Greater City Providence

A New Vision for Kennedy Plaza

A number of people have been working on this for some time, I’ve been to a few charrettes and meetings, and the vision is pretty exciting, take a look at the videos and express what you think in the comments:

Produced by Friends of Kennedy Plaza and Coalition for Community Development, this video presents a new vision for the Greater Kennedy Plaza in Downtown Providence, Rhode Island. For more information please visit

Image compilation, renderings and voice over by Russ Preston of Cornish Associates, Providence, RI.

I encourage you to use the Full Screen option to better see the drawings and images.

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.


  • When there are pictures, maps, diagrams and text for this sort of thing, I might spend 25:10 looking and thinking. I also might spend more time, or less. When I see a video 25:10, I do not click on it. Sorry, I am cranky like that.

  • Agreed! I can’t stand the new move to doing everything in video just because you can. All the silly mayor’s announcements are videos. I can read stuff at work, but can’t sit watching videos all day.

    I’d love to see diagrams, pictures, and maps of this though. That seems like something more fitting for this than a video.

  • Okay, well I did sit through the videos and I am impressed. I think as a starting point the issues raised in the presentations hit every major concern that I really have about Kennedy Plaza.
    For years I have avoided the space because it is ugly, unkempt, noisy, and impossible to get to. Burnside is an impossible place to enjoy most of the time. The bus traffic and the density of morons on your average weekday defies belief. Biltmore Square was a place that I visited to eat lunch until I got tired of panhandlers. The rest of the space is disconnected and just jittery.
    One thing I will suggest though, I notice in presentations like this that there is an architects approach that address each of these spaces as pieces. This is a fundamental problem with planning in PVD. The pieces are amazing and well thought out, but there is no integration. I get hopeful at the mention of the octopus, but these always seem to be the pieces that get cut first because they leave the boundaries of the immediate project. Kennedy will remain an island so long as it has no lasting connection to the East Side, Westminster St, the mall beyond proximity.
    So good work and good luck.

  • An international competition, like the one for the 195 pedestrian bridge, should be held for Kennedy Plaza. The concept renderings in the video lack a clear singular spatial vision. The proposed activities for the plaza should define specific requirements that inform the plaza design not “dictate the design.”

    Over the last few years, a great deal of thought has gone into the plaza development and the people working on it should be commended for proposing great ideas and program concepts. The effect of this good programming could actually create a landscape that’s very user-friendly, but may become a congested hodgepodge of buildings lacking a reference to the surrounding urban scale|minimizing the importance of the plaza.

    Reproducing a small-scale triumphal arch that was traditionally used for parade events could look more like a theme-park element. Many of the small structures or “follies” shown in the renderings are portrayed as gable roof structures more characteristic of a single-family neighborhood or a rural village rather than an iconic central-city destination urban space.

    Early 20th century images show Kennedy Plaza as a vast grand plain bound by architecture are great examples of the early iconic plaza. The contemporary plaza would no doubt vary from its historic precedence, but an iconic spatial quality must be the basis of any design combined with programming. Bryant Park is mostly fortified from the sidewalks of adjacent streets. What makes is successful is its simple hierarchy of formal steps leading from Sixth Avenue to a dominant central lawn symmetrically framed by trees. Besides the referenced squares mentioned in the video other references could be the newly redesigned Lincoln Center exterior spaces and Washington Square in Manhattan.

    When landscape, architectural, or urban designers are a given specific program, they can accommodate program requirements, while creating a singular or unified spatial vision. Results can often far exceed expectations set in specific program requirements. An international competition for Kennedy Plaza should be a requirement in its design to insure the plaza become one of the world’s greatest public urban spaces.

  • I thought there were some good ideas discussed. As one who walks through the area every day, I too understand something needs to be done. As mentioned, the buses need to be spread out. Right now, it has the feel of a bus yard. It stinks and it’s noisy.
    Did anyone else notice the increase in foot traffic when the buses were spread out due to street paving work that was being done months ago? Several people at work were wondering if they was an event at the convention center, when all it was were displaced bus riders from Kennedy Plaza.
    Has anyone thought of moving the buses to Sabin and Fountain Streets? The roads are wide enough. Plus on Sabin St, the buildings are public on one side. And, let’s face it, the Dunk and the Convention Center are empty 90% of the time. I understand plans are under way to redo these streets. Maybe we can incorporate new bus stops in the project.

  • While I think the vision for Kennedy Plaza is really exciting and vibrant, I have one major issue:

    I am completely opposed to removing the fence around Burnside Park.

    I’ve seen several parks in other places where at one point in the all the nice wrought iron fencing was removed to make it more accessible and now they have been put back up (i think the park near gano street had this happen), and for good reason. What ends up happening is that where the grass meets the curb, it will become dirt because everyone will walk on it. Not to mention that I really like the fence and there are few cities that still have that 19th century feeling, which I think the fence adds to significantly. I really don’t support any changes to Burnside Park…though changes to Biltmore and the Bus Terminal are welcome, provided it is done correctly and not underfunded.

  • by “few cities that have that 19th century feeling,” i meant “few parks”

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