Greater City Providence

195 Street Grid Part 5: A look at lot sizes

In Part 4 much of the discussion revolved around lot sizes.

Comment by Corey

Call me naive, but personally, I would take some of the parcels not targeted for institutional use, subdivide them, and then sell the subdivided lots individually; much more in line with what would have been done in the 18th or 19th centuries. […] It also allows a lot of building form regulations to be relaxed without risking so much insensitive development.

  • By allowing room for numerous property owners to have building facades on the same block, you’re almost guaranteed not to have a block-long dead space in any part of the district, because a variety of different uses and architecture occupy each street front.
  • By encouraging buildings with smaller footprints, building heights and proportions tend to be harder to abuse, decreasing the need to spend the time and money on the exhaustive specific zoning regarding height, mass, and proportion which tends to scare away developers. If anything should be exhaustively regulated, it’s materials and energy efficiency.
  • Multiple tenants on each block = greater density, and greater variety of uses, which means:
  • A more constant street life at all times of day, as well as greater walkability, and demand for mass transit expansion.

If anything has been proven to work in Providence, it’s the repetition of historical development patterns. There’s plenty of evidence to support that, and plenty of wiggle room for dynamic new buildings within those patterns. The 195 relocation project in and of itself reflects the fact that the city planners realize this. It just needs to be taken one step further in order to really work well here.

Read through the discussion to see more of the conversation.

The massing renderings below show several different configurations of lot sizes on the east side parcels of the 195 redevelopment area:


Large full block lots • Click image to enlarge


Small lots, some combined • Click image to enlarge


Mixed lots after development pressure • Click image to enlarge

195_iconThis is the fifth of a series of posts we will be doing about the 195 Street Grid. To view all the posts and more information, please visit our 195 Relocation Project page.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • It might be worth considering some urban design standards at more prominent frontages, such as Wickenden Street as it’s a gateway to Fox Point. As an example, there frontage could be one slender lot along the full frontage, so that there could be a single façade facing such a wide expanse of street.

    Regulating by energy efficiency makes sense, but by materials is questionable. Especially with small developers demanding the use of “appropriate” materials can add unnecessary costs. Some of the ugliest building in the world can be found constructed of brick or stucco and beautiful ones made of glass or metal. The key is good design. The reality is that in the Providence market with today’s pricing, if it’s four stories or less it will probably be wood construction with a wood façade.

    There might need to be a rear yard standard for decent light and air even for multible commercial buildings on a block. Although the Rhode Island IBC code does address window distances between buildings.

  • How about this, use the two skinny parcels on Friendship Street. Because it wasn’t claimed by any interested party, #30 would be the best candidate. The report said that #30 would have limited development opportunities without incorporating adjacent parcels on the block (buildings A + B).

    Some parking could be incorporated on #30. Between sidewalk level to elevation +16′, reserve a 64′ wide no-build zone along the back of the lot. The zone may be wider in places to compensate for the parcel irregularity. 64′ would provide double-loaded perpendicular parking and an aisle for rear building exiting. An alternate is to have one drive aisle with a single row of parking. Building columns could intrude between parking spaces. The drive aisle could be entered and exited form both Chestnut and Claverick Streets.

    Assuming a single small-parcel was 30′ wide, allowing for columns the parcel would be entitled to 6 parking spaces with the double-loaded option. An average lot depth of 90′ would provide a ground floor roughly 25′ in depth enough for a small lobby, elevator(s), and two fire stairs, but not retail. If a parcel is wider then retail is possible.

Providence, RI
5:21 am8:03 pm EDT
Feels like: 54°F
Wind: 13mph NNE
Humidity: 86%
Pressure: 30.01"Hg
UV index: 1
72°F / 52°F
79°F / 57°F
84°F / 61°F