage at Emmet Square was added to help facilitate the delivery of newspapers by truck. 

About Nordblom Company

Nordblom Company is a real estate enterprise with a 90-year history of investing, managing, and developing properties throughout the New England region and select markets across the country. The company currently owns office, commercial, and multi-family properties in the New England and Carolina markets and is committed to creating dynamic work and living environments that further the quality of life for the people who occupy its properties. Headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts with offices in Boston, Brookline, and Raleigh, North Carolina, Nordblom Company has $1.2 billion in assets under management.

About Cornish Associates

Cornish Associates is an innovative real estate development company committed to the principles of New Urbanism and to the overarching mission of creating diverse, walkable, and sustainable places. The company provides planning, design, development, and property management services as owner/developer and consultant on a broad variety of mixed-use real estate ventures. Cornish owns and manages 13 properties in downcity Providence with 197 apartments and 35 small businesses. Cornish also owns and manages Mashpee Commons, a mixed-use commercial and residential development on Cape Cod. Cornish Associates is headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island.

For media inquiries please contact Steve Durkee at Cornish Associates, (401) 421-0254, steve@cornishlp.com or Michele Santorelli at Nordblom Company, (781) 272-4000, msantorelli@nordblom.com.

For leasing inquiries please contact Alden Anderson at CB Richard Ellis Providence, (401) 331-0350, alden.anderson@cbre-ne.com.

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