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Archive | October, 2010

Pedestrian Bridge designs to be unveiled November 3rd

Providence River looking south
Photo (cc) atvance

Pedestrian River Bridge Designs to be Displayed at Providence City Hall

Public invited to view the designs of 11 finalists and provide feedback at a reception at Providence City Hall on November 3rd

PROVIDENCE – The Public will have an opportunity to view the proposed bridge designs of 11 finalists competing in the Providence Pedestrian River Bridge Design Competition at a special reception on Wednesday, November 3rd from 5pm until 7pm at Providence City Hall.

The new bridge will link pedestrians and cyclists from Fox Point and College Hill to the City’s new waterfront parks, the Knowledge District and downtown. Mayor David N. Cicilline kicked off a design competition in September and invited firms to play an important role in shaping the future of Providence’s waterfront.

The Pedestrian River Bridge Design Selection Committee, comprised of local architects, neighborhood residents, representatives from local universities, business owners, RIDOT and the City, chose the following 11 finalists from a pool of 47 firms from around the world:

  • !melk/Balmond Studio/Robert Silman Associates (New York, NY)
  • Endres Ware (Berkeley, CA)
  • H2L2/Arup (Philadelphia, PA)
  • inFORM studio/Buro Happold (New York, NY)
  • La Dallman Architects (Milwaukee, WI)
  • McDowell + Benedetti Architects LLP (London, England)
  • RFR (Paris, France)
  • Rosales + Partners/Schlaich Bergermann and Partner (Boston, MA)
  • Studio Providence, LLC (Providence, RI)
  • William D. Warner Architects and Planners, Ltd. (Exeter, RI)
  • WXY architecture + urban design (New York, NY)

The 11 designs will remain on display on the third floor of Providence City Hall throughout the month of November and can also be viewed online at Flickr beginning Thursday, November 4th. The public is invited to provide written feedback on the designs online at the November 3rd reception as well as online at Flickr. The public’s feedback will be taken into consideration by the selection committee as part of its deliberations.

The wining design, which will be used by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to construct the new pedestrian bridge, will be announced the last week in November. The pedestrian bridge is slated for completion in 2013.

City News

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News & Notes

→ Public access to S.F. bay tied to private projects [SFGate]

“The public-private seam is a delicate one,” APA chief executive officer Paul Farmer mused before the award ceremony here last Wednesday. “There are tricky things involved – how do you negotiate access with a developer? How do you make public access feel truly public? When it’s done well, that’s something to recognize.”

→ Americans not hitting their walking stride [Yahoo! News]

Adults in western Australia average 9,695 steps a day. The Swiss followed with 9,650, while the Japanese clocked in with 7,168 steps. But Americans straggled far behind with just 5,117 steps.

He attributes the more active lifestyle of adults in other countries to their greater access to mass transit

The drive-not-walk mentality has dismal consequences. In the United States, 34 percent of adults are obese. During the past decade Australia, Japan and Switzerland have reported obesity rates of 16 percent, 3 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Now I want to get a pedometer so I can see how I compare.

→ Plan to reduce sprawl will boost health, environment [The Washington Post]

Oil dependency, climate change and health-care costs are but three of a growing list of ills, rapidly becoming crises, that give us reason to look again at how we build our communities and what policy can do about it.

The article’s authors are Andres Duany, known in Providence for hosting a Downcity charrette several years back, and his co-author of the book Suburban Nation, Jeff Speck.

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Annual Halloween Iron Pour at the Steel Yard – October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween friends! This is our favorite time of year! Join the Iron Guild for Molten Metal Mayhem at our Annual Halloween Iron Pour!

HOWL

Friday, October 29th
Rain Date – Saturday, October 30th
Doors at 6:00 pm
Pour starts at 7:00 pm
27 Sims Avenue, Providence, RI 02909

Our annual Iron Pour is a luminous spectacle in celebration of the fall season here in Providence. Each year, the Iron Guild teams up with the Steel Yard to demonstrate the industrial arts in an exciting, accessible way. This year’s performance promises to be in keeping with the dramatic displays of the past with the show titled “HOWL”.

