Drive Thru Defeated, City Kitty to Relocate to Site

The Clarke Flowers on Providence's Hope Street, owned by Schartner Farms, has closed. The owners planned to sell the property to a developer who wanted to build a drive thru chain coffee shop. They needed variances from the Providence Zoning Board to develop the site, and zoning notified neighbors. The latest news below and a recap of the steps in this story over the years below. Thank you to everyone who helped in this process!

Summer 2016

City Kitty is up and running! We're so pleased to have new neighbors on our block and a new, local business in our community. 

June 2014

City Kitty owners are going through the municipal permitting process.  They are working to identify individuals who can reuse materials from the existing structures which will be demolished.  

November 2013

City Kitty garnered approval from the Providence Zoning Board to develop the site as a veterinary practice with additional residential and professional units. 

September 2013

City Kitty: Peter Scotti has entered a sales agreement with Cathy Lund, owner of City Kitty, for the purchase of the site.  Dr. Lund plans to erect a new building with a cat vet practice, 1-2 professional tenants and 3 apartments.  This plan will require zoning approval and is headed toward a November 2013 hearing.  Scotti and Lund met with a small group of abutters who were pleased with their plans and responsiveness. 

September 2012

New Owner: As many of you know, Peter Scotti, a real estate developer with offices on Hope Street, has purchased the site.  He is actively seeking potential tenants or appropriate uses. 

July 2012

Seeking Tenants: The property, under the direction of the courts, seems slated for sale.  There are several developers rumored to be interested. One developer has approached us and is interested in preserving the character of the neighborhood in his plans. He is seeking a local business that would be an appropriate tenant. If you have suggestions, please contact us!

Chapter 11: The Schartners are filling for Chapter 11 claiming to owe $1.6 million on the properties.  A status hearing on the bankruptcy filling is slated for April 26, 2012.  As we currently understand it, this gives the Schartners 3 months to submit a plan for reuse after which others can submit plans to the bankruptcy judge.   More here in a ProJo article

Ideas for the Future of the Property:  We are collecting ideas from a variety of people about the future use of the property.  We have interest from a local developer who seeks to preserve the character of the neighborhood and welcome input from anyone interested in being a potential owner, tenant or co-tenant on the site.  We hope to have a community meeting in early April 2012 to gather interested people.

Auction: Schartner put the Clarke Flowers property and two additional former flower shops in Rhode Island up for auction.  The auction, slated for March 5, 2012, was cancelled on March 4th. 

Zoning Appeal
: The developer that Schartner worked with has appealed the Providence Zoning Board ruling (that denied the drive thru proposal) in Superior Court. The City of Providence will be defending the decision of the Zoning Board. No hearing date has been set, and we have been informed that this could take a while -- up to a few years. Abutters to the Clarke's site have been legally notified, and we are now making arrangements with our lawyer to pursue this case in partnership with the City of Providence.  The appeal has been granted numerous extensions, but as of January 2012 is still an active legal case.  We are VERY grateful to the many neighbors who contributed to a fund to support legal fees for the appeal.

Update on the Site:  As you may have noticed, the flower shop is now closed. The signs say "moved," but this means that phone lines have been forwarded to a flower shop still operated by Schartners.  An area of focus for us is identifying a new owner or tenant for the site. We would hate to see the building deteriorate further and risk demolition. We are concerned that potential tenants know that neighbors are NOT anti-business, but will advocate for a use appropriate to a residential block.


The Decision

On March 16, 2011 the Providence Zoning Board voted 4-1 to deny the request for a drive thru coffee shop at the Clarke Flowers site.  The vote followed nearly 4 hours of testimony by 61 people who turned out to oppose the proposal.  The Zoning Board noted that only twice before in their history have they received so many letters about a proposal. 


Neighbors are very interested in identifying a more appropriate use for the site.  We value our neighborhood and are working hard to see it flourish.  Many ideas are percolating, and we would welcome more open dialogue. All ideas are welcome!


Thank You

Our warm thanks to the literally dozens of people who helped spread the word, wrote letters, knocked on doors and testified in person about this proposal. The following individuals and organizations voiced their objections to this proposal:  Providence City Councilman Sam Zurier, Providence Preservation Society, College Hill Neighborhood Association, Providence City Councilman Cliff Wood, Summit Neighborhood Association, Senator Harold Metts, Senator Rhoda Perry, Greater City: Providence, Eastside Monthly, Fox Point Neighborhood Association, Providence City Councilman Seth Yurdin, David Brussat of The Providence Journal, Representative Chris Blazejewski, and many individual neighbors and Hope Street merchants.  This was a true community-wide effort. Special thanks to Steve Litwin who continues to provide able legal counsel. Thank you.


How You Can Help

1.  Stay in the loop.  Join our Facebook Group:  Preserve Providence’s Hope Street or sign up for our e-mail list.

2.  Make a contribution to our legal fund. Similar battles have gone on for nearly a decade.  We want to ensure that the appeal of the Zoning Board decision does not succeed.

2.  Spread the word that there is now a need for a more appropriate use at this location.  One group is talking about a community garden center

3.  Customer of Schartner Farms? Let them know that you want them to consider more appropriate uses of the site.


Background


Schartner Farms, owner of Clarke Flowers on Hope Street have decided to sell the property. Because the property is zoned R3, the only uses they can pursue without permission from the zoning board are residential or continued use as a flower shop.  Schartners originally filed a proposal to be heard at an August 2010 zoning hearing.  They requested variances for a drive thru and for signage.  There had been no conversation with abutters about their plans who first heard of the proposal from the Zoning Office. When they heard of growing neighborhood opposition, the developers held a last-minute August community meeting. About 70 neighbors attended and voiced strong concerns about the plan (photo left). The developers withdrew from the zoning hearing, asking for more time. 

Due to a conflict of interest between a member of the Zoning Board and Schartner Farms, developers were unable to move forward on this proposal. Developers made no attempt to hold any further community conversations for input or discussion about their plans.  Once the conflict of interest was resolved, Schartners asked for the proposal to be heard on the March 16, 2011 Zoning Board agenda.


The Schartners have made their intention to sell clear, so our hope to influence the process so an appropriate use for the site can be found.

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