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Capital Center Commission downsizes


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The Providence Journal reports today on the reorganization of the Capital Center Commission. The Commission was founded after the river relocation project to guide development in the Capital Center District (roughly bounded by Smith Street, Exchange Terrace, the highway, and the Moshassuck River). While the District still has much room for future progress, development has slowed. Currently the Capitol Cove condos, new Blue Cross Blue Shield headquarters, and new headquarters for Moran Shipping are the only active projects in the District (and basically in the whole city come to think of it).

The Commission’s executive director, Deborah Melino-Wender has retired and the offices at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce have been closed. Melino-Wender’s duties will be taken over by Bob Azar and Christopher Ise in the city’s planning department, and the Commission’s work will now run out of the planning office.

With this downsizing, cost cutting, and reorganization, I wonder why the Commission is needed at all anymore, even in a slimmed down form. Capital Center is well on it’s way to becoming an integral part of the city. Certainly, when the economy recovers, there are plenty of parcels left to be built on, and likely with some large scale structures. But cannot the Downcity Design Review Committee and City Plan Commission handle the approval processes for future projects in the Capital Center District? If those boards are good enough to handle the rest of the city, what is so special about Capital Center anymore?

Before we know it, we’ll have acres of land freed up by the relocation of Route 195 and likely another development commission to guide the redevelopment of that land. That is fine, I agree there should be a group of people focused directly on the redevelopment and reintegration of such a large area of new land. Capital Center in my opinion though is far enough along, it does not need to be treated special anymore, it is part of the city.

What Capital Center needs now is to move to the next phase of it’s development, integration. It needs an Improvement District like Downtown, or the Downtown Improvement District needs to be expanded to include Capital Center. We need the yellow jackets patrolling, cleaning, planting, being ambassadors to people getting off trains, etc. Let us have the development procedures we have in place now guide the future of Capital Center and work to further integrate it into the fabric of Downcity and the city as a whole.

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