Our incredible displays of molten metal in the past have included: liquid iron being poured into a huge, hand-carved wooden skull and casting the insides of pumpkins while a giant steel one was brought to life. Like those of the past, the 2010 Iron Pour is sure to be a sight to see during this Halloween weekend.

The celebration will be a family-friendly event featuring food and drink vendors from the Providence Juice Company truck and more. A live soundtrack is provided by the Empty House Cooperative, and there’s even a chance to buy handmade art pieces at the Steel Yard’s ceramics cooperative bowl sale.

For those who have never visited the Steel Yard before, this event is a great opportunity to explore some recent environmental renovations made possible by government grants and generous donations from local businesses and private sources.

Sponsored by: Cumberland Foundry
Refreshments provided by: Providence Juice Company
Check it out on: Facebook

Hope to see you there!!

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All at once, or slow and steady. How to develop the Route 195 land?


Rendering by Kohn Pedersen Fox via The Architect’s Newspaper

Seemingly (and perhaps literally) since before I was born, Boston has been attempting to redevelop the area across Fort Point Channel from downtown. The Fan Pier area and what is now being called, Seaport Square. Over the decades plan after plan has been proposed and approved only to fall through.

To be sure, some development has indeed happened in the Seaport District, the new Convention Center, associated hotels, office buildings, the new home of the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Federal Court House at Fan Pier, and more have all been developed in the last 20 years. And the city still persists in trying to get some large scale masterplan off the ground for the largest parcels that sit between the city’s core and the nascent development that has occurrured more organically so far.

Boston’s Mayor Menino is billing the Seaport District as an “innovation district,” just as Mayor Cicilline is proposing a “knowledge district” on our city’s Route 195 land and through the Jewelry District. The Seaport District is also touted as being a nationally unique opportunity for the redevelopment of so much land so close to an existing urban core, sound familiar?

The Architect’s Newspaper reports on the approval of the latest masterplan, the $3 billion, 23-acre, 20 block, 22 building, 6.3 million square foot Seaport Square project.

Though no architects have been chosen yet, the first phase is slated to start in late 2011 with apartment buildings and an Innovation Center incubator. The Master Plan approach has allowed the city to look at the neighborhood holistically and decide what ingredients were important, such as pedestrian connections and open space. But as anyone who knows Boston will remind you, we’ve been here before, many times over the last quarter century.

While the plan’s approval is encouraging, city officials are wary of getting left with acres of vacant sites should the development stall out. Indeed, Boston Global Investors CEO John Hynes III played a lead role in a condo and office tower on the site of the former Filene’s department store in nearby Downtown Crossing—a project that notoriously stalled after demolition and excavation in 2008. According to BRA director John Palmieri, the authority has since made final approval of developments contingent on a confidential review of project financing.

Though I’m not painting a pretty picture of the masterplanned approach, that is the question for discussion here. With our economy still possibly years from solid recovery, should we spend that recovery period working on a masterplan for the Route 195 land, or do we want a more organic approach, as each parcel is developed, we review it individually, and figure out how best to fit it into what has been developed prior?

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Coastway Community Bank on Washington Street


Rendering by Saccoccio & Associates Architects

Back in March Coastway Community Bank first appeared before the DRC to seek permission to renovate the old Washington trust location on Washington Street and move from their Greene Street location. I saw some renderings around that time, Coastway was back at DRC that April, then I heard nothing about it and had pretty much forgotten about it.

Well, this week work started up on the project.


Photo by Jef Nickerson

As you can see, they are doing a pretty major gut job on the building, but my understanding is that what you see in the rendering above will be built within the hollowed out shell of the existing building, so not a total demo. To recall what the building looked like, here’s a photo from late 2008 just after Washington Trust moved out.

Old Washington Trust Bank

It is so long ago that I saw that first rendering that I can’t really recall if this is changed at all from their original vision (I want to say it is). Either way, I think this is an improvement on the existing building for sure and have no problem with it. It’s not knocking my sox off, but I like it.

