Archive | July, 2010

Reader Submission: What is your favorite street in Providence?

Westminster Street
Westminster Street, Downcity. Photo © kd1s.

A reader wrote in to suggest this topic, what is your favorite street in Providence, and why?

I must admit, when I first read his suggestion, my mind drew a total blank. I guess I get so intent on pointing out what is wrong and what needs to be fixed mode, that sometimes it is hard to switch gears.

After some thought, the first street that came to mind was Westminster, Downcity. From the river to Snow Street the street has only two holes in the streetwall (110 Westminster Street and Grant’s Block). The economy has created some holes in the retail landscape, but it is holding in there. During the day (during the week at least) there is a healthy amount of life on the street and this is augmented by cafe tables and retailers selling merchandise on the sidewalks. The section from Dorrance to Snow is also well treed.

A comment on one of my photos on Flickr also made me think of another collection of streets I like.

Dean & Federal
Bond Street, Federal Hill. Photo by Jef Nickerson.

The alleys of Federal Hill make up a rather special urban environment; Bond Street, Pequot Street, Mountain Street, Jones Street… Living on one of these alleys, I am often confronted with the problems of them; poor to no maintenance cause massive puddles, dirt, rats (yes, they are making a comeback on the Hill), valets driving way too fast… But even though they are rough around the edges and many of the buildings on them are rundown or worse, wrapped in vinyl, they make up a unique built space.

So let us know what your favorite street(s) is in the city and why.


News & Notes

[Boston] Public food market gets $10m promise []
The Boston Public Market will be located along the Greenway in a building close to the location of the current Haymarket. The market is expected to be open in 12-18 months.

RIPTA trying to avoid reductions to bus service [ProJo]

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority is looking into avoiding service reductions by substituting a fare increase | or perhaps by fundamentally changing its fare structure to make riders pay more for longer trips.

The “Best Place” is no place at all [OnTransport]
Money Magazine’s Best Places to live have no there there.

Wooly Fair 2010 this Saturday [Wooly]

Wooly Fair is Providence’s homegrown art carnival, a vibrant spectacle that showcases the city’s creative community at its most joyful. This year’s theme is Back to Nature, and the fair’s centerpiece is the Flower Tower, a pyramid of container gardens that will be distributed after the July 31st event to hospitals, schools, and other organizations.

paris: the street is ours! [Human Transit]

It’s simple: the default setting for pedestrian signals is green, and they turn red only when your safety requires it. (In Sydney, where I currently live, the opposite rule applies. There, pedestrian signals are always red, but if you push a button and wait patiently, often for a nearly complete cycle of the signal, wondering if you’ve submitted an application to some bureaucrat who will get to it after his lunch break, you’ll finally get green for a few seconds. But don’t blink or you’ll miss it and have to start again.)


Dangerous by Design

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

In recent years a little noticed shift has been transforming suburbia: the home of the middle class has become the home of the working poor. As a result, roadways that were built for the car are now used by a growing population that can’t afford to drive. The consequences can be deadly.

Blueprint America on Need to Know from suburban Atlanta where getting to the other side of the road is nothing to take for granted.

PBS: Blueprint America


News & Notes

Preserving modernism in Boston: making the case []

Andrew Knee: Milwaukee – A Walker’s Paradise [UrbanOut]
“And the latest venture is a broad swath of land called the Park East, where a freeway was recently torn down and the street-grid was reassembled.”

Sound wall made of vegetation to be studied by ODOT as alternative to concrete wall []
I’m thinking of Route 195 in the Gano Street area.

London Opens Bike “Superhighways” [GOOD]

Worst. Intersection. Ever. [Car-Free in PVD]

Sen. Kerry docks yacht in R.I., saves on taxes [MSNBC]
Yes, the story has gone national. The Senator’s people claim the boat is in Newport for “for long-term maintenance, upkeep and charter purposes.” Whatever, I just like the headline telling rich people to come to Rhode Island for our low taxes. Bring your yachts and spend some money while your here.



Reader submitted photo

Yesterday we were getting reader reports that mature trees where being torn down at Riverview Plaza on Pitman Street (where Eastside Marketplace is located). After a bit of confusion and reports from people in the area, we received photographs from a reader showing that the trees in question were removed from the driveway nearest the Boston Sports Club building in the complex.

Screen capture from Google StreetView showing the trees before they were removed.

The trees removed were six ornamental pears, approximately 15 years old. The trees were removed by Riverview’s propery manager, KGI Properties.

According to our reader report, a spokesperson for KGI stated the trees were removed for “obstructing traffic.” I’m looking at the StreetView image and I’m just not seeing an obstruction, anyone see it? The spokesperson also stated, “the trees were interfering with lighting” and “the trees were too large.”

Seth, Amy…


Too large? Really?

Meanwhile, the contractors on scene removing the actual trees said that one of the tenants complained that their sign could not be seen from Pitman Street and that was why the trees were being removed.

