Greater City Providence

UPDATED: City Council to consider abandonment of a portion of Orange Street


Orange Street from Weybosset Street. Image from Google Street View

[box style=”alert”]Update: September 8th, 2014[/alert]

Word on the street is this abandonment is being requested to build a parking garage on the combined lots. Per updated zoning, the garage would require retail frontage on Weybosset Street.

The petition to the City Council was signed by William J. Piccerelli for Weybosset Orange LLC and Joseph R. Paolino, Jr. for 93 Weybosset, LLC.

I do not know if the City Council passed this, if they did, it would then go to the City Plan Commission for review and approval.

The portion of Orange Street sought to be abandoned is flanked by two surface parking lots and runs from Weybosset to Middle Street, the section between the buildings out to Westminster is not part of the abandonment.

29. Petition from Moses Afonso Ryan, 160 Westminster Street, Suite 400, Providence, Rhode Island 02903, requesting to abandon a portion of Orange Street between Weybosset Street and Middle Street.

If the City Council approves this, it will then go to the City Plan Commission for discussion and a vote. No information on what the requested abandonment is for.

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.


  • Fingers crossed its to merge the lots in preperation for a substaintial development on the property….

    ….a boy can dream right?

  • I’ve seen a couple posts like this, of an abandonments being discussed. Could you explain what it is? The city abandons the street? To whom? Does it then sell the land?

  • Smaller blocks and connectivity is good. This is a horrible idea for a city whose connectivity is already problematic.

    As to larger parcel development, I find it pretty hard to believe these parcels could be seen as too small. Maybe developers need to check out the many successful businesses already on even smaller parcels in Providence. Joe Minicozzi has good images of this concept on a national scale.

  • The City turns the property over to a private entity, generally an adjacent property owner. There is some sort of formula for how much the City needs to get paid for the property to be turned over. Sometimes, the private entity takes control of, but allows the street to remain open or partially open, but often it is to develop the land, and at times, the development falls through and you get a parking lot.

    The CPC has a number of factors they consider when deciding when to allow or deny such requests.

  • So help me out here, because I fail to see what possible benefit the city would get out of this abandonment.

    I mean, people can bitch about Brown if they like, because they ask for a lot if abandonments, too. But at least Brown typically has the decency to wait until the city comes asking for more payment in lieu of taxes to give the transfer the appearance of a give-n-take. This request just sounds like someone wanting to enlarge their parking lot.

  • Has anyone checked the name of the person requesting the abandonment with the property owners records for the property that borders the Paolino Insurance building? I believe the other side of the street is a parking lot owned by the landlord of the yellow brick building on the side of The Arcade (Tommy’s Place is currently housed on the back of that building facing Weybosset).

  • When was the last time an abandonment was 1. denied and 2. not turned into a parking lot?

  • When going west on Westminster and Dorrance is jammed up, I use this street ALL THE TIME as a cut thru, that’s what these connecting side streets are for. BOO! to closing it down or privatizing it. As far as it being developed as a lot, isn’t there a plan being looked at for a HUGE parking lot two blocks south across from the courthouses?

  • This is easy for me. Yes if access as a right-of-way must remain free and accessible to the public until such time as a permanent development occurs.

    Essentially, if you build something spanning the properties over it, go for it. Until then, you’ve paid the city to keep the situation exactly as it is.

  • I love how no names or company’s are ever mentioned when these abandonment proposals are made unless it’s a university. Another Providence back room deal.

  • Usually the Planning Dept knows who the client is. If you go to the CPC meeting, they usually will ask if they don’t already know. I always asked, anyway.

  • If it is indeed destined to be a parking garage, there should be a stipulation that it cannot be used for surface parking in the meantime. It is like that saying that one cannot prepare for war and plan for peace. You can’t park on a lot that is supposed to be under development as a parking garage. It is either going to be a parking garage tout suite or it is not.

  • It makes me so depressed to think that we’d build yet another parking garage. I feel like our city is truly sick at heart if that’s the best thing we can think to do anywhere.

    I just got back from Philadelphia, and was noticing yet again just how narrow many of the streets are there, not just in the historic district, where streets are sometimes to narrow for me to lay down in from sidewalk to sidewalk, but even in the areas developed in the early twentieth century. A lot of side streets in Fishtown or South Philly have only 8′ or 9′ of space left over after one lane of parking is subtracted–a car scrapes past the parked cars with just enough room to not take the paint off. It got me thinking that my own street is probably wide enough that from curb to curb, one could develop a row of Philadelphia-style houses and still have room for a smallish lane made out of the leftover sidewalk width. Even assuming lower density–maybe spaces between the houses with gardens or something–this would greatly expand the density of Providence, add taxpayers, beautify and calm streets, and just make the city a much nicer place to live.

    I wish that if we were going to think about removing streets, it would be for something like this. It’d be downright nice to have some streets just disappear, and have their houses served by wide sidewalks only. But to take away a side street like Orange just to develop a parking garage is depraved. It’s like the only thing we can trade away street space for is more room for our cars.

    Sometimes I imagine Providence just eating itself away, piece by piece, to provide space for cars. Even the nursing school plan includes a parking garage! Can you imagine? Such a nice historic building, and the highest purpose we can think to put a great deal of it to is housing parked cars!

    It makes me sad. I hope this doesn’t happen. :-/

  • As an added update: the issue was introduced at Thursday’s City Council meeting and referred to Public Works Committee. This has not come up in Public Works Committee yet. More information about the specific development will come out in Committee.

