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Designs on Providence

A former architectural intern gets to make his mark on his native state.


Journal Staff Writer - Saturday, April 3, 2004

When Al Spagnolo was a young intern at a Providence architectural firm, he used to gaze out on Kennedy Plaza and the Rhode Island State House from his office window.

Now, the Rhode Island native will get a chance to leave his own mark on the Providence skyline. Spagnolo's Boston architectural firm -- Spagnolo Gisness & Associates -- has been chosen by GTECH Holdings Corp. to design GTECH's corporate headquarters in downtown Providence.

GTECH's new world headquarters will be built at the corner of Memorial Boulevard and Francis Street, directly across the street from the Providence Place mall. It is expected to be finished in 2006.

The architectural firm was chosen last month and Spagnolo's team is still tossing around design ideas. Spagnolo said the building will be "innovative" and "contemporary" as well as "respectful of its neighbors."

"What's really important with [the GTECH property] -- it's a gateway site to the Capital Center," Spagnolo said, noting that one of the downtown exit ramps from Route 95 dumps drivers in front of the property -- their first glimpse of downtown Providence.

"The urban experience one has when they arrive at the site is very important," he said.

Spagnolo said he and his team have been talking about a building featuring a "high-performance glass system" and timeless materials such as stone. GTECH has previously said that it wants to build an 8- to 10-story building with on-site parking for 450 cars.

"I think there's an extraordinary opportunity to create a 21st-century architectural statement," Spagnolo said.

Spagnolo's firm, which also designs hotel buildings and research facilities, has created, among others, the corporate headquarters complex for Staples, in Framingham, Mass.; the world headquarters building for Vicor Corp., in Andover, Mass.; SunLife's U.S. headquarters in Wellesley, Mass.; and NSTAR's headquarters in Westwood, Mass.

While design discussions with GTECH are in the preliminary stages, Spagnolo said his firm plans to present computer renderings and a model of the proposed building to the Capital Center Commission's Design Review Committee at a public meeting April 27.

The Capital Center Commission oversees the development of the 77-acre Capital Center District, which rings the State House. Its Design Review Committee must approve any development in the area.

The committee does not prohibit certain types of design, but it does work hard to make sure all new development "fits" with the Capital Center's existing properties and looks timeless, said Wilfred L. Gates Jr., chairman of the panel.

"What we are looking for is architecture that has a sense of permanence and importance -- so it will stay fresh for a long period," Gates said. "The GTECH building is in a critically important location and the committee has stated to GTECH that we're seeking a gateway statement of some substance that recognizes that this is one of the first impressions that visitors arriving in Providence will have."

GTECH is moving downtown from West Greenwich to fulfill its part of a 20-year lottery deal it signed with the state last year. To stop GTECH from moving its more than 900 employees to Massachusetts, Rhode Island offered the company a contract to run the state lottery for the next two decades -- an offer worth about $770 million. In return, GTECH agreed to stay in Rhode Island and move its corporate headquarters to Providence.

At the beginning of the year, GTECH picked USAA Real Estate Co., of San Antonio, Texas, and Commonwealth Ventures LLC, of Connecticut, to develop the property. USAA will own the building and lease it, for at least 20 years, to GTECH. A third entity, Capital Properties, actually owns the land.

Getting the new building design approved by the Design Review Committee could take several months, Gates said. The Capital Center Commission is requiring that the building be no taller than 10 stories, have retail space on the first floor and have access to Waterplace Park.

"The whole idea of a corporate building means that they not only have to project their own image, but as a good corporate citizen in Providence, the building has to have an important look -- a look of substance," Gates said.

GTECH has selected a number of engineering firms to work on the building. McNamara Salvia Inc., of Boston, will be the structural engineer. It did engineering work for the Westin Providence and the Providence Place mall. The mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineer will be AHA Consulting Engineers, also of Boston. And the site- and civil-engineering firm is Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., based in Watertown, Mass.

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GTECH's plans for downtown win raves

Headquarters design mixes offices, retail

Wednesday, May 5, 2004


Journal Staff Writer


Journal file photo / Mary Murphy

The design of GTECH's planned corporate headquarters was unveiled yesterday by Spagnolo Gisness & Associates architects. Derek Bradford, right, an advisory member of the Capital Center Commission's design review committee, looks over a model with Al Spagnolo, one of the firm's principals.

PROVIDENCE -- Just imagine meandering up a wide promenade toward the State House. Restaurants and shops spill people onto the sidewalk. There's a full view of Waterplace Park, and a terraced office building rises above it all.

Sound urban, yet serene?

That's exactly the picture the architects of GTECH Holdings Corp.'s new Providence headquarters painted for the Capital Center Commission's design review committee yesterday morning.

It's a sweeping vision for the first corporate headquarters in downtown Providence in 14 years, and it includes terraces for corporate parties, more than 200 feet of retail frontage and, at Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard, the facade set back to create GTECH Square.

But for GTECH to move forward with this extensive plan requires the waiving of several of the city's building regulations, primarily concerning height and setback.

The architectural firm Spagnolo Gisness & Associates has designed an 11-story office building -- higher than the 8-to-10-story building GTECH initially discussed for the spot. Spagnolo is also interested in making the sidewalks around the building up to three times wider than typical sidewalks -- in order to cater to more pedestrian traffic.


Architectural rendering / Spagnolo Gisness & Associates

The view up Francis Street.

"We're suggesting that we expand the public realm," said Al Spagnolo, one of the firm's principals. "[by] enhancing Francis Street and expanding the sidewalk . . . it would create more public space around the edges."

The design review committee members ended up so impressed by the proposal and the initial designs for the building that they agreed to give GTECH a vote of confidence and recommend that the entire commission do the same. The support of the commission could help GTECH and Spagnolo win the city zoning board's approval of the waivers, said Wilfrid L. Gates Jr., chairman of the design review committee. The commission oversees and approves development in the 77-acre Capital Center District around the State House.

It's highly unusual for the committee to take a vote on a building this early in the design process, according to Gates.

"I believe we've never taken a vote this early in the process," said Gates. But since changes to the building regulations would be necessary to include that much public space in the design, the committee wanted to make sure its support for the proposal was on the record, Gates explained.

USING MODELS, color sketches and architectural renderings, Spagnolo spent more than an hour yesterday presenting his firm's initial thoughts on the look and feel of the building. GTECH's $88.5-million corporate headquarters would go up across from the Providence Place mall.

GTECH is moving downtown from West Greenwich to fulfill its part of the 20-year lottery deal it signed with the state last year. To stop GTECH from moving about 1,000 employees to Massachusetts, Rhode Island offered the company a contract to run the state lottery for the next two decades -- an offer worth about $770 million. In return, GTECH agreed to stay in Rhode Island and move its corporate headquarters to Providence.

Yesterday's presentation gave the public the first glimpse of what GTECH plans to do with the site -- a location that members of the design committee call a gateway to the city.

"This has the richness of detail and richness of urban experience that appears to be very promising," said Derek Bradford, a member of the design review committee.

In addition to giving pedestrians more room to wander up the hill to the State House and easy access to Waterplace Park, the project will include 32,000 square feet of retail space on the first level, according to Spagnolo. Although he wanted to give the building a more urban feel by making it taller, the firm has built terraces into the side of the building facing the State House to keep views of the capitol building as clear as possible.


Architectural rendering / Spagnolo Gisness & Associates

The view from Waterplace Park.

THE BUILDING would also include a 330-spot parking garage, which would be reached by a ramp on Francis Street across from the mall. The ramp would act as a bridge, allowing for pedestrians to walk beneath it into Waterplace Park. GTECH employees would get 80 of the parking spots, and the rest would be rented out. The majority of GTECH's employees would be provided lower-cost parking at the mall or in other local garages, said Robert Vincent, a spokesman for GTECH.

GTECH would occupy the first four floors of the office building, including the two terraces on the sixth floor -- one of which would overlook the park and the other the State House. Other office tenants could rent the remaining three floors of office space, and the top floor would be a penthouse.

"We obviously want to build a headquarters here in Rhode Island that reflects who we are -- that reflects a global information-technology company with a great history in this state," said Donald Sweitzer, GTECH's senior vice president of public affairs. "We're also sensitive to our location, sensitive to the fact that we are in the shadow of the State House, that we are in the center of this marvelous city."

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GTECH gets mixed reviews

A review panel gets a first look at architects' latest plans for what is expected to be a visual "gateway" into Providence.


Journal Staff Writer - Wednesday, June 9, 2004

PROVIDENCE -- An illuminated, 13-story GTECH Holdings Corp. tower could be the first thing drivers see when they pull off Route 95 into Providence.