The building with more glass is more urban-friendly. Really, in an urban building, you want a lot of glass on the ground floor (DRC actually has rules about the amount of glass needed on new construction). The glass let’s the light and activity inside the building translate to the street and help animate and light the street.

Now of course we’re talking about a bank here, so the animation will end with bankers hours and will likely be nonexistent most of the weekend. But we can probably safely assume that there will be some lighting at night, both inside and likely on the facade, so it will at least alleviate the dark hole which is the current building.

It is also nice to see landscaping of the parking lot adjacent to the building. That particular arrangement of trees and shrubs could just be the renderist* making the drawing look pretty, but there is a landscape architect (Gates, Leighton & Associates, Inc.) listed on the sign outside the building, so I assume there is some green going in there (and knowing several members of the DRC, I assume that was something they insisted on).

So another bank, ho-hum, but an improvement to the streetscape and another vacant building put to use, I’ll let myself be satisfied with that.

*Did I make up renderist as a job title, or is that an actual thing? One who draws renderings?

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Werewolf 5k (Oct. 23)

Run the Werewolf 5k!




Image from Wooly Productions

Full Moon, 3pm, Sat Oct 23, Sims Ave, Providence
Dress as a werewolf or a pursuing villager!
Villagers, please bring a pitchfork or broom. (plastic or rubber preferred)
Werewolves, please bring a chicken or cat. (no live animals please)
Registration


View Werewolf 5k route in a larger map

FAQs



Is there a fee?
Yes, $5, to cover our costs

Wasn’t last year free?
Yes, but this year it’s actually a sanctioned race with a motorcycle cop and insurance and cups for water.

Oh, so now you’re mister big time?
I didn’t say that, I just said–

Nevermind, what are the rules?
There are two teams, one made up of werewolves and one made up of angry villagers. The werewolves each hold a chicken or a cat that they’ve stolen from the villagers. The werewolves get a 30-second head start and on the villagers. If a villager catches a werewolf, the villager gets the werewolf’s chicken and a 30 second bonus added to his or her time.

All right, whatever you say, what’s the route?
We start on Sims, take a left onto Harris, run down Harris, take a left up Park st. up with the Mall on your right, take a right on Smith st, take a right on Gaspee, continue onto Hayes (you’ve just taken a loop around the capitol), then take a left on Park and backtrack to the finish line.

Is this a measured 5K?
No.

Why not?
Look, it’s hard enough just getting these werewolves to follow one route through the–

Nevermind, what are the prizes?
Fruitbaskets for male and female top claw. Good clap on the back for everyone else.

Sweet, I’ll be there, got any fake blood?

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News & Notes

→ SFGate: Footbridge an elegant new icon in East Bay

The 600-foot-long arc not only eases the way for pedestrians and bicyclists, it also sends a message naysayers choose to ignore: our society should aim to produce civic works on par with cherished landmarks from the New Deal or the Carnegie libraries of the generation before that.

This larger cultural role is what civic infrastructure can achieve when built with ambition and the long-term view. Contra Costa’s Redevelopment Agency deserves credit for pulling together the funding from county, state and federal sources.

The word “icon” is used far too often in architectural hype. But at its own modest scale, Robert I. Schroder Overcrossing shows what an icon can be. You don’t expect to see it; once you do, you’re glad it’s there. And you look forward to seeing and experiencing it again.


→ American Planning Association: 10 Best Public Spaces of 2010

Maybe someday Kennedy Plaza will make the list.


→ The Gondola Project at Creative Urban Projects: Rio to Open Urban Gondola System This Year

Peter Brassard touched upon aerial trams, or gondollas, in his recent post and here is another urban system to add to the list in Brazil. As Rio prepares to host the Olympics in 2016(?) this is one of the infrastructure projects they have been working on.

In this article I even learned a new term, CPT meaning Cable Propelled Transit system. Add that to the lexicon of BRT, LRT, TOD, and other transit acronyms.


