WHAT CHEER: South Street Power Station (Maybe)
In 2013 we got another plan to redevelop the moribund South Street Power Station. While numerous plans for the building, which at one point was known as the Dynamo House, have come and gone, this latest plan engenders optimism as Brown University is involved now.
In January the New York Times and then The Brown Daily Herald reported on rumors of the university becoming involved in the project. Then in June Brown announced it’s plans for the building in a letter to the campus community.
Those plans include a home for the long talked about URI/RIC Nursing School, office space for Brown, and some sort of retail component in the former power station building. Brown also has a developer engaged in building a student apartment building in the neighboring parking lot along Point Street and the City is involved in plans for a parking structure across Point Street from that.
While this could all be looked at as another in a long line of proposals for the building, Brown’s involvement makes this proposal seem more promising. 2014 will show us if this project actually moves forward.
WHAT CHEER: Greater Kennedy Plaza
In April the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy (DPPC) unveiled a vision for a revamped Kennedy Plaza. The DPPC looks to create a public/private partnership to design and construct improvements in the park and fund the continued maintenance and programming of activities.
The summer season in the plaza featured the well established weekday children’s programming, weekly beer-gardens, and daily food trucks. In August the Imagination Center was unveiled allowing for expansion of the highly successful children’s’ programming.
In December the DPPC won a grant from the Champlin Foundation to create a gateway at the corner of Burnside Park nearest to the train station and to create a pathway to allow for the reconfiguration of buses in the plaza area. 2014 should see the construction of the Gateway, the return of summer programming, and more coordination with RIPTA on bus service.
WHAT CHEER: Same-Sex Marriage
After first passing the RI General Assembly House of Representatives in January, then passing the Senate and being signed into Law by Governor Chafee, same-sex marriage became legal in Rhode Island on August 1st. In September in a small ceremony at the park outside the Hotel Providence, my partner and I were married by Mayor Taveras. What Cheer!
WHAT CHEER: Commuter Rail
There’s room for debate about what our priorities should be and what a Rhode Island state rail system should look like, but the fact that we continue to make progress and study the issue is What Cheer-worthy.
In June, Pawtucket held public hearings on their commuter rail station proposal.
Meanwhile, the State has been plugging away at a state rail plan with public hearings on it happening this month.
WHAT CHEER: Historic Tax Credits
2013 saw the return on the State Historic Tax Credits. Interest in the credits were high resulting in a lottery being held for the available funds, in August 32 of 41 applicants were awarded credits from the lottery.
Last month Providence Business News reported on the first projects moving forward with their tax credit funding.
WHAT CHEER: Park(ing) Day
WHAT CHEER: Bicycle Master Plan
November saw the release of the long-awaited Providence Bicycling Master Plan. While the plan received a lukewarm reception from bicycling advocates, the Providence Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission now owns what the Mayor termed, ‘a living document.’ During 2014 let’s hope the plan gets reviewed and improved.
Also, after conducting a bike-share feasibility study in 2011 , in 2013 the City identified Alta as a partner in bringing a bike-share program to Providence. Alta says they can have the preliminary bike-share system, which would cover Downtown and parts of the East Side and Federal Hill, up and running within 6-months of identifying sponsorship partners. A search for sponsors in on-going now.
WHAT CHEER: The Arcade
The Arcade is re-opened and there is a good place to get whiskey!
WHAT JEER: Zoning
Through most of the spring we were forced to watch small business owner Drake Patten get beat up by the Zoning process while trying to open her store Cluck! on Broadway. After being approved by the Zoning Board of Review to open her store, abutters fought her in court on a technicality and won, forcing Patten to go through the expensive Zoning process again and make onerous concessions to neighbors.
Patten could have avoided a lot of heartache and expense, and the neighborhood could have avoided a lot of unnecessary acrimony if Broadway was simply zoned properly. It is zoned as residential and office but it has become through the years (or perhaps returned through the years) a business district for the Federal Hill and West Side neighborhoods. There are a lot of residents on either side of Broadway who are well served by having business on the street and to deny that through zoning is ridiculous.
Now, Cluck! is open and the sky has not fallen. We won’t go into what the neighbors were complaining about exactly (that could be the subject of a lengthy book), but what a lot of it fell down to was parking. Not the business’ parking, the business had enough parking per Zoning, but the neighbors’ use of the formerly vacant property for their own parking, the subject of a What Jeer further down the page.
WHAT JEER: Superman Building
You guys, it is empty and that is wicked sad.
Jan. 30: PBN: Cornish tapped to convert Superman building to apartments
March: The Mayor spoke about the possibility of demolition
June 4: Providence Preservation Society statement regarding the Superman Building
WHAT JEER: State House Parking
Somehow, the Governor that a lot of us thought would be a breath of fresh air on the transportation front due to his record on such issues as a U.S. Senator is all about ringing the State House with surface parking lots.
We started the year talking about how the State should set an example by reforming their land use around the capitol building. A reader even sent us a Photoshopped aerial view of what unpaved State House grounds could look like.
Then in July the State Properties Committee agreed to a $3.1 million deal to buy property along Francis Street to use for surface parking, a use that is not allowed by City Zoning or Capital Center Commission regulations. And in October the State moved ahead with plans to expand an existing surface parking lot on the actual grounds of the State House.
WHAT JEER: Apponaug Circulator
In another example of Governor Chafee falling short with his reputation as a transit advocate he insisted on backing a highway project, the Apponaug Circulator, for a federal TIGER grant while calling the Providence Streetcar project, “not ready to go.” In June we outlined for the Governor why the Apponaug Circulator project was ‘not ready to go.’
WHAT JEER: Parking
I think this is what has taken me so long to write this post. I outlined the post and had ‘Parking’ here at the bottom, but where to start? It is a cancer on our city and society, we have a mental illness we can’t seem to recover from.
Remember this come for the parking, stay for the parking video? We can’t even launch a tourism campaign without worrying about parking.
Then there’s the 195 Commission who are in a total panic all the time about where people are going to park!?!??!? Hey guys, why don’t we worry a second about actually attracting any people to begin with. If those people are all like, ‘hey, where can we park?’ it shouldn’t be too much effort to suss that out then. But no, the 195 Commission wants to be all, ‘come for the parking, stay for the parking, y’all.’ Sigh.
And the State is all like ‘ZOMG! we have to study this problem!!!!’ But they’re not studying the problem. They’re not studying where and how we need parking, and how it should be regulated and how it should integrate into a larger transportation system; they’re studying ‘should we have a garage here (probably, yes).’
I still don’t know what to say about this Jeer, I just know we need to calm down a second and wrap our minds around some rationality here. Has anyone ever not been able to find a parking space? Is there someone out there in their car stuck circling the city for years, like Charlie on the MTA, forever trapped, unable to find parking?