Providence, Rhode Island

Providence, population 178,042 (2010), is the largest city in Rhode Island and its capital. Providence calls itself the Creative City because it is home to a thriving arts community and seven institutions of higher learning including Brown University. In 1994, zoning code changes were adopted for downtown Providence that included the use of TDR to preserve historic landmarks.

Providence’s Downcity District encourages development compatible with historic character while creating a 24-hour pedestrian-friendly, downtown that promotes art, entertainment and housing. This code section creates a Downcity Design Review Committee (DRC) which reviews all proposed improvements within the District. Under Chapter 27 (Zoning) Article V (Special Zones) Section 502.7, the DRC is also authorized to grant incentives to achieve the goals of the Downcity District including density bonuses, height bonuses and transfer of development rights.

Under Code Section 502.7(E), applicants can offer to preserve the exterior of a building listed in the National Register of Historic Places using a restriction in favor of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission. The restriction must remain in force in perpetuity unless the receiving site project to which the height was transferred is demolished, in which case the transferred height can be reclaimed by the sending site.

The gross building height that can be transferred is the difference between the height of the landmark and the maximum height allowed to the sending site under current zoning. Following a transfer of building height, the height of the receiving site cannot exceed 1.6 times the maximum height otherwise permitted by the zoning of the receiving site or 300 feet, whichever is less.