→ Lincoln Institute of Land Policy: Public Space Project and Shared Space-Harvard Square-Woonerf Streets

But in Europe, designers are taking it a step further – removing traffic signals and signage altogether, relying on the human ability to adapt and communicate with other drivers and pedestrians by entering an intersection or traveling down a street and figuring it all out. It’s a counter-intuitive notion to be sure, based in the Dutch concept of the “woonerf,” a street that eliminates the strict separation of uses and instead invites a civil set of ad-hoc rules and eye contact. Woonerfs are all around us – the valet area in front of a hotel, or the parking lot in front of Target. Everybody slows down because there is an obvious mix of parking and getting out of cars and moving around on foot.

I mention woonerfs here from time to time and at some point really should devote an entire post to the concept, but until I get around to it, this post is a really good introduction to the concept.

A woonerf plaza outside City Hall is included in the Vision For Kennedy Plaza and I often walk down the alley I live on on Federal Hill and imagine it transformed into a shared space. Let’s try to introduce “woonerf” into the Providence lexicon.


→ Market Urbanism “Urbanism for Capitalists/Capitalism for Urbanists”: The inanity of airport connectors

The airport connector is a special beast of a rail-based transit system that’s a relatively recent phenomenon outside of transit-dense regions like Western Europe and Japan. So manifestly wasteful that it generates more animosity towards mass transit than it does riders, it’s a project that only politicians and unions could love. Unlike more integrated networks where the airport is just one station on an otherwise viable route (like Philadelphia’s Airport Line or DC’s proposed Silver Line), airport connectors generally serve only the airport and one local hub. With no purpose other than to get people in and out of the airport, they provide neither ancillary transit benefits nor TOD opportunities. Oftentimes they don’t even reach downtown, acting instead like glorified park-and-rides.

Luckily our connector is one stop on a line that runs from Boston and eventually past the airport onto Wickford Junction and maybe Westerly, New London, who knows… It is one of the good ones…

[...] with the Rhode Island DOT recently reaching a deal on its $267 million “Interlink” project, which entails building a station at the airport on an existing line, along with a commuter parking garage and a rental car facility. The station is only expected to see six trains a day initially, which is probably for the best since Providence’s T.F. Green Airport isn’t exactly O’Hare. No word on whether any additional density is being allowed around the new station, but something tells me the answer is no.

Sigh. The City of Warwick established the Warwick Station Redevelopment Agency years ago to guide development in the “Metro Center” area around the station. RIPTA is keen on transforming bus services in Kent County to focus transportation on the new station, making it a transit hub not just for air and rail, but for buses, further fueling the transit oriented development potential of the station area.

Yup, T.F. Green is not O’Hare, for that matter neither is Logan or BWI or LaGuardia or JFK or LAX. 6 trains a day, initially, yes. But once Wickford Junction opens next year, that number goes up. The Interlink is not about getting people to and from planes full stop, it is much more than that. It is a commuter link for Kent County and South County, it is an economic development tool for the City of Warwick and the airport.

Kevin Dillon, President and CEO of RIAC pointed out in rebutting Joe Paolino’s characterization of the Interlink as a “boondoggle” on GoLocalProv that low cost European carriers are looking at the northeast and at T.F. Green in particular. Why Green and not Bradley or Manchester? Because of the Interlink.

[airport connectors] are often a sort of cargo cult urbanism that seeks to emulate the frills of good transit systems isn’t willing to make the hard decisions necessary to actually build a robust network and allow the density to fill it. In the case of the the Providence airport, lawmakers said they hoped the station would attract international service to the currently domestic-only airport – as if Providence can acquire the amenities of a big city without allowing itself to become one.

There will undoubtedly be some NIMBY hurdles to overcome regarding density along the rail line, especially if we add a station in Cranston (can you imagine, denisty in Cranston!?), but the whole point of the southern push of commuter rail is to build density where it makes sense, along the transit line, and to aid people who live further from it in leaving their cars somewhere other than downtown (or idling on the highway getting to downtown).

The line about Providence trying to attract big city amenities without actually allowing itself to become a big city… that I just don’t get. Again, there will always be NIMBYism surrounding growth, but I think political leaders, the business community, and a good deal of the citizenry would be more than happy to see the city become bigger. At the very least, if we grew it would be indicative of our economy emerging from the toilet.

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