The architects conceiving GTECH's new corporate headquarters -- slated to be built across from the Providence Place mall and right off the Route 95 exit ramps in downtown Providence -- yesterday presented more ideas to the Capital Center Commission's design review committee.

Using architectural renderings, color sketches and three-dimensional models, the architects showcased a modern-looking building that includes a massive tower on one corner, a balcony overlooking Waterplace Park, and an amazing amount of glass.

This latest level of design received mixed reviews from the eight-person committee.

"I think the tower is the aspect that could be the signature gateway entrance," said panel member Barry Fain.

However, he added, "It seems like some of the [design] elements are fighting against each other."

Yesterday was the first time the committee, which evaluates development in the Capital Center District, had seen specifically what the architecture firm of Spagnolo Gisness & Associates is planning for the building's facades. The $88.5-million structure will be constructed on the corner of Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard and will be easily seen from the State House and parts of the East Side of Providence. The committee says it will serve as a "gateway" into the city.


Journal photo / Mary Murphy

James E. Loyd, left, representing one of the developers of the proposed GTECH headquarters in Providence, and Derek Bradford, an advisory member of the Capital Center Commission's design review committee, discuss the latest design, unveiled yesterday.

The panel did like the tower, the two stories of glass along the sidewalk on the Francis Street side and a long glass wall that curves along Waterplace Park. The members were also impressed by a balcony that will look out over the park and which could be viewed -- as one member put it -- as "the great GTECH window" on the world.

And the committee was not necessarily turned off by the building looking less traditional than the mall and the Courtyard by Marriott.

"I do like it," said Leslie Gardner, a panel member and chairwoman of the Capital Center Commission. "But as we put it next to the traditional buildings in Providence, it needs to stand up. . ."

However, the committee wasn't so sure about all of the architects' suggestions.

Some members expressed concern about the way the north side of the building would look when viewed from the State House. The committee seemed to agree that the north side needs a little more pizzazz, or at least a more striking view for people looking down on it from the state capitol.

"The State House facade: that's the side that needs some more work," said Wilfrid L. Gates Jr., chairman of the committee.

Members also expressed concern over the color of the stone on the building, the types of windows proposed and the firm's push to make the building seem as vertical and urban as possible. And while the committee liked the tower, one member said the top looked "a little like a radio tower [in the] '50s."

The overall design "needs to be edited quite severely at the moment," said Derek Bradford, another panel member.

Yesterday was the Boston firm's second time presenting its ideas for the GTECH building at a design review committee workshop. Last month, the firm's principal, Al Spagnolo, got a round of applause from the committee for his presentation of a corporate headquarters surrounded by wide sidewalks and filled with retail shops on the first floor.

The basic shape of the building has changed somewhat from the first meeting -- it's now more rectangular -- but Spagnolo is still planning to put in about 32,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor and a 330-car parking garage. Last week, GTECH applied to the Providence zoning board for reviews for waivers to make the building taller than city regulations allow and to make the sidewalks around the headquarters three times wider than are typical in the city.

GTECH is moving downtown from West Greenwich to fulfill its part of the 20-year lottery deal it signed with the state last year. To stop GTECH from moving about 1,000 employees to Massachusetts, Rhode Island offered the company a contract to run the state lottery for the next two decades -- an offer worth about $770 million. In return, GTECH agreed to stay in Rhode Island and move its corporate headquarters to Providence.

Spagnolo took the committee's critiques in stride, and said his firm will take the suggestions into consideration as they modify the designs for the next workshop.

"The direction is clear, it's clear what we need to spend more time on," said Spagnolo. "I think we've made a great deal of progress since May 4th."

In other GTECH news, the company obtained approval from the design review committee to change the sign at the corner of Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard. The new sign, which will be up until ground is broken for the building this fall, will feature not only GTECH but the other businesses working on the project. The changes must be approved by the Capital Center Commission before the sign can be modified.

Also, the Spanish lottery exercised an option in its contract with GTECH, according to the company, and is asking the Rhode Island lottery giant to provide an additional 7,000 handheld lottery terminals to lottery-ticket retailers who are blind. GTECH expects to generate $11 million in sales from the additional terminals.

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Casino deal leads GTECH to rethink R.I. investments

The company warns that it may not go ahead with its plans because bills before the General Assembly fail to provide it with a portion of the slot machines in a new gaming facility.

BY ANDREA L. STA | Thursday, June 24, 2004

Citing the casino legislation in front of the General Assembly, GTECH Holdings Corp. is reviewing its planned investments in Rhode Island -- including its proposed $88.5-million corporate headquarters in downtown Providence.

GTECH says the two casino bills before the General Assembly do not guarantee that it can operate slot machines in the proposed West Warwick casino, contradicting a contract the company signed with the state last year.

Last year, the state gave GTECH a 20-year deal to run the Rhode Island lottery, which includes operating video slot machines at Newport Grand and Lincoln Park, with the company keeping a portion of the sales. The contract also guarantees that GTECH can operate the the lottery's slot machines at any new gambling facilities.

But the pending legislation circumvents that guarantee, according to the company, and a casino could cause GTECH's sales in Rhode Island to slide.

"We're anxious to understand the state's position on this," said Robert Vincent, a spokesman for GTECH.

Last year, when GTECH negotiated its contract to become the exclusive lottery provider to the state, the possibility of a casino was discussed. Provisions were included in the contract for protecting GTECH's revenue stream if a casino significantly decreases its take at the state's two existing gambling parlors. GTECH operates nearly half the video-slot machines at Newport Grand and Lincoln Park.

However, according to GTECH, those provisions were not taken into consideration during the drafting of the casino legislation. The Senate and the House are expected to vote on bills today and tomorrow, respectively, that would allow a statewide referendum in November on the casino that Harrah's Entertainment is seeking to build.

GTECH said yesterday that its revenue stream is not protected in the legislation, and it could end up seeing significantly less money from its exclusive deal than it originally anticipated.

"I guess it's somewhat startling to us, that 11 months after we had the celebrations that we did [about the contract], that something would be passed by the state leaders that would have such a dramatic impact on that deal," Vincent said.

As far as GTECH is concerned, when the General Assembly drafted the casino legislation it did not hold up its end of the deal.

"I don't know that they appreciate the level of impact [the legislation] has on our investment," Vincent said.

House and Senate leaders couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.

If a casino causes gambling to drop at Lincoln Park and Newport Grand, and GTECH is not guaranteed a revenue stream from a new casino, it would be hard for the company to justify investing $100 million in the state, Vincent said.

"We certainly are reviewing all of the options that we have that were related to the investment decisions that we made in Rhode island," said Vincent.

Under the deal signed last year, GTECH could be freed from several requirements if its state lottery revenue drops due a casino. If there was a 10-percent revenue reduction, GTECH would not have to invest $100 million in its corporate headquarters and in lottery system upgrades by December 2008, and it would not have to keep 1,000 employees in the state. Also, the company would not be obligated to make other lottery system improvements and updates.

If competition from a casino causes total revenue from the state's existing gambling facilities to fall 10 percent compared with the prior year and overall video lottery terminal revenue is less than $450 million a year, the state would have to pay GTECH. The company paid the state $12.5 million last year to secure the contract. If revenue falls, the state would have to return a prorated portion of the fee.

The state made the deal with GTECH last year, after the company said it was thinking about moving its 1,050 employees to Massachusetts. In return for staying in Rhode Island and building its corporate headquarters in Providence, the state offered GTECH the exclusive contract. The contract to run the lottery is expected to generate $770 million for GTECH.

As part of the deal, the West Greenwich-based company receives licenses to run 1,860 of the state's video lottery terminals at Lincoln Park and Newport Grand. GTECH gets to keep a portion of each machine's income. The contract also gives GTECH the rights to run the central computer that manages all the video slots in the state.

Under the terms of the contract, if the Rhode Island Lottery Commission "obtains" any new gaming machines -- such as at a new casino -- GTECH would be entitled to operate at least 50 percent of the new video lottery terminals or "other gaming machines," such as traditional slots.

However, under the recently drafted casino legislation, the Rhode Island lottery would not obtain any machines -- Harrah's would handle them directly. Consequently, GTECH would not get 50 percent of the machines.

Vincent said GTECH does not fault Harrah's. Instead, the company points to state legislators for not making sure the casino would be set up like Newport Grand and Lincoln Park.

Harrah's said it would be willing to work with GTECH.

"GTECH is somebody who we are partnered with in other jurisdictions," said David Satz, Harrah's vice president and lawyer. "[We would be looking to] do future work with them and ultimately provide an opportunity for them to get their product into our other properties throughout the country and be working with them here as well."