Reader submitted photos

Comment from the Planning Department on this issue:

The preservation of the trees was part of the approved landscaping plan for the BSC project. Their removal is contrary to the approval and would have required an amendment to the plan by the City Plan Commission, which did not happen. Depending on what their canopy coverage figure is for the site, it might have required a zoning variance as well. These are not street trees, so the city tree ordinance does not apply regarding tree caliper replacement. However, it’s clear that they’ve violated at least the commission’s regulations, and perhaps the zoning ordinance. Some mitigation is going to be required. I expect that we’ll be seeking replacement of the tree canopy lost, with a factor that considers the maturity of the trees. I have traded phone messages with Karen Bodell, and will speak with her on Monday about how to proceed. I’m personally disappointed that these mature trees were taken down, and will do my best to ensure that this condition is corrected.

Tweet from the Planning Department:

We’ve notified KGI Properties of the improper removal of trees at Riverview Place. Meeting this week to reach a resolution.less than a minute ago via web


Great Day for Community Boating

Picture from 2009's Regatta, despite the rain. This year: SUN!

It’s been 3 years since the CBC saw a sunny forecast for the annual Renaissance Regatta, but today looks like a lucky day.

Every year, the CBC tries to raise money to pay for its youth outreach and program initiatives by holding a regatta event. Companies, organizations, and individuals are invited to sponsor a team of sailors to compete in a series of sailing races during the day. Additionally, items are donated to CBC for a silent auction, and the public is invited to come cheer on the racers, participate in the auction, and go for a sailboat ride.

The event is TODAY and open to all. Tickets will be available at the door (discount for CBC members). Check out the CBC website or facebook page for more information.

See you there!


GC: Photos

Photo © e_pics

This guerilla bus stop sits outside the Map Center on North Main. The Map Center blogged about it back in April. No one seems to know where it came from and no one seems to be in any hurry to remove it.

Photo (cc) provbenson2009

Seekonk river
Photo (cc) provbenson2009

Photo © SecondEmpire

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


The New New Parkade

The Parkade. Photo by Jef Nickerson

I hate it when bloggers say this, and I do it all the time, but seriously, I really did hear about this the other day. Whatever though, PBN is first to the interwebs with it.

But PBN is behind a paywall, so here’s the scoop. Cornish Associates has purchased the Parkade Garage on Washington Street. Cornish of course has been responsible for much of the redevelopment on Westminster Street including the Peerless Lofts. Cornish plans to renovate the garage and keep it open for public parking as well as leasing spaces to some area businesses.

The garage is one of the properties that the Providence Journal’s parent company has been trying to sell in Providence.

There’s two things that could end up being quite interesting in relation to this property. First up is Cornish’s long term plans of putting retail in the ground floor along Washington Street (something that I dream about every time I walk by). Currently there is a small office/retail space at the Union Street corner of the garage. This was most recently occupied by Groundwork Providence, but has sat vacant for several years since the Journal ended Groundwork’s lease.

Most of the street level facade along Washington Street is well suited to fill in with usable retail space. There are no ramps in the way, the ceilings are high, it is on a busy street, and obviously, parking won’t be an issue.

The other potential development here is the Biltmore’s plan to move their driveway from Dorrance Street, to the ‘back’ of the building on Eddy Street, across from the garage.

Continue Reading →


RFP for new trolley shelter at Roger Williams Park Zoo

Photo of new baby giraffe at Roger Williams Park Zoo from the Zoo’s Facebook page.

RIPTA and the Roger Williams Park Zoo have teamed up to release an RFP for a new trolley shelter at the Zoo:

Roger Williams Park Zoo is partnering with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority to create a unique and original bus shelter design to be located at the Zoo entrance.

The Bus Shelter Project will enhance the experience of those traveling to and from the Zoo by providing seating and shelter from the weather while introducing unique design elements to the streetscape environment.

  • Access the full RFP online [.pdf]; see pages 79-81 for the scope of work.
  • Deadline to submit proposals: August 5, 2010.
  • Contact Brooks Almonte with questions about this opportunity.

“But wait! There’s no trolley to the Zoo!” you say.

From the RFP:

In 2011, the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) will begin serving the Zoo entrance with a new fleet of trolleys. The trolley route will connect downtown Providence to the zoo via the hospital district and the south side neighborhood. Roger Williams Park Zoo is partnering with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority to create a unique and original bus shelter design to be located at the Zoo entrance. The intent of this project is to create a favorite piece of art while enhancing the experience of the transit user. It is expected that the design of this shelter will make it a showpiece for the Zoo, for RIPTA, and for the state of Rhode Island.

Yes, this is news to me too, but I love it, and have asked RIPTA for some more info on it, which I will post when I recieve it.

