On Sunday, The Providence Journal had a story titled Developer who would head Rhode Island’s Route 195 panel relishes a challenge. That developer is Colin Kane, Governor Chafee’s nominee to chair the 195 Commission. On Saturday he introduced a panel discussion at the PPS Symposium.
As part of his remarks Kane stated that the Jewelry District and 195 land redevelopment would be “useless” without parking. The North Kingstown resident stated he only eats at Al Forno and Capital Grill when he comes to Providence because both restaurants have parking. If he tries to go elsewhere he is stuck “doing the loop” searching for parking. Apparently, parking is too much of a challenge”¦
Allow me to go into the wayback machine and pull out this gem again.
Before you jump on me and my car-free curmudgeon-ness, yes, parking will be one of many issues that will have to be addressed over the coming decades as the 195 land is developed and the Jewelry District and Downcity are built out. But seriously, you can’t park Downcity?
Believe it or not, I often do find myself in the cars of friends and acquaintances, and when with them, we have never not been able to find free on-street parking within easy walking distance of our destinations. NEVER! And if your destination is a restaurant, 90% of them valet, for free!
OH! AND! We just tore down a parking garage!!!
During the panel discussion that Mr. Kane introduced, Richard Spies, Brown University’s Executive Vice President of Planning, stated that parking could not exist in a vacuum and had to go hand in hand with a transportation plan (i.e. streetcars, buses, bikes”¦). Indeed, as the Symposium was reflecting on 30 years of Capital Center development as a way for us to look ahead to the 195 land and adjacent areas, we can see how parking has evolved in Capital Center.
Both GTECH and Blue Cross Blue Shield RI under-built their parking garages. Their garages do not have enough spaces for their employees, both utilize RIPTA’s Eco Pass program to move employees out of cars and reduce their need for parking.
Mr. Kane stated that business will have to partner with government to address the need for structured parking in the district. This is probably true, I can’t see the city or state in their current economic conditions being able to float a parking structure as a means to attract developers to the area. However, I also don’t see a stampede of developers knocking down our door at this point either, especially when at the top of the Commission’s agenda seems to be forcing those developers to build structured parking.
Currently Johnson & Wales and Brown are the only entities that we know are seeking to build on or around the 195 land. Brown already has a parking garage at the Med School, and judging from Mr. Spies statement, it seems that Brown is setting a tone where they will be looking to support transit, as they have for some years now converting their staff and faculty to RIPTA passes as a way to avoid building more parking.
Will Johnson & Wales build a parking garage? Well, if they do I’m sure part of the deal would be for them to tell the city to forget about a large part of our PILOT funds.
My fear is that Mr. Kane is laying the foundation for something. He had to know his remarks on parking would go over like a lead balloon to a room full of preservationists and urbanists (to be fair, it was not all he talked about, but it was all any of us were talking about afterward). I’m stumped on who exactly is going to partner with the city and state on building structured parking. Maybe we give the first developer to step up huge incentives to build more structured parking then they need, to create parking for future development. Maybe those incentives will suck from an urban perspective. Maybe the ground is being laid for more surface parking on the 195 land and in the Jewelry District as an “interim use” (so far as I know, it is not a restricted use (even if it were restricted, the Commission can grant variances)).
Looking back to the top image on this page and the parking lot map, we have no lack of parking in this city, that cannot be denied. What we lack is any form of parking management.
There is no rhyme or reason to how the lots function, when you can park in them, who can park in them, how much they cost, etc. Predictability, consistent signage, prices, hours, etc. will make people who feel they cannot find parking in Downcity able to find it. This is a discussion we’ve had over and over again. The various owners of the parking lots and garages in the city are not going to come together and create management on their own. There needs to be leadership from the city, there needs to be some sticks, and yes some carrots to get lot owners to work together.
Coincidentally, the ProJo also had a blog post about the current Parking Administrator Leo J. Perrotta who was appointed by Mayor Cicilline on his last day in office.
Only two parking-meter maintenance people report to him now, and his immediate boss is the public works director. Perrotta’s duties include training staff; coordinating meter repair, street signage signs and meter collections; monitoring rate pricing; and recommending policies and practices for an effective parking program.
Sounds like he has time to get the lot owners together and start to hash out how they can work together and with the city to make sense of Downcity’s parking, doesn’t it?