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GTECH design simpler

A little tinkering with the plans makes for pleasing results, city committee says


Journal Staff Writer | Wednesday, September 1, 2004


Journal photo / Gretchen Ertl Steve Durkee, a member of the Capital Center Commission, left, looks at the GTECH model, while Deborah Melino-Wender, the commission's executive director, center, and Derek Bradford, a member of the Design Review Committee, look at earlier drawings.


Image from Providence Business News

PROVIDENCE -- Streamlined and compact, the updated design for GTECH Holding Corp.'s proposed downtown headquarters was unveiled yesterday, generating a much more positive response than the building's early design did in June.

The Design Review Committee of the Capital Center Commission, which oversees development around the State House, saw a simpler, mostly glass building complete with wider sidewalks and a clear, three-story entrance pavilion.

"One of the comments was this building needed heavy editing," said Al Spagnolo, principal architect on the project. "[We were] trying to placate many constituents and it was getting muddled."

The design of the $88.5-million building revealed yesterday is significantly different than the early designs Spagnolo Gisness & Associates presented to the committee. Boston-based Spagnolo specifically made changes to address the committee's criticisms and critiques of the first model.

"Editing has enormously improved this building," said Derek Bradford, a member of the committee, during the design workshop yesterday. "It's moving along very nicely."

The building's design is important, since it is Providence's first new downtown office building in 14 years. Plus, it will sit at the corner of Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard, making it one of the first buildings visitors to Providence will see when they enter the city from Route 95.

Since June, the building's size has been reduced by one floor of office space, and one level of the parking garage was taken out. GTECH will continue to occupy four floors of the building, but now there will only be two floors of speculative office space. The building's developer, USAA Real Estate Co. of Texas, does not anticipate that there's a need in Providence for three additional floors of office space. The building will now have 250 parking places, down from the initial 330 spaces that were proposed.

In addition, the building would be built five feet farther back along Memorial Boulevard -- expanding the sidewalk and allowing for trees. The majority of the first floor is still dedicated to shops and restaurants. Spagnolo has designed a second lobby on the side of the building facing Providence Place mall. This side entry will be used by restaurant diners after business hours to access the parking garage.

The exterior design was simplified so that the upper floors are sheathed in transparent glass and the parking garage floors hidden in concrete. The design of the concrete over the parking garage mirrors the design on the mall. In addition, the architects added a cornice near the top of the building, and made the penthouse, which houses electrical equipment, smaller.

A proposed glass GTECH tower, at Memorial and Francis, remains. Acting as a GTECH showcase, it's possible that the tower's top will be illuminated.

"The tower is expressed as a transparent glass jewel," said Spagnolo.

Spagnolo also kept a ramp into the parking garage, and a large 60-foot balcony extending off the Waterplace Park side of the building. Spagnolo also said that there are talks to make the restaurant space on the Waterplace side of the building two stories so diners can take advantage of the view.

The north side of the proposed building is still terraced, backing away from the State House to allow views of the capitol. It's look, however, has changed dramatically, with all the window designs removed in favor of a clear wall of glass over the office levels and concrete over the parking garage.

All of the changes were in direct response to concerns expressed by the committee in June.

"We're quite thrilled with the evolution of this design," said Spagnolo.

Overall, the committee responded positively to the building's new look, complementing its simple modern design. They also liked additional designs for the building's landscaping, presented by architect William D. Warner. Warner designed Waterplace Park, which abuts the GTECH building, and has worked to make the landscaping around GTECH's headquarters an extension of the park.

However, several members of the committee were concerned about the contrast between the concrete base and the glass upper floors of the building. Plus, there was some debate over what should eventually top off the GTECH tower.

"I think the tower top is not done yet," said Leslie Gardner, a committee member and chairwoman of the Capital Center Commission. She added that while the design has made progress, it's the specific glass and concrete or metal materials that are chosen for the outside that "will make it a success."

GTECH and Spagnolo are expected to be back before the committee with glass and other material samples, as well as additional design changes on Sept. 14. GTECH is still planning to break ground on the new building this fall.

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Building a design

Even shadows play a role in developing the new GTECH headquarters


Journal Staff Writer | September 12, 2004

BOSTON -- Al Spagnolo waves a hand at the foam models of half-formed buildings jumbled on his conference room shelf.

Lined up across the back wall, the foam blocks look like headstones in a cemetery for discarded corporate office buildings.

"We have studied over 20 models," says Spagnolo.

It's June and Spagnolo Gisness & Associates has been working on the design for GTECH Holding Corp.'s new corporate headquarters since March. The company has gone through pounds of foam, drawn countless sketches and made a ton of 3-D designs of the proposed building.

And now another model may have to find room on the shelf.

The Providence Capital Center Commission's Design Review Committee, which approves all buildings that go up around the Rhode Island State House wasn't exactly thrilled by the Boston-based staff's latest designs. Sitting in the conference room, Spagnolo's team contemplates the committee's critique.

Creating something only to toss it aside may seem frustrating, but that's what it takes to design an urban office building, says Spagnolo. It isn't easy. And this case, in downtown Providence, is presenting even more challenges.

"We're hoping there aren't major changes at this point," says Nathaniel C. Finley, project architect for Spagnolo.

From the time Spagnolo first thought about bidding on the project in the spring of 2003, he was aware that designing an $88.5-million corporate headquarters on the corner of Memorial Boulevard and Francis Street would be challenging.

Currently, the corner is a dirt lot that gives people in the Prospect Terrace neighborhood on the East Side of Providence a view of the State House. A tall office building could easily blot that out.

Also, all of the buildings surrounding the plot of land are more traditional in style. GTECH wants a modern building.

The lot slopes drastically and it's small, just 1.75 acres. It also sits on top of water, so there's no way to put any parking underground.

But those are the typical evils of designing in a city, says Robert Lang, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, which studies urban and metropolitan development.

"What makes a city interesting is that it's got odd-shaped lots," Lang said during a phone interview last week. "Odd-shaped lots that are interesting make for interesting architecture."

To make things more difficult, the lot is surrounded on two sides by Waterplace Park, on the third side by Providence Place mall and on the fourth side by busy Memorial Boulevard. Unlike some other urban locations, which are abutted by buildings on three sides, this lot has no alley, no side streets, no back. And that means no place to hide the loading docks, the vents from the restaurants on the first floor or any other equipment.

In addition to the physical challenges, Spagnolo knew that the firm chosen to design this structure -- the first corporate office building in Providence in 14 years -- would be forced to juggle several powerful forces.

GTECH wants a headquarters that reflects its status as the world's top provider of lottery services. In return for an exclusive 20-year deal to run the state's lottery, the company agreed to stay in Rhode Island and move its headquarters from West Greenwich to downtown Providence

The developer, USAA Real Estate Co., which is putting up the money for the building, wants some speculative office space that will look attractive on the commercial real estate market.

The Capital Center Commission has a thick book of rules and regulations that architects and designers must follow.

And then there's the public, nervous about additional downtown congestion and what this highly visible office building will say about their city.

"As we put it next to the traditional buildings in Providence, it needs to stand up," said Leslie Gardner, chairwoman of the Capital Center Commission during a design workshop earlier this year. "It's our unique challenge."

None of this is new to Spagnolo's firm, which has designed 32 headquarters buildings for other large companies. So once the company was officially hired, the Providence-native immediately sent his team on the road.

In March the team started taking pictures of the site from all over Providence. They shot from balconies on the East Side and from the streets of the financial district. They even sat outside for lunch on a chilly spring day at Pizzeria Uno at the Providence Place mall, watching pedestrians cutting across the lot.

"It's important for us to be at the site, spend time there, see how it's used," says Michael Tulipani, a senior designer.

Back in their Boston offices, the architects made initial sketches and foam models based on GTECH's "program" -- a telephone-book-size volume that spells out the square footage, the number of floors and parking spots and other specific details GTECH wants in the building. The team also cross-referenced these desires with the Capital Center Commission's regulations. The team was looking to get a feel for the size -- or mass -- of a building that could be put on the spot.

They plugged the information into a software program to get an initial set of 3-D designs. The team set the computer images over pictures of Providence to get an idea of what the building would look like next to the mall and the park.

The result was "very wide, and squat," according to Finley, and much more suburban than they wanted. So the team decided to push the building back from the street, and make each floor smaller, giving pedestrians even more space than the commission requires. The changes made the building taller and more urban, says Spagnolo.