In fact I love it so much, I direct you to this comment I made on another post where I drew a route for a potential Zoo Shuttle. Not saying anyone stole my idea (in fact I talked to some people at RIPTA after drawing that, and they said they were trying to make something like it happen (so I guess this isn’t really the first I’m hearing of it)), just saying it is an idea I really like.


City Plan Commission Meeting (July 20)


TUESDAY, JULY 20, 2010 – 4:45 PM
Department of Planning and Development, 4th Floor Auditorium
400 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903


Call to Order
Roll Call
Approval of meeting minutes from June 15th 2010- for action


1. Referral 3330 – Petition to amend the Zoning Ordinance to permit
outdoor seating in the D-1 Zone

Petition to permit outdoor seating in the D-1 Zone regardless of whether seating is provided indoors. – for action. (Downcity)

The D-1 Zone is:

D-1 Downtown|Central Business District. This zone is intended to encourage revitalization and restoration of the historic core business area and to accommodate appropriate expansion of the downtown area. A variety of business, financial, institutional, public, quasi-public, cultural, residential, and other related uses are encouraged in the downtown area. Compatible and appropriate mixed uses are encouraged to promote commercial, retail and other business activity at street levels; residential, retail, and office uses on the upper floors; and to preserve and foster the economic vitality of the downtown. See Downcity District overlay zone for additional regulations.

Agenda continued:

2. Referral 3331 – Petition to rezone Lots 520, 159, 158, 539 and 540 on Asessor’s Plat 28 from R-3 to C-1
The applicant wishes to rezone the aforementioned lots commonly known as 386
Atwells Avenue
, 388-390 Atwells Avenue, 4-6 Hewett Street and 8-10 Hewett Street from R-3 to C-1. – for action. (Federal Hill)


Agenda [.pdf]

The R-3 Zone is:

R-3 Three-Family District. This zone is intended for medium and low density residential areas comprised of structures containing single-family dwelling units, two-family dwelling units and three-family dwelling units located on lots with a minimum land area of five thousand (5,000) square feet and a minimum land area of two thousand (2,000) square feet per dwelling unit.

The C-1 Zone is:

C-1 Limited Commercial District. This zone is intended for neighborhood commercial/residential areas that primarily serve local neighborhood needs for convenience retail, services and professional office establishments.

In theory, commercial development on Hewett Street is not a bad idea, but it would certainly be nice to know what the plan was before approving the zoning change. I guess I’ll be attending this meeting.


News & Notes

Providence office vacancy rates rise [Providence Business News]
Blue Cross move to new HQ opens up space downtown

Providence Restaurant Weeks [GoProvidence]

Safe passing in RI: Frank’s Law [Car-Free in PVD]

FAA chooses runway plan for Green [ProJo]

Subway on the Street [New York Magazine]
The MTA has a simple, not very expensive ticket for improving how the city gets around: Revolutionize the bus. But can even the most sensible ideas get implemented these days?


RIPTA gets $700k in federal funds for new bus hubs

sub hubsThe Federal Transportation Administration announced who is receiving $290 million in TIGER funds for “Urban Circulator/Bus and Bus Livability Projects.” Rhode Island is among the recipients with $700,000 going to RIPTA to develop bus hubs outside the Downcity core.

The Sub-hubs, as we’ve been calling them here, are a recommendation of the Metro Transit Study.

With new smaller hubs, taking the bus will take less time. Extending RIPTA bus routes beyond the primary downtown destination of Kennedy Plaza to other hubs just outside of downtown will eliminate the need for many passengers to transfer to reach their final destinations. In this plan, RIPTA will develop new hub locations in the West Side, College Hill, Capitol Hill and the Hospital District areas. These will attract riders because trips will be more convenient, accessible, and highly visible in new key locations. Additionally, dispers- ing waiting buses to these new hubs will help the reinvention of Kennedy Plaza by decreasing its congestion.

The Metro Transit Study estimates that it will cost $5,454,000 to complete all hubs, located on the West Side, College Hill, Providence Station, and near the hospitals. However Phase 1, which includes bare-bones amenities at the West Side and College Hill Sub-hubs and through-routing of buses to these hubs is estimated to cost just $200,000.

RIPTA will begin Phase 1 by continuing to develop the first such hub located on Cahir Street on the West Side of Providence near three Providence High Schools. This hub will include amenities such as new bus shelters, map and schedule information, bike racks, and in the long term real-time arrival information, public art to relate it to its local neighborhood, and new branding of bus service. Phase 1 will also include extending the 49, 52 and 90 routes to the West Side and providing a similar hub on College Hill as part of the extension of routes 55 and 66.

The real-time arrival information is part of RIPTA’s Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) which will allow RIPTA to feed information about where buses are to bus stops, mobile devices and more. The ITS is currently under development.

Of course all of this will be for naught if the state does not do something to address RIPTA’s funding problems.

Graphic: Kennedy Plaza and the four proposed “Sub-Hubs.”