    When an abandonment petition is filed, each City Department is instructed to offer a written notice expressing any concerns they have regarding the abandonment (i.e., Police Traffic Bureau can offer comment about whether they think the street abandonment will cause bottleneck or other traffic issues, etc.).

    An appraisal is done and a valuation is assessed that the abutting property owners are “required” to pay the City in order for the property to be deeded to them.

    Any development plans will also have to get approval from any relevant commissions and boards (i.e., City Plan Commission, Downtown Design Review Committee).

  • One thing folks seem fond of is removing vehicles from Washington Street, minimally within Kennedy Plaza. I would think this will drive more vehicles to Weybosset. I’m curious what the traffic ramifications of large structured parking would be and how that would spillover to our ability to remove cars from Washington in the future.

    In general, a move toward structured parking from surface lots is an improvement. Requiring first floor retail is a huge improvement in the current zoning that can dramatically change my view on these kinds of projects.

    This is a tough spot to add new structured parking– garages are common all around, it’s near the Garrahy monster, and the land should be some of the most valuable in the city. However, we have to expect that moving toward 10k and 20k residents in Downcity/JD/Capital Center will involve infill, not just in the I195 land but with all the surface lots in the area. Developing garages over some existing surface lots should reduce demand at nearby surface lots and increase incentive and viability of new development on that land. For example, would having large structured parking here impact 110 Westminster’s ability to be redeveloped when the temporary use as parking is up for renewal? Will this potentially change politician’s (wrong) view on how 111 Westminster can be redeveloped? What will happen to the large surface lots across from Garrahy along Pine Street?

    I wasn’t much sad about the new JWU parking garage because it was constructed over surface lots and directly allowed for them to redevelop the land across the street. This is how we want development to work, at least in part. I would like to see what the developers are proposing, how the city approaches this project from a comprehensive point of view, and what asks there will be of the developers as well before twisting a knife in the parking wound.

    There is nothing enviable or great about this little alleyway today. It is not important at all from a transit perspective, regardless of mode. It’s surrounded by surface lots and the back of buildings today that are not activated and not likely to be. It does not mess up the street grid, etc. I don’t think this is a space that begs protection, but rather it’s a space that deserves significant attention as it’s a critically important parcel in the Downcity skyline and streets.

  • Jason, I do agree in a way, but Orange Street is the only thing preventing a giant superblock from Turks Head to Dorrance, the Arcade is the only other pedestrian cut through and that is private property and not always accessible. Also with Congress and the G on Orange and great development potential at the river end, Orange has great opportunity as a pedestrian connective route. Even in its current state, I often find myself walking on it for whatever reason.

    Perhaps we could consider bridging it, but I’d want to see a super tall first floor so that the tunnel doesn’t feel dank and closed in like the areas under the convention center do.

  • I also need to re-read the section of zoning on ground floor use, it might not be “retail.” Johnson and Wales seems to be building some weird office space in their garage, though they are not strictly held by new zoning as they were approved before-hand and decided they would adhere to it.

    Ground floor retail is all well and good, but the City cannot mandate that it be actively leased.

  • It would also be nice if the City had some kind of department that could plan where we wanted to target this kind of infrastructure based on desired development patterns and traffic and transportation routing.

  • Jef– I walk there all the time because Elsa works in the Moses and Alonso building. But, frankly, I think most people would see this as part of the parking lot and not a right of way as it is coming from Weybosset. Maintaining a pedestrian accessible ROW with a tall first floor is probably preferable.

    Considering Paolino’s record on filling his first floor spaces, I won’t hold my breathe that the street level will actually be activated. He’s already done a good job of keeping that area dead. But if I had to chose street wall with potential for activation v. surface lot and narrow street-bordering-on-alleyway, at least today, I lean toward the former.

    I wouldn’t say I think this is a good idea, but I would say I want to know more and I’m not ready to go apoplectic because it involves parking. In general, I would like to see more surface lots in the area from the train station to Point Street turn into housing and accept that also means converting some of those lots into structured parking.

    Private developers can’t do the work of the city and the state to improve access to this area through other transit modes– it’s our job to demand that from officials as an integral part of the context for making these decisions.

  • I agree, I’m not prepared to chain myself to any tractors until I at least see a hint of what the proposal is. And I agree if our goal is to reduce surface lots (which it is), they need to be consolidated somewhere along with incentives for people to drive less. I can just think of a dozen lots better suited to take that consolidation than these two, and they don’t involve abandoning any streets. Paolino’s building along the edge of this lot fronting Dorrance Street would sure look nice if it had a backside addition to fill its block.

  • Though I think losing Oranege St is just slightly harmful for pedestrians, I share James’ general disappointment. Each additional garage makes it just that much harder to build a more successful culture of walking/biking/using transit. The traffic it encourages just adds to pollution, congestion, ugliness, noise. Enough people get to use a garage making it harder to build transit – less riders, the transit systems (this includes commuter rail) have less reason to improve and less political support. Thus the cycle continues to expand parking again as transit is seen as inadequate.

    Providence’s tranportation advantage is it is walkable to a great variety of sites and has good transit access from everywhere but the power brokers (such as Paolino, Cianci, URI-Prov adminstrators etc)) have never tried to take advantage of that, seeing only motorists as important.

  • The council will give him the street, then he will join and reconfigure his surface lots to get more cars on the site and it will stay that way for the next ten years. Anyone want to bet? Abandonment of streets should be handled the same way demolition permits should be. No consideration is given until a viable financed project is on the books.

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