This morning the Providence Performing Arts Center was joined by Mayor Angel Taveras and Governor Lincoln Chafee in officially unveiling the new PPAC Square, otherwise known as the intersection of Weybosset and Mathewson Streets.
At the event, PPAC’s President Lynn Singleton presented Governor Chafee with a Founder’s Award in recognition of work he did as a U.S. Senator to secure funding for the roadway project. PPAC Square is part of Providence’s Traffic Circulation Improvements project.
The Downtown Providence Traffic Circulation Improvements Phase, of which the PPAC Square work was included, began in April 2011. The $5.5 million project restored two-way traffic on Weybosset and Empire Streets for the first time since the 1970s, while maintaining curbside parking on both sides of Empire Street. The PPAC Square project installed a dedicated drop off lane immediately in front of the theater and built out a functional traffic median that includes new sidewalks, 25 trees, granite planters, bike racks and new benches. The downtown project was supported with $4.7 million of federal funding, $700,000 of matching funds from the state and a nearly $1 million appropriation secured by PPAC for improvements within PPAC Square. An additional $800,000 was procured through a Providence Public Building Authority Bond.
Mostly I like the changes at PPAC Square, the relocated comfort station tower looks nice (though I do miss the old structure):
The planters create good seating, and the area restauranteurs are adding to that:
But the trees. Remember 13 mature shade producing trees were removed to make this project possible. 24 trees were planted as part of this project, but the new trees are no solace for the trees lost.
If these trees make it through the summer (which is highly questionable from looking at them today) it will still be decades before they ever appoach matching the shade and cooling provided by the old trees. To be honest, I avoid Weybosset Street during the day because it is just too damn hot. Brown has proven if there’s a will there’s a way to get large healthy trees planted, the Med School being the prime example.
The anemic trees at PPAC Square make it a poor environment for people on foot, especially during warm weather months such as now. I fear the crowds of people the dignataries hope will materialize won’t. Weybosset Street has great potential to be Johnson & Wales answer to Thayer Street and a center of the arts in Providence, but not if it is an uncomfortable place to be.
The problem with the lack of shade is illustrated by the orientation of the crowd prior to the start of the event.
Though there was a podium in the street clearly set up so that PPAC would be the backdrop for the speaking program, the crowd gathered in the shade created by the PPAC building, behind the podium, and did not move across the street into the sun until the speakers were prepared to talk.
Trees of course are not inexpensive, which is why we have such sad little twigs in the first place. But installing larger more mature trees is an easier task than ripping out and replacing pavement. The hardscaping in the square is pretty good, I have no real complaints, the trees need addressing though.