The city announced today that Connecticut based Alteris Renewables will be opening an office in Providence.
The company’s finance department, a call center and regional staff will be located at 28 Wolcott St., an award-winning net-zero building in the city’s growing Green Corridor. The office spaces are Rhode Island’s first and only net-zero office environment, including heating and electricity provided by the sun via Alteris Renewables’ solar systems on the roof. (The Alteris wind business headquarters will remain in Bristol, RI).
This of course is great news, jobs, green jobs, a building getting a tenant, a company believing in Providence… good, good, good.
But this struck me as… odd:
In recent years, new and expanding “green” business has been occurring along the Woonasquatucket River Corridor, in the Valley and Olneyville neighborhoods. This area is commonly known as the Promenade Green Corridor.
I’m out there, I talk to a lot of people, but I have never heard anyone refer to this area as the Promenade Green Corridor. The Valley, the Promenade, even Olneyville (though it is not Olneyville), but Green Corridor, no. I think it is all well and good to move towards perhaps branding it that way, but stating as fact that it is a common appellation, I don’t know, that seems a little 1984 to me (a little).
Projects there involve: remediation and restoration of historic mill buildings; retrofitting of existing buildings for energy savings; green businesses in areas such as design and architecture; land reclamation projects; and purveyors of organic foods. Examples include the 50,000 square-foot Box Office commercial office building, the United Natural Foods headquarters at the Alco site, the Steelyard non-profit and for-profit businesses along Sims Street, the 39 artist live-work spaces at Monohasset Mills and the Wolcott Street Eco-Office where Alteris will be housed.
Ok, there are a number of green and greenish projects in this amorphous ill-defined area. But there is no concerted effort on anyone’s part to make that happen as far as I can see. These disconnected entities just happened to develop green or greenish projects in a tight geographic area. It is mostly a matter of world events conspiring to make being green a valid business choice (to save money and attract talent) and also like minded (green) people being attracted to the same area. If we want to see this area ‘commonly known as the Promenade Green Corridor’ then the city and state should actually do some work to make that a true goal, not just a happy coincidence that the city can then co-opt (and not do things like revoke the historic tax credits that made the renovated mill projects possible to begin with).
Make this area north and west of Route 6 into a green overlay district. Incentivize green development in the area, then create an actual brand around this green zone to go out and recruit new businesses to settle here.
Although, really, shouldn’t the whole city be green? Why should we have a Green Promenade? We should have a “Green Providence.”
Oh, and one more thing. If the Valley/Promenade were green, there would be more than a handful of diverted Route 26 buses running through there (on a Kennedy Plaza-centric commuter schedule), public transit is green.
This is great news for that area. It’s pretty dead, even during the day. We definitely need to see more businesses moving in there.
As for that diverted 26 bus, it sucks. They should just make a separate route for that area. Maybe even a bus that goes through there, up River Ave to Eaton St, take Eaton to Oakland and follow Oakland to Atwells and take Atwells back to Kennedy Plaza. That’d be a nice little loop connecting the PC area to Federal Hill, and it’d give me a bus to work.
I dunno, I feel like the fact that a few green businesses have sort of clustered in that area organically (no pun intended) makes it a much more legitimate “business district” than any of the master-planned schemes like the “biotech hub” they’re hocking down in the jewelry district. It’s not a matter of “if you name it, they will come.” They’ve shown up on their own, and they’ll inevitably attract others too. That’s true urbanity.
So, I talked to someone from the city about this and here’s the deal. Basically, this “Promenade Green Corridor” has been an idea floating around the halls of city government. It was stated (and I don’t have the stats to confirm this) that there are more LEED buildings in this area than in the rest of the state as a whole. Again, can’t confirm if that is true, but it is certainly true that there are LEED buildings, buildings with green components, and companies that could be said to be in the green economy.
So the idea of marketing the area to this fact has been kicking around, with more research needing to be done such as confirming that LEED ‘fact.’ The “commonly known as” came from someone writing an over-zealous press release. It is not commonly known as, the city has done no external marketing on this moniker, but they may.