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  • Peter Phipps Fox Point Neighborhood Assn.

It's decision time for the Fox Point historic district

The length of Armstrong Street is in the proposed district. Photo: Peter Phipps, fpna

Ward 1 Councilman John Goncalves this week launched his signature drive to create a Fox Point Historic District — the final step of a three-year campaign. 

He left 75 to 100 neighbors gathered at the Boys and Girls Club with a dire prediction.

Development pressure, he predicted, will increase and demolitions will be “on steroids” after the city's new Comprehensive Plan passes this fall.

The best way to save Fox Point’s historic look and feel, Goncalves said is to create the historic district. Why? Because, according to the city Plan Commission, the Historic District Commission has never approved a demolition in the city’s eight historic districts.

For Goncalves, the alarm sounded on Easter Sunday morning, 2021 when scores of residents called with startling news — the Duck and Bunny on Wickenden Street had been demolished.

Since then, Council has passed a law requiring more notice (to neighbors and the councilman), better signage and a 14-day waiting period for all demotions, anywhere in the city. 

Then he pushed along a law to delay demolitions by six months in historic districts. That law is up for a vote in Council this month.

Finally, the Fox Point Historic District would expand that demo delay to the 300 properties in the Fox Point Historic District, making it unlikely that there would be another Duck and Bunny surprise. 

(To find if your property is on the list, run a control F on this Plan Commission document.)

Winning approval for the historic district may prove to be the greatest challenge. “It’s going to be close,” the councilman said Monday night at his ward meeting.

Here are the numbers:

Of the 300 properties, Goncalves estimated 100 are investor owned and therefore less likely to sign. The section of Fox Point east of Governor, has an even higher concentration of investor-owned properties, Goncalves said. And therefore, the area down the hill to Gano Street is not in the district.

Still, the Plan Commission requires signatures from “50 percent +1” of property owners. That’s the hurdle that Plan Commission Chairman Michael Gazdacko stressed in a hearing In May.

So do the numbers: it would appear that Goncalves and his supporters from the Fox Point Neighborhood Assn. and the Providence Preservation Society will need to get signatures from 150 of the 200 remaining owner-occupied properties. But all these numbers are estimates and property ownership falls into a number of legal categories that might help the campaign.

As of Wednesday, the councilman said he had 25 to 30 signatures. Nevertheless, most of the 75 to 100 residents at the ward meeting seemed to support the campaign. 

There were concerns about what it would mean to be under the supervision of the Historic District Commission.

Preservation Executive Director Marisa Angell Brown, who lives in the College Hill Historic District, told the audience that you can paint your house any color you want; interior changes are not regulated;  and the commission now permits a wider choice of windows.

One exception, she said, might be vinyl siding. Permission to replace wood with vinyl,

 “that might be hard to get,” she said. 


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