The State House also posed a problem, since the team needed to preserve the views of the historic building. And there was the question of shadows. A large structure casts a large shadow, and shadows over Waterplace Park or the mall would be deterrents to pedestrians.

So they cast shadows. The team ran a software program that generated a 3-D model and then looked at how the sun would fall on the building during various times of the year from various angles -- and the resulting shadows.

"From a design point of view, it's important for office space that you don't have direct sunlight pouring into the office," says Finley.

After studying the shadows and the sightlines of the building, the team settled on terraces that cut down the height of the structure on the side facing the State House.

"The potential reasons for terracing [are] not only to be respectful of the State House, but also to mitigate the shadow impact along the river," says Spagnolo.

He and his team presented their initial work to the Design Review Committee this spring and were met with applause.

Buoyed by the success, the team went back to Boston -- to their offices overlooking the Big Dig highway tunnel project -- and started working on the exterior details. They decided to have the terraces culminate in an illuminated tower, branded for GTECH, at the corner of Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard.

Spagnolo and the team also met weekly with GTECH executives and the developer to go over the design. GTECH wants to be able to entertain guests from around the world, says Spagnolo, and they wanted to make a statement.

Consequently, the architects added a sixth-floor balcony overlooking Waterplace Park, and Spagnolo dubbed it "GTECH's window on the world." They added a design device that would hide the parking garage on the mall side, a penthouse on top to hide the electrical equipment and the exhaust vents from the first-floor restaurants, and an alcove on the Francis Street side to set the loading dock out of sight.

The architects brought this set of designs back down to Providence on June 8.

This time the reception from the review committee members was lukewarm.

They weren't thrilled with the color of the stone, or the types of windows. And while the committee liked the tower, one member said the top looked "a little like a radio tower [in the] '50s."

The overall design "needs to be edited quite severely at the moment," said panel member Derek Bradford during the meeting.

Spagnolo and his team headed back to Boston to regroup, where Finley said he hoped there wouldn't be massive changes.

His hopes didn't quite pan out.

Just weeks after the June 8 presentation, GTECH corporate spokesman Robert Vincent said the company was rethinking its planned investments in Rhode Island, including the downtown building.

When the company agreed to move to Providence, the 20-year lottery contract with the state also gave GTECH the right to operate video slot machines at any new gambling facilities in the state. But legislation passed by the General Assembly in June, which allowed for the creation of a casino in West Warwick, didn't uphold that guarantee, according to GTECH, so the company decided to rethink its future.

Through the end of July, meetings with the Design Review Committee were canceled to give the architecture team time to make changes, said Vincent, not because of the casino legislation. However, the review panel didn't meet about GTECH's building again until after the Rhode Island Supreme Court in August found the casino legislation to be unconstitutional.

In the meantime, USAA, the developer, decided the Providence office market wasn't strong enough to support three floors of speculative space. It wanted to cut out a floor of offices and a considerable amount of parking. This was directly opposite from the earlier directions Spagnolo had been given.

"We had not anticipated the change in the program," says Spagnolo. "Anytime you reduce the program or eliminate a floor plate, it's a major shift . . . those are significant changes."

While designs for the building were being overhauled and the casino debate continued to rage, the construction manager -- Gilbane Building Co. -- started tackling some other challenges.

Typically, a construction site is big enough to hold materials, a trailer for the project team, cranes and other equipment. The GTECH site is too small for that, since the building will take up 70 percent of the lot, said John Gilroy, the GTECH project executive for Gilbane.

To adjust, Gilbane will have to work out a complex delivery schedule, Gilroy said. Since extra materials couldn't be stored on-site, they'll have to be delivered the day they are needed. Gilbane also started looking into renting apartments near the mall to house the project team.

"It's not unique to the business, but it's a challenge for the site." said Gilroy.

Meanwhile, Spagnolo and his team worked on "editing" the design. They made the building smaller and simpler. They gave the parking garage -- the second, third and fourth floors -- a concrete exterior that mirrors the mall's design. The upper floors of the building became reflective glass. The 12-story GTECH tower remained, but to its right Spagnolo added a two-story glass pavilion that will be a building entrance.

The changes shaved about $8 million off the cost, according to GTECH's Vincent. With the delays, Gilbane now says it expects to start work in November, instead of next month.

The Boston architects also brought in William Warner, who designed Waterplace Park, to plan the landscaping around the building. He said his biggest problem with the site was the hill along Francis Street that elevates the city sidewalk more than a story above the proposed ground-level shops and restaurants.

"We put in a monumental stair at that corner," said Warner. "It's nice now that we'll have the completion of the river walk on the south shore of the river, which then will lead pedestrians up the stair to Francis Street . . ."

Warner went before the design panel members in mid-August and they liked what they saw.

Spagnolo and his team brought their latest set of designs back to the committee on Aug. 31.

This time, the reviews were much more positive.

Several of the committee members commented favorably on the "editing" and were impressed with how the landscaping and the building worked together.

But Spagnolo and his team aren't done. They're scheduled for yet another round in front of the committee on Sept. 21. The committee will look at examples of the materials -- glass, concrete -- that will make up the building.

There may be up to three more meetings before the committee signs off on the project. Then it will still have to go before the public at a hearing in November. GTECH wants the building to be finished by 2006.

Spagnolo, though, is ready for more despite seven months of creating and discarding.

"For me it's not been frustrating, it's been intellectually stimulating," he says.

From The Providence Journal

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Illustration courtesy of Spagnolo Gisness & Associates An artist's rendering of the GTECH headquarters, looking upriver, between the Providence Place mall and The Westin Providence hotel. The building will be mostly transparent, with outdoor dining terraces and a balcony overlooking Waterplace Park.

Plan for GTECH's downtown headquarters is drawing to a close


Journal Staff Writer | Wednesday, September 22, 2004

PROVIDENCE -- GTECH Holding Corp.'s proposed downtown headquarters received more positive reviews yesterday from the Capital Center Commission's Design Review Committee, inching the project closer to reality.

The committee, which oversees development around the State House, told the Boston architecture firm designing the headquarters that it was pleased with the progress of the building's design and that the firm was close to a finished product.

"I'm delighted with all the work you've done," said Glenn Kumekawa, an advisory member of the committee.

After months of reviewing and revamping the design, Spagnolo Gisness & Associates yesterday presented the committee with a mostly transparent, glass office building with outdoor dining terraces on the first floor, a balcony overlooking Waterplace Park and levels of parking masked by reflective metal mesh.

Following suggestions that the committee gave the firm last month, Spagnolo decided to get rid of concrete accents around the parking levels -- which would be on the second and third floors -- and use a composite metal instead. The firm also refined a glass tower that will sit at the corner of Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard.

The architects presented updated computer renderings showing that people walking by the building will be able to see through the glass to the workers inside.

It is distinctly different from the initial structure Spagnolo brought before the committee in June.

"You've clearly begun to synthesize the architecture of this building into a cohesive whole," said Derek Bradford, a member of the panel.

GTECH, the largest provider of lottery services in the world, has been pushing Spagnolo to design a modern, high-tech building. The design review committee, however, has been concerned about how a modern building would fit in with its surroundings and has been making recommendations to Spagnolo over the past few months on how to tweak the design.

GTECH is moving from its current headquarters in West Greenwich as part of a contract it signed with the state last year. In return for remaining in Rhode Island and moving to Providence, GTECH was given a no-bid contract to run the state lottery for 20 years.

The company, under the terms of the deal, must be in the new downtown building by 2006. The architecture firm has been working with the design review committee since May to revise the initial design, but is eagerly anticipating final approval, said Al Spagnolo, head of the design firm.

"In order to get GTECH in the building by 2006 we have to start construction in the fall of 2004," he said.

Despite the mostly positive reviews, one committee member did say he still felt uncomfortable about the design of the side of the building facing the State House. And several members of the committee said they were still unhappy with the glass GTECH tower on the front of the building.

Since last month's design meeting Spagnolo lowered the tower about 6 feet, encased the top in glass, which matches other parts of the building, and moved the spire from the middle of the tower to one corner. But it still doesn't make the dramatic and "welcoming" statement the committee was looking for, said Leslie Gardner, a committee member and chairwoman of the Capital Center Commission.

In addition to presenting more modifications to the tower, the landscaping and other design elements, Spagnolo Gisness will be back before the committee next Tuesday to get approval for the building materials it plans to use -- including the metal mesh coverings for the parking garage and glass.

"The devil is always in the materials," said Gardner.

From The Providence Journal

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GTECH'S high anxiety

A preview of the 13-story tower on the headquarters building in Providence gives some design committee members yet another pause about the top of a building that would overlook Waterplace Park.


