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Timber!


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…

REALLY!?

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

Update:
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.

Update:
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

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35 Responses to Timber!

  1. Eric July 23, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    My stomach fills with bile. The property manager can be reached at 401.273.8600. Her name is Karen Bodell.

  2. Peter Brassard July 23, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Besides calling the property manager, a boycott should be organized against all the stores in the strip and calls should be made to individual store managers to let them know why.

  3. jen coleslaw July 23, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    Complain to the city too. Mayor’s office of Neighborhood Services, Council Member for Ward 2, the Planning Department and the City Forester. Ask whether the property will be required to replant.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if there was some kind of permission for this, btw. Seems like Providence is losing a lot of mature trees this summer.

  4. Coryndon Luxmoore July 23, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    Rode by there yesterday at noon at it was gone and I didn’t even notice it. The street view pics do show some nice well planted trees.

    I would note there is only one store who sign is at all obstructed by those trees and that is the gym. That said I would suggest asking the merchants why the trees came down prior to any boycott as several of the stores are local institutions.

    Finally I would also note the landlord could have responded to the signage issue by looking at upgrading the current sign for riverview plaza with the tenants in the plaza. I would bet that was not the cheaper of the two options.

  5. Jen Coleslaw July 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    If they didn’t have permission to take down such large trees (and it certainly is possible that they had permission) then they will be fined based on the size of the trees and will be required to replant.

    When the BSC was being proposed as part of the master plan for the second phase of this project, they wanted to take the trees down. I am not sure that it was required that they keep them. If they got permission years ago to take them down, I don’t know whether there’s a statute of limitations on how long they have to exercise that right.

    But, saying that the trees block the sign is bullshit because the trees were there BEFORE the BSC and most stores save ESM, Bank RI and the one or two stores between them, so the sign could have been situated in a different place in order for the trees NOT to block. And frankly I don’t give a rat’s ass if it was more expensive to get a new sign.

    Permission or not, whomever made the call on taking down these trees is a big fat jerk and there’s no two ways around that.

  6. brick July 23, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

    You know, I was thinking the other day.

    Here I am driving down Pitman St. on my way and I am already angry because there is this neighborhood instead of a superhighway to East Providence. I mean, wtf? right? Am I right?

    OK so I am driving and I’m all like. Wow, I really wish there was a gym I could sign up for around here. I mean, you know, there is all that junk mail I get from this place called Boston Sports Club but I could never figure out where it was.

    Thank Jeebus my own personal nightmare has ended now that I have a clear view.

  7. Jef Nickerson July 23, 2010 at 1:25 pm #

    Well, now that the trees aren’t blocking the signs, someone was able to notice that there was a BankRI in the plaza and rob the place.

  8. jen coleslaw July 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    Well, there goes my theory that robbers hide behind trees.

  9. brick July 23, 2010 at 1:56 pm #

    No, jen, it is the drug dealers that hide behind trees. Obviously this guy needed to step up to robbery once that livelihood was taken away.

  10. Jim July 23, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    I find it funny that this was allowed (or maybe not allowed) to happen when the mayor has a plan to increase the number of trees. Of course I don’t trust anything that little weasel says anymore.

  11. Peter Brassard July 23, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    Looking at the photos it appears that the trees are less than 8 feet from the curb. Were the trees on city property meaning on a city street? Is the grassy area where the trees were located part of the street right-of-way that’s allocated for a sidewalk?

    A number of years ago a row of mature trees were cut down along the entire length of the south side of Silver Spring Street. The motive may have been the same, however, those trees were clearly on private property. Since then new small trees have been re-planted in only about half of the frontage.

    Has anyone contacted the Mayor’s office and if so what was the response?

  12. Jef Nickerson July 23, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    The street here is the driveway of the plaza, I believe it is all private property.

  13. Peter Brassard July 23, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    You’re right the Butler Avenue side of the development is a city street. Even still there is a city tree ordinance that applies to private property.

  14. Tim July 23, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

    Just called Karen Bodell & left VM to complain. I’ve been shopping at Eastside Market for 12 years, and I loved that there were some trees there. No more, I guess.

