Archive | July, 2009


Roger Williams Park Zoo

I went to Roger Williams Park Zoo with some of my family from the Cape, including my nieces (1 and 2 years old, their first visit). We had a great day, only had to duck under a roof for about 10 minutes to avoid some rain. We saw lots of animals and the girls were wonderful, only two bouts of crying (once for a banged head, and once for a skinned knee, valid crying reasons). I haven’t been to the zoo in years, what a great resource for us to have though.

Roger Williams Park Zoo

Roger Williams Park Zoo

Roger Williams Park Zoo

Roger Williams Park Zoo

Photos by Jef Nickerson

The anteaters would not come out of their enclosure, boo! But we still got to see them through the glass.

The first Saturday of the month, which happens to be tomorrow, the zoo is FREE for Providence residents, so if you were looking for something to do tomorrow, there you go.


Site tour: Providence Career and Technical Academy

Providence Career and Technical Academy

Wednesday I had the opportunity to tour the new Providence Career and Technical Academy on Cranston Street. Some info about the new school:

The PCTA is a brand-new, state-of-the-art career and technical education center. PCTA will be the region’s finest physical plant, designed to provide integrated academic and technical instruction in the areas of general construction, HVAC, electrical, plumbing and pipefitting, carpentry, culinary, cosmetology, automotive, and graphic communications. PCTA boasts the following amenities:

  • Wireless academic classrooms, technical laboratories, and related theory classrooms, all equipped with ceiling-mounted LCD projector, smartboards, and wireless voice amplification;
  • Three computer labs, including a graphic communications lab equipped with professional-grade hardware and software;
  • Comprehensive technical labs, all fully equipped with state-of-the-art equipment reflective of industry standards.

From its physical and conceptual roots, PCTA was designed to serve a broad educational clientele. The building includes co-located adult employment services and a health clinic. In addition, the physical layout has separate entrances and security features that allow for safe, simultaneous use by both adults and children.

Electrical lab with mock-ups of wood and metal-frame rooms for students to work in. Each lab has a leaning suite adjacent to it.

Providence Career and Technical Academy

Printing presses in the design studio. Design and print services will be available to the general public.

Providence Career and Technical Academy

Media center. Shelves will contain periodicals, students will be able to check out laptops to use in the Media Center. The school does not have a traditional library.

Providence Career and Technical Academy

Science Lab.

Providence Career and Technical Academy

Continue Reading →


Bikes Ride Here


Photo from Bike New Haven

Design New Haven reports on the city of New Haven’s newly launched website, Bike New Haven, and boy is it great. Great starting from the above photo on the front page. Bikes Ride Here, on the street, amen!

As Design New Haven outlines, the site is full of great information about cycling in New Haven. Bike safety, route information, planning documents, bike-to-transit options, a system to request bike racks, and more. New Haven really seems to have it’s act together on ensuring that bikers are part of the transportation infrastructure in the city and not just an after thought. I encourage everyone to take a look at the site and think about what we’d like to see in Providence along similar lines.


Downcity Design Review Committee – August 3, 2009

Notice of Regular Meeting • Monday, August 3, 2009 • 4:45pm
Department of Planning and Development, 4th Floor Auditorium
400 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of Meeting Minutes: July 13, 2009

Project Review

View Larger Map

1. DRC Application No. 09.14, 111 Westminster Street/50 Kennedy Plaza (Industrial Trust Company Building, now Bank of America Tower) Request for approval of the replacement of exterior doors and revolving doors on the Westminster Street and Kennedy Plaza elevations with new doors. The work was completed without DRC approval.



Surreptitious look at Collier Point Park

A reader submitted this photo taken from the Iway Bridge of on-going work at Collier Point Park. Collier Point Park is where the Russian Sub used to be (well, still is, but not for long), off Allens Avenue just under the west side of the Iway Bridge.


Reader submitted photo

Collier Point Park has always been a nice little slice of public access to the waterfront amidst the industrial wasteland that is Allens Avenue. Many people head down there to fish, when I worked in Davol Square sometimes I would take my lunch and eat down there. However, since there is not much that is attractive in the area, the park has very few people visiting, especially now that the Russian Sub Museum is closed.

