Brown University was cited with a code violation shortly after taking ownership of the [to-be-demolished] properties, because of the conditions of the houses’ exteriors.
Restoring the exteriors of the homes would cost the college $200,000, while interior and exterior restorations would cost $5 million, according to Stephen Maiorisi, the university’s vice president for facilities management. The school was aware of the buildings’ conditions prior to purchase, and invested in the properties with the intent to demolish the houses and construct something else in their place, he said.
In the case of Brown, which isn't taxed on its property, there would be legitimate questions to ask about whether it's even fair to add another subsidy on top of the ones that exist. But if a private owner that paid taxes held these properties, would anyone revolt at the idea of using parking meter revenue to maintain historic structures in a district that is metered? Keeping seven multi-family houses along Brook Street would add customers to the base of shoppers for the district, and would maintain the area as a place to go.
Would Providence residents object in Olneyville to parking meters, if it helped congestion, and helped restore this building?
Would they object if we helped parking turnover on Broadway, and used the revolving fund to restore this gem?
Or on Cranston Street?
It's not beyond my imagination that there could be wrangling to be done about where the endpoint of public benefit is and the beginning point of private use, and there's a worthy discussion to be had as to whether this is the particular priority we would put our parking meter revenue to, but it's a starting point for discussion about what we're choosing-not-to-choose when we choose cheap and readily available parking. We could choose to make all or part of these buildings open to some kind of public use once they've been restored, but at present they're endanger of being lost entirely.
For more "Most Endangered Properties" on the Providence Preservation Society's 2015 list, see this link.