  15. RJ July 23, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

    This is really sad. I had always admired the plaza specifically because of the trees and other shrubs around the parking areas.
    I belong to BSC and will be very upset if they were the cause of this.

  16. Jef Nickerson July 23, 2010 at 10:04 pm #

    I contacted Bob Azar at the Planning Department and asked him for an on the record statement on this issue, here is what he said:

    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.

  17. Jef Nickerson July 23, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    I also just want to point out, that we do not know for sure, we can say it is “speculation” on the part of the crew that removed the trees, that any tenant in the Riverside Plaza requested the removal of the trees.

    While it seems likely that that indeed was the reason for the removal, it is too soon to launch a boycott against any tenants or in any way penalize any tenants ahead of determining what the reason for the removal was.

    It is however completely appropriate for customers of the tenants in the plaza to inquire about the trees and make known their displeasure about their removal. I would encourage any paying customers of the businesses in the plaza to make those businesses fully aware of how they feel about this action.

  18. Pupdadco July 23, 2010 at 11:34 pm #

    This is crap..any news stations or ProJo that would be interested in a “news tip”? This is the kind of stuff news hounds like…

  19. jen coleslaw July 24, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    Thanks to Jef for getting Bob Azar to weigh in and thanks to Bob for giving us the straight scoop on those trees. I hope they get a huge fine, a requirement to plant 3 times as many trees (bigger trees too, like Elms or Oaks or Locusts) and a VERY sternly worded letter from the Mayor’s office about the violation. I have never run across any study that says people would rather shop in a denuded parking lot than one that has trees in it. What are these people thinking?

    In the big scheme of things, it might seem like 6 trees in a parking lot is not such a big deal but it really is. When things are looking grim (economy, housing, jobs) we need to hold on to the little things, the trees in the park, historic buildings, community gardens, neighborhood schools, library entrances and even the trees in the parking lot, until things get better-all these things that help us feel better and allow us to limp on until better times. It is such a blow to have these trees taken down–I can feel it almost 500 miles away.

    I hope someone goes out there today and puts up a little shrine/memorial to really hammer home the fact that this is a big loss.

  20. liriodendron July 24, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    The bad news is that six trees were cut down.

    The good news is that they were short-lived, decorative, flower balls known as callery pears – and not oak, beech, …

    I agree with Jen, let’s get some REAL TREES now.

  21. Jef Nickerson July 24, 2010 at 11:23 am #

    When I first was told trees were being torn down there I was terrified that it was the large trees along the street (between Pitman and the Rite-Aid). I agree that any loss is unacceptable, but I was mightily relieved when I learned it was these smaller trees in the parking lot, and not the massive ones on the street.

  22. Andrew July 24, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    While it is sad to see the trees go, these were, as mentioned, young flowering trees. Besides, maybe its good they’re gone:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/06/opinion/06ogren.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=male%20trees%20pollen&st=cse

    …as long as they’re replaced by something more worthwhile.

  23. John McDermott July 25, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    omg you tree huggers are so annoying. A couple of trees being taken down is not the end of the world. Dont you have something better to do with your lives ?

  24. Mike T July 25, 2010 at 11:51 pm #

    The trees (SIX not two) weren’t that young — 15+ years, 20 ft high or more. They were the largest within the shopping plaza, and frankly the only nice feature in the plaza.

    Only a complete imbecile would order trees such as these cut down, particularly with such sketchy reasons (& not to mention illegally). Get this woman (K.B.) fired! Evidently she doesn’t answer to anyone in the local office, but a superior named Lori Madeiros in Woburn can be reached at 781-935-2698.

    It’s true we don’t know for a fact that it was a business in the plaza which initiated the action. But if so the likely culprit is not BSC which vehemently denies involvement but… Luminous spa next door. (Never heard of it? Dang trees!)

    Now, this is just a wild rumor, but a neighbor claims the spa’s owners have a checkered past in the City, moving from location to location & not paying bills. Anyone know how to verify or deny such a thing?

  25. Marc Doughty July 26, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    “Providence is losing a lot of mature trees this summer.”

    Now THAT’S Change You Can Believe In!