Our reader has this to say about Collier Point:

Just before they opened the I-Way lanes to southbound 95, I walked across the new blue bridge and took this shot of the park that’s being completed between the power plant and the defunct Russian sub. The picture was taken by aiming between a blue support girder of the eastbound overpass and the guardrail of the westbound lanes.

How do you get access to the park itself? Of course, you can’t get there from here. Work isn’t quite finished. What’s more, the whole park complex and its boat ramp are off limits because of the Russian Sub calamity. Why they can’t just rope off the Russian Sub dock and open the rest of the place up to the public is something one would have to ask RIDOT or National Grid.

Fishermen use the park now — they park behind Desire and clamber over the riprap of the Hurricane Barrier.

One of these days this will be a nice, slim addition to the city’s park system.

Here is a photo I took a couple weeks ago from under the east side of the Iway Bridge across the river to Collier Point Park, as you can see, the desiccated Russian Sub is still hanging around waiting to be scrapped.


Photo by Jef Nickerson

Putting aside the debate about the future of the Allens Avenue waterfront. There will continue to be not much in the area of this park to attract people to it. With the Russian Sub going away, there’s not an attraction here besides the park itself. What should this park be? Should it remain a passive recreation area for the few people who make their way there? Should the city try to make some sort of attraction at/in the park itself to draw people to it to use it? It is one of the few public access points to the water, what should it be?


Explore North Burial Ground – July 28, 2009


Photo from The North Main Street Project

Explore North Burial Ground

Enjoy an evening exploration of the historic and environmentally sensitive North Burial Ground with historian Robert O. Jones and ghost stories from writer, raconteur, and neighbor Mark Binder at a FREE public event hosted by the North Main Street Committee and the Summit Neighborhood Association on Tuesday, July 28 at 7pm.

This event will be enjoyed by families, neighbors and anyone with an interest in Providence history. The tour will meet on North Main Street at the cemetery entrance gate opposite the Providence Armory at 7 p.m. (This gate opens to marble steps into the cemetery. It is on the southbound side of North Main Street, just after the last office buildings, one long block after Walgreens as you head toward downtown.)

Robert O. Jones will lead a short walking tour from the gate. A local naturalist will provide an ecological context. At 8pm, we will return to the steps for snacks and ghost stories from Mark Binder.

Pre-registration is requested but not required. To register or to get more information, contact Greg Gerritt at 331-0529 or by email.


Video: Stroll Federal Hill? Walk lights FAIL

Over the last month or so, much work has been done to the signals along the Service Roads on the west side of Route 95. At first it was pretty good, new LED walk lights with countdowns went in, and though they only give you 9 seconds to cross, they were brighter and worked well. Lately, I’ve noticed they don’t work anymore. Well, they don’t work like they used to.

Now pedestrians have to press the cross button to get a walk light. Before the walk lights always turned appropriately automatically when the corresponding traffic lights changed. Cars got their regular signals and pedestrians got to cross regularly, traffic turning had to wait for pedestrians crossing. Crossing the Service Roads has always been daunting, but traffic would generally yield to pedestrians. Though the walk lights no longer change automatically, I’ve continued to cross as if they did, it never occurred to me to push the button, I really just assumed the walk lights were broken, as a pedestrian in Providence, that is the assumption you reach when walk lights aren’t functioning right, very few of them do.

So why the switch to button activated walk signals? Pushing the button does not prompt the light to change, it still goes through its normal cycle giving you the light at the next appropriate phase in the light cycle, it does not turn traffic red and allow people to cross. Why not just leave it the way it was, turning to walk when the street you’re crossing goes red? Drivers don’t have to push a button to get a green light, why should pedestrians?

It seems to me, this is a way to keep auto traffic moving at the expense of foot traffic. I can no longer legally walk at each light cycle, I need to push the button and wait for the lights to cycle through. If I don’t push the button and just walk when the cross street turns red, I’m now jaywalking since the light walk light stays red. Turning traffic now has the right of way.

Federal Hill’s tagline is “Stroll.” The merchants association wants people to walk the street. The walk lights make pedestrians second class on the city’s streets, an after thought to the convenience of autos. As I was taking the above video, a couple who were a bit older, appearing to be out-of-towners, simply stood at the corner with a look of fear in their eyes. Apparently unaware of the button that needed to be pushed to allow for the walk light they needed to feel safe to cross.


