Greater City Providence

A note about 175 Broad Street

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For the past several (at least) months a Land Development Project at 175 Broad Street has been on the agenda for the City Plan Commission.

2. 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 September 15, 2009.

I haven’t been able to make the meetings and haven’t written about this proposal here. I have heard around town that the proposal was for a CVS (perhaps with a drive-thru). Month after month this proposal has been continued at CPC meetings. I finally made it to last night’s CPC Meeting where this proposal was again on the agenda. Last night, the developer withdrew the proposal. So, for now at least, 175 Broad Street will not be redeveloped, and happily won’t be seeing a CVS drive-thru.

A small scale retail building, especially with a drive-thru is not the best use for this parcel. The parcel sits on Broad Street across from Crossroads RI and between the Classical High School fields and the Service Road (along Cahir Street). As the Metro Transit Study proposes to build a bus transit sub-hub on Cahir Street, that proposal should drive what is developed at the 175 Broad Street site.

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This area of Broad Street is currently hurting pretty bad, with many buildings boarded up, large surface lots along Stewart Street, and auto-oriented development southward on Broad Street. The lack of residents and business in the area reduces the eyes on the streets. Currently, Crossroads dominates as one of the only occupied buildings in the area. Unfortunately the sometimes unsavory activity associated with Crossroads, is amplified by the fact that there is a dearth of other residents and businesses in the area.

With it’s proximity to Downcity, excellent (and soon hopefully even more excellent) transportation options, and the employment center at the hospitals just to the south, this area is primed for mixed income affordable and workforce housing.

The 175 Broad Street site would be best served by a larger scale building with mixed income housing and neighborhood retail on the ground floor. RIPTA services for the sub-hub and perhaps a police substation could also be housed in the ground floor. The Service Road face of the building should also be built to the street to begin to integrate the Service Road into the city, making it a city street instead of the traffic sewer it currently is. This site, or other large surface lots nearby could also support needed neighborhood services such as a grocery store, drawing people from Upper South Providence, the West Side, and the Cathedral Square area. Smart redevelopment of this site and other un/under-utilized sites in the area will help knit South Providence back into the Downcity and provide a connection between the nascent retail area on Westminster Street (at Cahir/Dean) and Trinity Square.

As the gateway to South Providence, and considering the current state of the area, the city should focus on how to redevelop this area to serve the low and middle income residents of the city. It should not be left to rot and turned over to such poor uses as drive-thru pharmacies. Happily, this is the direction the current neighbor plan is going. We must ensure the neighborhood plan happens and that poor proposals are not allowed to take root and derail that vision.

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.


  • Make it the transit hub. Why the hell not, it makes perfect sense. And I don’t really consider that area upper south side. It’s more downtown than anything.

  • Deck over I-95 from Broad to Atwells. Reconnect Westminster St. (Does anything ever happen at McVinney Auditorium?) Now there is room for a transit hub connecting routes from downtown to Atwells, Broadway, Westminster, and Broad St. Maybe a garage too.

    To improve quality of life for everybody, especially the southside, 175 Broad is a fine site for not just a grocery store but a fabulous public market like this

    Siting the public market at the transit hub makes it easy for transit riders to pick up fresh goodies for dinner on the way home, a great, overlooked motive to alter commuting habits.

  • Decking over the 95 canyon would be challenging. Any garage or large-scale development would require difficult and expensive transfers. Relocating all intercity buses to a downtown-west bus/transit facility would take pressure off of Kennedy Plaza and offer more convenient connections for intercity bus travelers to downtown.

    If the McVinny auditorium is under used, it would be easier to demolish than the seven story office building and underground garage that blocks the old Weybosset Street right-of-way. The elimination of Weybosset Street between Broad and Westminster Streets with I. M. Pei’s master plan was probably the most destructive part of his design on the city.