    Based on our history of spending federal ARRA money on useless makework, I wouldn’t be surprised.

    I recently discovered that the fire hydrant in front of my house has a fresh coat of paint. Sure the sidewalk still floods when it rains, the road needs to be stripped an repaved, and the storm drains shoveled-out, but my fire hydrant is a beacon of yellow freshness.

  26. Gail July 26, 2010 at 4:13 pm #

    The trees were no doubt removed because of complaints to the owner’s of the property by the merchants. Why blame the manager of the property whom I assume was doing her job. I really get a kick out of the environmentalists who are so quick to pin point the blame. Petition the company who leases the property to plant more trees and get on with your lives……..

  27. Jen Coleslaw July 26, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    Really? Not blame the person who made the decision, the one who is paid to make decisions? Not blame the one who violated the master plan of this property? I mean, sure, there’s plenty of blame to go around between the property manager, the owner and the businesses.

    Gail and John, next time we have a flood and your basement is full of water, just remember that trees and grassy strips that trees live in do a better job of keeping water out of your cellar than asphalt and cement do.

    Or if you wonder why it is so much hotter in the city than almost anywhere else in RI.

    So while the environmentalists might be whiny and want the trees that were planted there to stay there, but there are actual reasons, actual scientific EVIDENCE that trees are good for the air we breathe, and the water we play in, and drink.

    And many studies suggest that trees also add value to your property, and make it more likely that people will shop at your store and less likely that crimes will be committed in treed areas.

    Those things might not mean anything to you guys, but for those who wish better things for Providence than the heat island effect, ozone alert days, dirty stormwater run off and 100 year floods happening every year, they are kind of important.

  28. brick July 26, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    The term tree-hugging is usually applied in the case where someone thinks a tree is more worthwhile than something else.

    So your stupid insult means you probably think that there was something else more worthwhile. Would you care to elucidate? Because, the plaza was already there, the buildings were already built, the entrance/egress isn’t changing, etc. What benefit do you think there is to the trees coming down? Or do you just think “hey someone wanted it, it must have a benefit.” Of this assumption all I can say is that you are probably not very smart.

  29. Jef Nickerson July 27, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    The Planning Department just Tweeted:

    We’ve notified KGI Properties of the improper removal of trees at Riverview Place. Meeting this week to reach a resolution.

  30. Mike T July 27, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    Excellent! Thanks for the update.

  31. Emily July 29, 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    I usually mourn the loss of a tree but in this case I’d like to point out that these ornamental pear trees are a huge irritant to allergy sufferers when in bloom. Because of their popular use in commercial landscaping male ornamentals are part of the reason more and more people suffer from allergies. I’d like to see Riverview use this opportunity to plant something more beautiful, inspired and native.

  32. Jef Nickerson August 3, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    Latest from the Planning Department on this issue:

    In response to your inquiry, yesterday City Forester Doug Still and I had a productive meeting on site with the property managers. We discussed options for replacing the trees that were removed. They’ve agreed in principle to replace the canopy lost, but we don’t have an official proposal yet. I expect it will be coming soon. In any event, Doug said that any tree planting shouldn’t happen sooner than the fall so that the trees have a fighting chance.

  33. jencoleslaw August 3, 2010 at 9:17 pm #

    “agreed in principle?” What does that mean? They were caught taking down trees that they were told they couldn’t take down. How was there any wiggle room for anything other than a fine and a contract to replace the trees?

  34. Bret Ancowitz August 3, 2010 at 11:50 pm #

    Part of the disgusting aspect of some recent proposals (this and the previous United Way Building conversion to drive-through-CVS that didn’t happen in Wayland Square) is that there have been and are local actors involved who have been upstanding local citizens who should know better…

    My guess is the flower store owners would mouth what the United Way folks (who had previously told the neighborhood they wouldn’t sell to a drug store) did previously: “We said WE wouldn’t sell to a place proposing a drive through, but we can’t control what OTHER new owners we sold to might do…”

    Money is a powerful shaper of values…

  35. Andrew October 14, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    Don’t know when it happened, but there are newly planted trees in place of the older ones now.

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