Atwells Avenue at Dean Street | Photo by Jef Nickerson

At the end of the video (which you of course watched all the way through, I worked hard on that video!) are some stills of the Dean and Atwells intersection. A wide area that strollers need to cross to get to the west end of Atwells. Here, where there are walk lights, they don’t work. I mean, they don’t work at all, it is not a matter of pushing buttons, the walk lights are just dead, and have been for years.

Most of us familiar with the city know how much traffic speeds through that intersection, and the confusion of the two sides of Dean having different greens (most people familiar with the city avoid that intersection at all costs). Without a walk light, it is perfectly reasonable for a pedestrian to think when Dean Street southbound turns red, they can cross. Ah, but no! Then Dean Street northbound turns green and all the traffic tries to run you down. It’d sure be nice to have some sort of indication that that traffic was coming before getting halfway into the intersection. It would make Federal Hill a slightly better place to stroll, don’t you think?


GC: Photos – Providence at Night

We’ve had a number of great photos submitted to our Flickr Group, so we’re going to catch up in a few posts sharing them here. Starting off with some shots by pvdEric of Providence at night:

Kennedy Plaza at night

Fulton Street in Kennedy Plaza | By pvdEric

iWay Bridge

The Iway bridge* from Point Street | By pvdEric

Downtown Providence at night

Downcity rooftops | By pvdEric

If you click on the photos, they will take you to Flickr where you can view the full size images.

If you’d like your photos featured here, join our Flickr Group and submit them.

*The Iway bridge really needs a name doesn’t it, and not the New Providence River Bridge please.


195 Street Grid Part 2: Walk Light FAIL in Davol Square


I’m including this post as part of the 195 Street Grid series because it highlights a very simple but important failure. These lights have been here for a couple (several?) months; the infrastructure for cars is in place, lights are up and on, islands have been moved to make way for lanes, lanes have been marked…


The pedestrian infrastructure however, is an utter failure. The walk lights don’t work, sidewalks on two of the four corners are dug up and not replaced (and have been that way for at least several weeks if not longer); generally, very little thought or care seems to have been given to pedestrians (or cyclists for that matter) at all.

Below is the view from the center of the intersection, where there is a raised traffic island that has no place for pedestrians to stand, meaning it cannot be used as a pedestrian refuge; you can simply cling to the edge of it like a life raft and hope you don’t get sideswiped by an errant driver texting or applying makeup or eating a Boston Kreme or some such.

Continue Reading →


Community Boating Renaissance Regatta

CBC Regatta

This Thursday (7/23/09), rain or shine, the Providence Community Boating Center at India Point Park will be hosting it’s annual Renaissance Regatta. From the CBC website:

The Regatta is a perfect opportunity to help a great Ocean State cause. Sponsors provide a team of employee-sailors (or sponsor a proxy team) to sail in a series of small boat relays, slaloms, and team building games guaranteed to win over a smile. We provide the boats, gear, and kids. Join the fun!

Last year, despite the rain, the event was a fantastic success and a great time. Hopefully, this year the rain will hold off because the Regatta is more than a race and more than a fundraiser; it’s a fantastic party! In the evening, there will be sailboat rides, a cocktail reception, and a silent auction in addition to the team racing earlier in the day. The silent auction features works of art, packages of overnight accommodations, restaurant gift certificates, outings, activities, and much more.

Come join us! The event is open to all, but tickets are required (discount for CBC members). Check out the CBC website for more information.

See you there!


City Plan Commission – July 21, 2009

Notice of Regular Meeting • Tuesday, July 21, 2009 • 4:45pm
Department of Planning and Development, 4th Floor Auditorium
400 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of Meeting Minutes: June 16, 2009

Director’s Report

Land Development Projects

1. Case No. 09-002MA – 175 Broad Street (Public Informational Meeting) Request for Master Plan stage approval for the proposed commercial development of the property located at 175 Broad Street. The subject property is bounded by Service Road No. 7, Broad Street and Cahir Street (AP 24, Lot 603). (Upper South Providence) Continued from the CPC meeting on June 16, 2009.

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Providence Tomorrow

2. Neighborhood Plan Presentation Presentation of Washington Park/South Elmwood and Hope/Mt. Hope/Blackstone neighborhood plans by DPD staff. The plans will be reviewed by the Commission, public comment will be taken, and the Commission may choose to act to adopt one or both of the plans.