Fane Tower developer gets another delay in land sale pending court decision

PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – The I-195 Commission has granted developer Jason Fane another deadline within the deadline to close a $3 million land sale for his residential high-rise project on Dyer Street.

The tower’s fate is in limbo as the Rhode Island Supreme Court weighs a zoning challenge from neighbors. Fane, a New York-based developer, argued he could not close the sale until the High Court ruled. (Fane prevailed at trial.)

The most recent closing date – already the result of numerous delays – was set for June 30 this year, with an intermediate “exercise date” no later than May 1.

But the latest amendment to the purchase-sale agreement between Fane and the commission, signed on April 30, sets the new exercise date at 10 days after the Supreme Court’s decision – if the court rules in favor of the round – with a closing date of up to nine months after that.

The high court heard argument in the case earlier this month and is expected to deliver an opinion in the coming weeks.

The nine-month delay means the sale of the land is unlikely to close until spring 2023.

“During these nine months, they will finalize the construction documents, obtain the final permits (including the building permit), obtain all the financing, etc. so that construction can begin shortly after closing,” said Cara. Cromwell, spokesman for Commission 195.

The commission amended Fane’s buy-sell agreement eight times. Cromwell did not answer the question of whether this is the last delay the commission is willing to grant.

Fane signed the purchase and sale agreement in 2019, with an initial exercise date of April 2020 and a closing date of no later than December 31, 2021. (The agreement stated that if US GDP States was negative for several quarters of 2021, the closing date could be extended to 2022. GDP grew every quarter of last year.)

But the project was essentially on hiatus during the pandemic, and Fane argued he couldn’t complete the sale until the legal challenge was resolved.

“Nor is it reasonable to expect someone to close and pay $3 million for a plot of land while the main issue is still in court,” the spokesperson said. Fane, Jim Malachowski, last year.

Reached on Wednesday, Malachowski said Fane remains “very committed” to building the tower and will need to use the full nine-month extension to negotiate and secure a construction contract, final design and construction plans and a funding.

It was not immediately clear when construction would begin after the sale closed.

Fane’s luxury apartment tower has been controversial since it was proposed, in part because of its design and height, which is much higher than the overall city plan would typically allow for in this area .

But Providence City Council approved a zoning change in 2018, overriding Mayor Jorge Elorza’s veto, to accommodate the skyscraper’s height. If built, it will be the tallest building in Providence. The project currently does not include any designated affordable apartments.

A group called Building Bridges Providence sued the rezoning and lost in Superior Court. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the RI Supreme Court, where the case is currently pending.

Sharon Steele, president of the Jewelry District Association which runs Building Bridges, expressed outrage over the nine-month extension on Wednesday.

“They seem to think the world revolves around Jason Fane,” Steele said. “It just shows an amount of chutzpah that, at this point, is unbearable.”

The skyscraper will be located on Parcel 42 of the land that was part of I-195 before the Iway project moved the freeway. The land is opposite the Wexford Building on Dyer Street, on the west side of the Providence Pedestrian Bridge.

The building was originally called the Hope Point Tower, but Fane recently dropped that name, which never caught on with locals.

195 Commission Chairman Bob Davis expressed frustration with the pace of Project Fane.

“We were somewhat troubled by her reaction to the pandemic, when you compare her to the other developers we deal with,” Davis said of Fane last fall. “They never wavered.”

The commission has recently accelerated its own pace of selling parcels of the former Lot 195, primarily to apartment projects.

Davis said the commission will not complete the sale of the parcel unless Fane has a construction contract and financing in place.

Steph Machado ([email protected]) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.