Journal Staff Writer | September 29, 2004

PROVIDENCE - GTECH Holdings Corp. has a towering dilemma.

The Providence oversight committee that must approve the design for GTECH's downtown headquarters still does not like the top of the 13-story tower the company has proposed for the corner of the building on Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard.

Yesterday, the Providence Capital Center Commission's Design Review Committee sent the building's architects back to Boston for yet another redesign of GTECH's signature tower.

"I'm still not totally sold on the tower," said Leslie Gardner, committee member and chairwoman of the Capital Center Commission.

The tower will be one of the first glimpses of the city that drivers will see when using the ramp off Route 95. Consequently, the tower has been the focus of serious critiques from the commission's design panel during the five-month public review process. Although the committee likes the concept of a tower for accentuating the building, there's been disagreement on what should sit on top of the imposing structure.

Initially, Spagnolo & Gisness -- GTECH's Boston-based architecture firm -- designed a top with a series of spires. In June, one committee member said the spires made the tower look "a little like a radio tower in the '50s."

In August, the designers came back with a different type of top, illuminated from the inside and capped off with one center spire. At the time Gardner said, "I think the tower top is not done yet."

Last Tuesday, the firm returned to the committee with a glass-topped tower, 6 feet lower than previous designs, finished with a cornice and a spire set off on one corner of the tower. Some members questioned the position of the spire, and Gardner summed up their comments by saying that the tower still didn't make the dramatic and "welcoming" statement the committee was looking for.


Journal photo / Sandor Bodo Above is an architect's rendering of what the GTECH tower would look like.

By yesterday, the tower topper had undergone yet another evolution. Now, it's set back from the edge of the building, and even farther inset on each of the four corners. It's still illuminated, and the spires are back, on all four corners. The top is now also emblazoned with the words "GTECH Center."

"WE STUDIED MANY tower options since [last] Tuesday," said architect Al Spagnolo.

Despite additional study, the committee was still not completely thrilled.

"I think it needs more," said Derek Bradford, a member of the committee. "[You] need to be more theatrical about the tower."

The committee also questioned the use of GTECH's logo in a number of places on the building. In addition to not liking it on top of the tower, the panel also questioned whether GTECH needed to have its logo visible through the glass building from Waterplace Park and posted in several places along the Memorial Drive side of the building.

GTECH is moving to Providence from its current headquarters in West Greenwich in a deal it signed with the state last year. In return for a 20-year, no-bid contract to run the Rhode Island lottery systems, the $1-billion-a-year company agreed to move downtown.

Since the building is being designed specifically for GTECH and is so different from the others in the Capital Center District, the committee questioned the need for additional identification.

"You don't need to conk us over the head when we're at WaterFire . . .," said Wilfrid Gates Jr., chairman of the committee. "It will be [known as the GTECH building], and there's no doubt about it."

The panel asked GTECH to come back with an amended plan for the signs when it returns with more tower options.

Overall, the committee liked the glass and steel design of the building. As the architects work out the last few details, the panel recommended that the company start its application for getting official Capital Center Commission approval. In addition to filing the application, the company will also bring the building design to a public-hearing process in which area residents will be able to voice their opinions. Those two hearings are expected to take place in November, according to Deborah Melino-Wender, executive director of the Capital Center Commission.

No date has been set for GTECH to return to the Design Review Committee with an updated version of the tower and the signs.

From The Providence Journal

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GTECH tweaks landmark glass tower to design panel's satisfaction


Journal Staff Writer | Friday, October 22, 2004

PROVIDENCE -- An illuminated lantern is how Al Spagnolo described the latest version of the 13-story glass tower proposed for the corner of GTECH Holding Corp.'s new downtown building.

"A tower within a tower," added Spagnolo, principal with Spagnolo Gisness Associates, the Boston-based architectural firm designing the lottery giant's corporate headquarters. The building is planned for the corner of Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard.

The top of the tower, set back from the edge of the building and illuminated, has a clear glass shell and a white internal grid that looks like scaffolding. Between the two layers, GTECH's corporate logo appears to be floating.

Yesterday was the fifth time Spagnolo had presented a design for the tower to the Capital Center Commission's Design Review Committee -- a public oversight body that must approve the designs of all buildings in the 77-acre Capital Center District in front of the State House.

The panel views the tower as a welcome sign to people entering the city from Interstate 95, since the building will sit at the end of the off-ramp from the highway. Out of all the different design elements for the project, the tower had generated strong dislike among committee members.

Until yesterday.

"I think it's the successful tower we've been looking for," said Leslie Garner, a panel member and chairwoman of the full Capital Center Commission.

The tower, which in earlier iterations was topped with spires and had "GTECH Center" proposed for different sides, has been streamlined and simplified. Also, GTECH's logo, which was proposed for a number of places on the building, has been scaled back and, in some places, removed. It's something the architects did consciously, said Spagnolo, to fit in with the clean and contemporary nature of the building.

GTECH, the world's largest provider of lottery systems and services, asked Spagnolo to design a modern building -- a direct contrast to the more traditional red brick buildings currently in the Capital Center District.

The glass-and-steel building will be fairly transparent, with several levels of parking at mid-level that will be covered with reflective metal mesh. Near the base of the tower will be a two-story glass entryway. The majority of the first floor will be dedicated to shops and restaurants with large windows.

GTECH, which agreed to move from West Greenwich to Providence in return for a 20-year no-bid deal to run the state's lottery, will employ about 700 people in the building and is looking to make its presence known.

Although the modern design of the building has drawn criticism from one voice on the committee, panel members yesterday said this version is something the city is ready for.

"It's time for a contemporary building here," said Robert Reichley, a committee member. "It offsets what's on the other side of the street," he added, referring to the Courtyard by Marriott's orange brick facade across Memorial Boulevard.

Overall, the committee was pleased with the latest set of design tweaks to the $88.5-million structure. With the panel's approval of the tower, the design review now opens up to public comment.

"We're thrilled," said Spagnolo, that it is moving into its final steps. "I think it's going to create the landmark" intended.

A public hearing will be held Nov. 9 at 8 a.m. in Providence, so the Design Review Committee can hear residents' opinions. After that, the panel will make a recommendation to the full commission. The Capital Center Commission will then hold a second public hearing on Nov. 18 at noon.

Spagnolo said he is expecting to hear some criticism of the building's design -- which will definitely stand out in Providence -- from Rhode Islanders.

"Architecture is always controversial," said Spagnolo. "Any time you create architecture of significance, you will have polarization."

From The Providence Journal

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Panel supports GTECH building

The $80-million high-rise, which would be the first corporate headquarters in Providence in 16 years, is one step away from final approval.


Journal Staff Writer | Wednesday, November 10, 2004

PROVIDENCE -- GTECH Holdings Corp. cleared a major hurdle yesterday in its push for a December groundbreaking on its downtown corporate headquarters.

The $80-million building's design was approved by the Design Review Committee of the Capital Center Commission. After six months of recommending revisions and enhancements, the committee yesterday voted to support the architects' design and choice of materials. The design will go before the full Capital Center Commission next week for final approval.

Although the committee vote to approve GTECH's application for development was unanimous, there was some opposition from Providence residents at the public hearing yesterday.

GTECH's headquarters would be covered in glass and metal, and have a 13-story, glass tower at the corner of Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard. The structure would be the first corporate headquarters to be built in the city in 16 years and would be a contrast to the brick and stone buildings surrounding it.

"The beauty of the Capital Center now is that there is a consistency among the buildings -- they are all brick and for the most part are low. Allowing this structure will damage that consistency," said Peter Borgemeister, a Providence architect reading from a letter he submitted to the committee.

Borgemeister also said he was concerned that the building would set a precedent in the Capital Center for other developers. "I, therefore, respectfully urge the commission to reject this building and insist that it be redesigned to 'fit in' better with its neighbors."

Another Providence resident, Mike Lusi, said he thought the design was too simple to look right in the Capital Center district.

Barry Fain, the one member of the Design Review Committee who has been vocal about his dislike for the project throughout the design process, was not at yesterday's hearing.

After listening to the feedback, the committee, which must approve the design of new buildings in the Capital Center district, voted to send the design and its recommendation to the full Capital Center Commission.

"I thought the comments from the public were very thoughtful," said Wilfrid Gates, chairman of the Design Review Committee.

The commission, which oversees all development in the 77-acre district in front of the State House, is expected to hold a public hearing on the design Thursday, Nov. 18. GTECH needs the commission's approval before it can start construction.

GTECH, the world's number-one provider of lottery systems and services, agreed to move its headquarters from West Greenwich to Providence in return for a 20-year, no-bid deal to run the state lottery. The company, which plans to move in by the end of 2006, would employ about 700 people in the building.

GTECH's architects, the Boston firm Spagnolo Gisness & Associates, and co-developers USAA Real Estate Co. and Commonwealth Ventures have defended the style of the building by pointing out that the structure meets the district's development and design guidelines. Yesterday, the developer reiterated the company's goals for the project, including increasing pedestrian space around the building, integrating it into Waterplace Park, making the corner of Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard exciting, and creating a modern building.

"We wanted a 21st-century building that celebrated the Providence renaissance," said Richard Galvin of Commonwealth Ventures.

That sentiment was supported by the committee's independent design consultant, architect David Dixon. "The current proposal is clearly the most successful to date and merits approval by the commission," Dixon wrote to the committee.

The building has been backed wholeheartedly by the state's business community, members of which came to the public hearing yesterday to voice their support.

Michael McMahon, executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, sent a letter urging the committee to approve the design.

"We would appreciate your approval of this project recognizing GTECH's investment, commitment to increased jobs and the increase in personal income tax . . .," McMahon wrote.

The committee added contingencies to its approval. The architect will be required to put together a large model, using the building's materials, on the vacant lot so the committee can get a sense of what it will look like in daylight. Also, no major changes can be made to the plans or development without committee approval; any signs and lighting must be approved by the committee before being installed; and the developer must make progress reports to the committee.

From The Providence Journal

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Considering the space needed versus the small lot and height regulations, the building has very little options for shape. The building is definitely out of place (being on the same street as the state house, the Westin and such) but I think as the other projects in the area (parcel 2 especially) are built, they'll create the transition (visually) needed for Gtech to not be the odd one out. Hopefully future projects (still lots available) will incorporate the general styles of Providence with modern touches. One of the problems with a lot of "modern" buildings is that they look like any stoner with a ruler could have drawn them but if attention is paid to detail (as is often the charm of buildings in Providence) and if pedestrians are given something to marvel at then the it's not an issue. The debate (to me) isn't so much about old or new but more so is it designed to be pretty at a drive-by glance or designed to give the people who walk by it on a daily basis something to look at everyday. If you wouldn't want your design right outside your window then you've failed as an architect. The Gtech building isn't tall enough to be an eyesore on the skyline and the landscaping is all that could be desired for the daily pedestrian. In the long run I hope more impressive-looking structures go up around it but I don't think it's compromised the character of the area. The building represents the tenants perfectly and if you want a kid to play ball in your yard then it's not nice to call him ugly. Gtech (like it or not) IS a part of Rhode Island and I think they should have the ability to express that part of our identity. Sorry if I went on a bit of a rant and this may not be the place to do it but with all I hear about the issue I figured I'd give my input somewhere. I figured it would be best understood by the sort of people who check this section as regularly as I do.

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GTECH Providence's headquarters asks how much will you see

But says one member of the design committee: "The State House is not in any danger of being minimized by any of this."


Journal Staff Writer | November 14, 2004

GTECH Holding Corp.'s new corporate headquarters would be sheathed in glass.

Midway up the building, on three sides, metal chain mail covers the parking garage like shiny, rippling skin.

On one side, a 60-foot balcony for entertaining lottery officials and corporate executives juts out from the sixth floor.

A 12-story glass tower rises from the corner of Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard. The top, illuminated from underneath, proclaims GTECH's arrival in Providence with 6 1/2-foot-tall letters.

The company wants its new world headquarters to look high-tech and at the same time solid and stable, says Erik Dyson, senior director of real estate and facilities. "We have financial strength that underlies this business model," he said.

GTECH, currently based in West Greenwich, agreed to build its new headquarters in Providence in return for an exclusive 20-year deal to run the state's lottery.

Robert Vincent, vice president for corporate communications at GTECH, wants its new home to look like "the headquarters of the world leader."

At the same time, the company doesn't want its government customers to feel like they are paying for GTECH to live in a decadent palace, said Vincent.

So the design is simple. It's streamlined. It's almost totally glass. It will mirror its surroundings during the day and offer clear views inside at night.

Chief executive W. Bruce Turner has spent the past few years working to clean up GTECH's reputation for extravagance and ethical lapses. And the building, Vincent says, is "very much in keeping with . . . what Bruce Turner has set for the company."

But is it in keeping with the traditional look of downtown Providence?

BRICK BUILDINGS would face it on three corners. The State House, with its suspended dome of Georgia marble, stands to the north. The award-winning Waterplace Park sweeps around its feet.

The last corporate office building to go up in the Capital Center Special Development District -- a 77-acre development zone in front of the State House - was the Citizens Bank building in 1988. It's also the color of red brick.

The parcel was designated in the long-term plan for Capital Center to be the setting for a signature building -- one that will make people stop and remark on Providence's beauty.

"I looked with utter bewilderment at the artist's rendering of the GTECH headquarters," wrote John F. Cicilline to the chairwoman of the Capital Center Commission. The commission oversees and approves development in the capital center district. Cicilline, the father of current Providence Mayor David Cicilline, sent his letter to the commission in September.

"The view of the Statehouse which one has from the bottom of the hill should never be taken from the residents of Rhode Island," wrote Cicilline.

He's not the only unhappy one.

Elizabeth Mullaney of Providence is all for a signature building. "But," she wrote the commission, "it should be an asset, not an advertisement."

A number of Providence residents are also concerned that the building, which required a variance because it's taller than city regulations for the area, will blot out their view of the State House.

Some critics think the fluorescent lights inside, glowing over photocopy machines and cubicles, will create so much light at night that it will overshadow WaterFire Providence the regularly scheduled festivals of fire on the water in Waterplace Park.

Others are just worried that the building will disrupt the historic look of the city.

"Transparency does not connote good design. Back to the drawing board -- please," pleads Norton Salk, a Cranston resident, in a letter to The Providence Journal. Others have called it "too square" and "ugly."

"The beauty of Capital Center now is that there is a consistency among the buildings -- they are all brick and for the most part are low," Peter Borgemeister, an architect, said during a public hearing last week of the Design Review Committee of the Capital Center Commission.

"I, therefore, respectfully urge the commission to reject this building and insist that it be redesigned to 'fit in' better with its neighbors."

BUT THE CAPITAL Center Commission's Design Review Committee voted last week to approve the GTECH building, deeming it a good fit for the capital center.

"The State House is not in any danger of being minimized by any of this," says Robert Reichley, a member of the design review committee and previously an executive vice president of public affairs and external relations at Brown University. "The Capital Center was designed with view corridors for that purpose."

The commission, established by the General Assembly in 1981, is responsible for keeping views to the State House clear, making sure developers create an urban experience and keeping pedestrians circulating through the area well past 5 p.m.

The design committee is made up of two architects, a lawyer, several people with preservation backgrounds but no formal design training, and two people who specialize in urban planning. Four also serve on the full Capital Center Commission.

It's not the committee's job to approve or disallow a certain building style, just to make sure it achieves the development goals for the capital center.

"I would tend to believe that architects and developers have the freedom to express themselves, so long as it's not inconsistent with the developmental goals of the CCC," said Glenn Kumekawa, a member of the design review committee and the former chairman of the University of Rhode Island's Department of Urban Planning.

And over the past six months the committee has tried to guide the GTECH development without imposing its own design on the $80-million building. GTECH's Boston architects -- Spagnolo, Gisness and Associates -- first presented their plan in May, and it has gone through significant changes under the committee's watch.

The committee wanted a more streamlined building, something more "crystalline" and "jewel box" that would be "welcoming" to people coming into the city.

From May through October the committee urged Spagnolo to add more glass, for something tall and urban, for more metal and a "theatrical" tower. It pushed the architect to create something that encouraged people to walk around the building and through it -- an extension of Waterplace Park. They tried to steer away from squat and suburban.

The commission insisted that the first floor be filled with restaurants and shops. The sidewalks are wide and encouraging, the landscaping reflects Waterplace Park, and there are two sets of stairs that will allow pedestrians to access the park and the shops and restaurants from the Francis Street hill.

On Tuesday, after six months of deliberations and public criticism, the committee approved the GTECH design. It goes before the full Capital Center Commission on Thursday for one last public hearing and approval by the entire commission.

THE DESIGN didn't please all the committee members. Some would have liked more time to revise the tower, yet again. Others wanted GTECH to make a more sweeping statement.

"This particular glass building doesn't do it for me," says committee member Barry Fain, an East Side resident and magazine publisher who has repeatedly expressed dislike for the glass and metal structure. "The strength of our city is that we've retained a more historic feel downtown."

But the majority agreed that a modern building will look right in Providence.

"We have now reached a point where we should have the courage to design and build buildings that have the language of our time -- a modern language," says Reichley.

Ultimately, though, Wilfrid Gates, chairman of the committee and a landscape architect, says the committee can only do so much.

"The developer and the developer's architects have ultimate responsibility for the project," says Gates.

THE BUILDING'S OWNER and financier, USAA Real Estate Co. of Texas, also had a say in the design. Although GTECH will be the building's lead tenant -- occupying four floors and getting its name on the top -- USAA will still have two floors to rent. USAA is leasing the land under the building for 149 years from Capital Properties Inc.

And USAA decided it would be easier to rent the modern building GTECH was envisioning than a more traditional one, says Richard Galvin, president of Commonwealth Ventures, a real estate development firm working with USAA on the project.

"Modernist buildings signal new energy," says Galvin. "And [that's] a lot of what new tenants are looking for."

Arnold "Buff" Chace, whose firm, Cornish Associates, is working to renovate several blocks in Providence's Downcity section, says the owner's desires are as much a part of the development equation as design regulations.

Chace is working on preserving and reusing historic buildings downtown, but he says the best urban mix includes a variety of buildings.

"And at some level -- as long as it's not hurting anyone -- it should be up to the building and the developer, the person that's paying for it," says Chace. "The real tragedy would be if GTECH looked at the building and they didn't like it."


GTECH's deal

From the state, GTECH gets a 20-year no-bid deal to run the lottery.

From the city, the company gets $8.3 million in tax breaks over 20 years.

In return, GTECH promises to build a corporate headquarters in downtown Providence by the end of 2006; spend $140 million to upgrade the state's lottery system; employ 1,000 people in Rhode Island; and pay $12.5 million for the lottery contract.

GTECH will also pay $23.7 million in taxes to the city, over the 20 years.

From The Providence Journal

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A win for GTECH

Despite some opposition, the lottery giant gains approval for its downtown Providence headquarters.


JournaL Staff Writer | November 19, 2004

PROVIDENCE -- GTECH Holdings Corp. can now prepare to break ground on its proposed Providence headquarters. The company cleared its last major regulatory hurdle yesterday, despite continued controversy over the building's design.

The Providence Capital Center Commission, which oversees development in the Capital Center District -- 77 acres in front of the State House -- voted yesterday to approve the building's architecture after more than six months of design revisions.

"We do hope that when it's built . . . it will be an icon," said Leslie Gardner, chairwoman of the commission.

The West Greenwich-based lottery giant now plans to start construction of the $80-million building early next month. The modernist glass-and-metal structure at Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard is expected to be finished by 2006.

Although the commission signed off on the project, its decision was disputed at yesterday's public hearing. A number of Rhode Island residents expressed extreme dislike for the building and urged the commission not to approve the design.

"This building is completely out of place" in Providence, said Charles Pinning, a Providence property owner. "This building would be appropriate . . . in a city that has either obliterated its history or doesn't have any."

The Capital Center Commission's Design Review Committee put the building's design through a number of changes since it was first proposed in May. The structure will be covered in glass and have a 60-foot balcony jutting out of the sixth floor on one side. A 12-story glass tower will rise from the corner of Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard, with the top bearing GTECH's logo in 6 1/2-foot letters.

Last week, the Design Review Committee approved the design, agreeing that it complied with state regulations for the site -- including leaving significant space for shops and restaurants on the first floor and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks.

Several residents were critical of the building's design last week, and asked the committee to consider asking the architectural firm that conceived the structure -- Spagnolo, Gisness & Associates -- to create a more traditional one. GTECH's proposed headquarters will be surrounded on three sides by brick buildings.

People expressed similar sentiments at yesterday's full commission meeting.

"The structure has no place in Providence," said Gregory Mallane. "It really belongs in an industrial park."

Melissa Nickerson, a Providence resident, said, "This kind of building is old, it's pass

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I rode by the site on the trolley this morning. It looks like they are preparing for a ground breaking ceremony. A tent was set up, and there was a bulldozer on site (first time I've seen heavy machinery there).


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And this article confirms, they are indeed having the groundbreaking ceremony today!

Not only that, it's refreshing to not have whining about modernism coming from the Providence Journal for once.

David Dixon: GTECH design is rooted in city's context

BOSTON | Friday, December 3, 2004

Providence is justifiably celebrated as one of America's great livable cities. The Congress for the New Urbanism -- a national organization of architects, planners, developers, and others interested in promoting traditional urban qualities -- has selected Providence for its 2006 national conference, because the city is a showcase for the qualities that other American cities seek in the 21st Century: mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods; a growing interest in living and working downtown; buildings that celebrate and enrich public streets; animated urban parks, such as Waterplace; and similar qualities.

The Providence community has worked hard, and taken great risks, to arrive at the point of being a national model. When I first visited the city, planners were debating whether Union Station could be saved -- or at best mothballed. The grand experiment to rescue Westminster Street by turning it into a pedestrian mall was failing. I was shown an ambitious plan to move the river and create a whole new district -- Capital Center -- but was assured that it could never happen.

What saved Providence? A remarkable ability to look forward and backward simultaneously: to embrace dramatic change and at the same time to shape change in ways that celebrate the most enduring qualities of the city's spirit.

A city shaped initially by sea trade and remade by the Industrial Revolution has been shaped yet again, by education, health, and other sectors that have become the economic engines of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Each economic period has brought a new generation of building types, styles and materials, and yet each has managed -- with its own spirit and expression of values -- to add something to the human-scaled, lively downtown streets and urban neighborhoods that New Urbanists will travel from around the country to admire in 2006.

New Urbanists love to walk, and they will surely explore Providence's Downcity, Financial and Capital Center districts. As they walk up Francis Street and pass the GTECH Building -- by then nearing completion -- they will see a building dressed in contemporary design and materials that exhibits all the qualities that make Providence a model livable city.

At the public hearing held by the Capital Center District Commission for the GTECH Building, the Providence Preservation Society offered wonderful testimony to Providence's ability, over the course of two centuries, to translate the forces of economic growth and change into great city building:

"PPS welcomes fresh design concepts. Without them, we'd never have had the First Baptist Meeting House, the Arcade, the State House, Pendleton House, or the Industrial Trust Bank skyscraper.The people who built those sought to express their confidence and their ambitions."

What qualities make a building successful at the beginning of the 21st Century? The same ones that the Preservation Society celebrated in its testimony. The buildings the society praised -- and many others that grace downtown -- represent multiple eras and styles. These buildings are at once successful works of architecture individually and successful works of urban design in concert with the buildings that are their neighbors.

As works of architecture, these buildings engage and visibly reinforce the streets and public spaces that they line; convey the spirit and vitality of their era; and incorporate craftsmanship and materials of genuine quality and durability. As works of urban design, these buildings enliven and enrich the pedestrian experience with uses and design that inject vitality into the surrounding public realm. They take advantage of opportunities to create gateways or in other ways to mark special and unique places, and they embody massing, articulation and design elements that convey the sense of being part of a district, rather than a collection of free-standing buildings.

Why do I believe that the GTECH headquarters -- whose groundbreaking will be celebrated today -- will be a successful building, one that advances Providence's tradition of humanist city building?

The building's architecture is visibly rooted in its context. Each of the four facades responds to unique demands: matching Providence Place mall's retail vitality along Francis Street; presenting a pedestrian-friendly edge to the river walk and a handsome face to the State House; framing Waterplace; and presenting a more formal front door to Memorial Boulevard.

In creating these faades and bold massing will no longer be considered contemporary -- no building holds that status for very long -- but the building will continue to be regarded as an expressive symbol for the values and energy of the early 21st Century.

The use of high-quality materials (at greater expense than most recent buildings in and around Providence) and well-crafted details will help it convey a sense of permanence and durability as it ages.

The building is even more successful as a work of urban design. It celebrates the full range of pedestrian-level conditions along each of its four sides: lively urban retail along Francis Street, canopied restaurants overlooking a stretch of the river walk newly connected to Francis Street, dining terraces lining Waterplace, and retail and the building's formal entrance facing Memorial Boulevard.

The tower, which marks an important gateway to Providence and downtown from Route 95, avoids the more clich

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Friday, December 3, 2004

After a lengthy review process, groundbreaking is scheduled for 10 o'clock this morning for GTECH's dramatic new headquarters, in downtown Providence.

The building's design has its admirers and detractors, of course, as do virtually all large buildings, everywhere. But what is not in dispute is that the building will expand the energy and prosperity of downtown Providence.

The Providence renaissance has produced many aesthetic triumphs. The GTECH building is, at the very least, a solid economic one. Many of the 700 people who will work in the building will be new customers for Providence stores, restaurants and other businesses. And just the fact that a 12-story building -- the $80 million headquarters for a large international company! -- will go up in what was a sometimes dusty, sometimes muddy vacant lot near the middle of the city will stimulate interest in moving to or expanding in Providence.

Indeed, we hope that the building will be a major marker on the road to Providence's regaining its status as a corporate center. Certainly the city has big strengths, while our closest metropolises -- New York and Boston -- have many drawbacks that should encourage firms to consider moving here, instead.

We hope that the new building will help lure other headquarters -- in financial services, technology and other fields -- from their gridlocked and vastly expensive offices in the Hub and Gotham to enjoy the fine transportation facilities, compactness, ease and charm of Rhode Island's capital. It's past time to sell Providence as more than just a good place for back-office operations; it's time to make Providence a center -- as it once was.

We congratulate GTECH, city and state officials, members of the Capital Center Commission, and the other public and private agencies and individuals that have helped -- through hard and often frustrating work -- to bring the company's headquarters to Providence. We look forward to a new landmark that will demonstrate to residents and visitors alike that Providence is a dynamic city: aesthetically and economically.

From The Providence Journal

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Work begins on GTECH headquarters


Journal Staff Writer | December 4, 2004

PROVIDENCE -- For the first time in 16 years, shovels scooped dirt out of downtown Providence yesterday to make way for a new corporate headquarters.

GTECH Holding Corp., the world's number-one provider of lottery systems and services, marked a milestone in its history -- and the city's -- by breaking ground for its new 12-story office building on the corner of Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard.

It's another step in redefining Providence's skyline, and some local real estate experts say it could trigger more businesses to relocate to downtown.

At the same time, the building will bring a gaming company into the heart of the capital city in a state deeply divided over the issue of gambling.

GTECH's Chief Executive Officer W. Bruce Turner told 150 people who gathered at the site yesterday that other buildings in Providence have been built with revenues from a lottery. In the late 1700s, the First Baptist Church of Providence was built with $2,000 in lottery revenue, said Turner, and Brown University received $25,000 in lottery revenue early in its life.

"So you can understand why we feel right at home here," Turner said. He added those buildings, "stand as constant reminders of the all important mission of our core [lottery] business, to raise revenue for public good."

About 500 GTECH employees are expected to call the $80 million, modern-style building home in 2006. While GTECH will occupy just four floors of the building, the top of a tall tower at the building's main entrance will be branded with GTECH's logo in illuminated, six and a half foot tall letters. An additional two floors of office space will be leased to other tenants and the first floor will be dedicated to restaurants and shops.

"As we turn the soil here today, I certainly believe that we are truly turning the pages of history and hopefully sparking a new renaissance here in this wonderful city," said Turner, addressing the crowd that included top city and state officials.

Governor Carcieri, who was the first to suggest last year that the company build on the empty piece of land across the street from Providence Place mall, yesterday commended GTECH on its dedication to Rhode Island.

"Bruce, I want to thank you really, personally, on behalf of all the citizens of our state, for what you've done and the commitment you've made," Carcieri said.

Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline agreed, "We're really excited about having them back home in Providence."

Other factors, besides hometown commitment, played a role in the company's decision to move to Providence.

In 1978, when GTECH was getting started above the Providence restaurant Capriccio, Rhode Island was the company's second customer. Again last year, the lottery played a key role in shaping GTECH's direction. GTECH, based in West Greenwich, was planning to move to Massachusetts to be closer to Boston's high-tech work force. Governor Carcieri, along with the state's economic development agency, legislative leaders, and its congressional delegation, hammered out a deal to give GTECH the right to run the state's lottery operations for 20 years.

In return for the lucrative contract -- which will generate more than $700 million in revenue for GTECH over two decades -- the company agreed to stay in Rhode Island and move to downtown Providence.

After legislation enacting the contract was signed into law by Carcieri last summer, the company negotiated a tax stabilization deal with the city of Providence and started planning the building. A developer, USAA Real Estate Co., and an architect, Spagnolo Gisness & Associates, were chosen early this year.

In May, the architect started bringing designs for the building before the Capital Center Commission, an oversight board that regulates development in the 77-acre Capital Center District in front of the State House. The committee spent six months reviewing and critiquing the building's modern design, drawing the ire of some Providence residents who wanted a more traditional structure.

The commission approved a modern design last month, despite controversy, clearing the way to start construction.

Sitting at what commission members consider the "gateway" to the city, the building's prominence could trigger other businesses to follow GTECH's lead, say some real estate experts.

"Something has to happen to get this ball rolling and I think GTECH is the thing that will get it moving," said Karl Sherry, principal of Hayes & Sherry Real Estate, a commercial real estate firm in Providence. "It's the beginning of a turnaround for the city."

Others disagree that one company's decision -- based in large part on a lucrative lottery deal -- would influence downtown development.

"I'd like to say it's going to be great -- but let's look at the reality of it," said Joseph Paolino Jr., former mayor of Providence and principal owner of Paolino Properties, a land developer. "We have a soft office market and there's not a lot of companies moving into Providence -- so we really have to review what we're trying to target in the future."

Construction of the building will cause some disruption for pedestrians. The sidewalks, starting at the corner of Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard, will be blocked off halfway up each street by large chainlink fences within the next few weeks, according to GTECH officials.

The crosswalk at the corner of Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard will remain open, but pedestrians will have to cross to the other side to walk up either street.

Gilbane Building Co., the construction manager for the building, expects that pile driving -- to shore up the foundation -- will start by the end of this month. It's expected that 450 piles will need to be driven, which could take three months, according to Gilbane.

Pile driving has not been heard in the Capital Center since the 1990s, when construction started on Providence Place. And the last time a group of business and government leaders gathered to mark the groundbreaking of a corporate office building in the capital center was for the Citizens Bank building in March 1988.

From The Providence Journal

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  • 2 weeks later...


Journal photo / Kathy Borchers

Construction starts on the site of GTECH's new headquarters

Friday, December 17, 2004

Despite the cold, work has begun on the construction of GTECH Holding Corp.'s new Providence headquarters.

Last week, chain link fences went up around the site at the corner of Francis Street and Memorial Boulevard.

This week, a crane appeared as the site was being explored for existing utilities and preparation work began for a retaining wall along Francis Street. Next week, pile driving should begin as work starts on the foundation, according to Gilbane Co., the construction manager for the $80-million project.

While the work began downtown, GTECH said that it has been picked to provide a new online lottery system for the Missouri Lottery. The seven-year contract is expected to generate $85 million in revenue. The company will install and maintain the state's central lottery system and provide ongoing service and support.

From The Providence Journal

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Boy I hope this turns out OK... The drawings and computer images looked terrible. It won't add much to the appeal of the area from the street and will be a barely visible, stubby glass box on the skyline (with their corporate name emblazened on it to boot)... I'll wait until I see it "in the flesh," but I fear a big opportunity was missed here. How happy do you think the Cheesecake Factory folks are about this becoming the new view for their outdoor cafe rather than the skyline?

Hopefully, we won't look back in 15 years and think of this as the "mistake on the Place."


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I've yet to see for myself, up close, an actual rendering of the building as it was finally approved.

I am optimistic about it. I love the fact that it's glass. We have enough brick and it simply is not a historic area, all of it's neighbours are modern imitations of historic buildings, the best executed in my opinion being the mall. I think as long as they can fill the street level retail on Francis it will have a great street presense and will help to knit together the mall and Downcity. I don't mind in the least that they are slapping their name on the tower, I like that in fact. It's a flashy glass building and I think the name will go fine. I wouldn't want to see every building in Providence slap a giant lit up logo on it, but in this application I like it (if there are not some sort of zoning regulations regarding signs like this, there should be though, to prevent others from taking advantage of the precedent).

I think the biggest mistake here is the height, a building on this site should be at least 20 stories, it should rise above the mall to be seen from the highway, and make a dent in the sky when seen from the south along the river. But people were freeking out when they said they might be 13 floors, I don't understand what people's problems are with height all the time. Hopefully the neighbouring parcel can get a building or two that pushes above 15 floors.

I actually think most of the views will be maintained, the view from the winter garden at the mall will be a little different, but you'll still be able to see the main skyline, the Biltmore may be blocked out. I just can't get behind the view arguement though, a city is about people and buildings, if you want a view move to the beach. The way people gush about the State House, why don't we just tear down the whole city and rebuild it as concentrentric circles facing Smith Hill?

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