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Author Archive | Jef Nickerson

Brown Daily Herald: Federal, state officials break ground on Dynamo project

south-street-landing-housing

Rendering of student housing building along Point Street

Private sector leaders gathered with federal, state and municipal officials in a ceremony Monday to kick off renovations to the Jewelry District’s South Street Power Station, popularly known as the Dynamo House.

The revamp — expected to be complete by the fall of 2016 — will result in a nursing education center shared by Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island, as well as graduate housing and administrative offices for the University.

Officials joked that this would be “the last groundbreaking at this particular site,” said Dick Galvin ’79, president and founder of Commonwealth Ventures Properties, poking fun at failed past projects that attempted to renovate the former power station, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Prior to the actual groundbreaking, officials ranging from Galvin to Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’17 P’14 P’17 voiced their excitement about the project to a crowd of more than 200.

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The Commons at Providence Station – aka Capitol Cove Building B

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View from intersection of Smith and Canal Streets

Today the Capital Center Commission approved plans for a new building in Capital Center, the second phase of Capitol Cove, now dubbed, The Commons at Providence Station.

The developer described the building in a presentation to the Commission:

Phase II – The Commons at Providence Station

The first phase of Capitol Cove was the construction of Building A in 2005. The current phase is development of Building B on Parcel 6, and the project has been renamed to The Commons at Providence Station. The project will consist of 169 units of residential apartments, approximately 169 enclosed parking spaces, as well as amenity areas, leasing office, and community spaces.

Site
The site extends the established street grid and breaks down
the scale of the building into an appropriate size for the site. The site boundaries are Smith Street to the North, Canal Street along the East, and the existing Building A along the South edge of the site towards Park Row. The West elevation of the building faces the catenaries and rail line of the Amtrak/MBTA commuter rail lines.

The entry to the site will be along an existing road which runs parallel to Building A. The drive entry up to Building B will consist of a circular courtyard and will provide a drop-off area, entry into the garage (west side), and an area set aside for van or truck parking for building deliveries. This space will also accommodate moving trucks to allow for clearance of any vehicular or pedestrian traffic within the courtyard entry. The Riverwalk will connect from Building A up to Smith Street.

Design
The approved design has been maintained for the new project. The approach to newer, more efficient building materials and finish materials has been considered in the current design. The shape of the building and surrounding area remain true to the intent of the original design approved by the Committee in 2003.

Facade
The design incorporates architectural variety in the approach
to materials to allow for smaller, distinct architectural districts rather than a monolithic development. Materials used in Building A will be incorporated in Building B. The buildings will be finished in two tones of brick, metal panel accents, and exterior painted cementitious panel system.

Parking
Two levels of parking are planned. Level P1 will enter from the East at the entry courtyard. Level P2 will enter from Smith Street. Level P1 will connect the entry, amenity, and community spaces. Both Level P1 and P2 will include residential units along the Canal Street side.

Summary
Building B is a challeng ing use of the undeveloped area of Parcel 6 because of the close proximity to the Amtrak/commuter rail lines, which generate noise and feature prominent catenary lines. These detrimental features make this parcel especially difficult and costly to develop. Taking these challenges into consideration, the team seeks to address these issues with design solutions. The development will include a continuation of the Riverwalk from Building A, and complete the connection from Park Row West to Smith Street, allowing uninterrupted pedestrian access. The area along the Riverwalk will include landscaping similar to that on the adjacent sites. The building will be designed and built to follow LEED Design Guidelines and will seek to meet LEED Silver criteria at minimum.


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Capital Center Commission Meeting – December 10, 2014

featured-capital-center Capital Center Commission Meeting
Wednesday, December 10, 2014 • 12:00 noon
Joseph A. Doorley, Jr. Municipal Building
444 Westminster Street, 1st Floor Conference Room Providence, RI 02903

capitol-cove-street-view

The second phase of Capitol Cove is proposed for the area to the right of the existing building. Image from Google Street View

Agenda

  1. Roll Call
  2. Minutes
    2.1 Approval of Commission Meeting Minutes of October 8, 2014
    2.2 Acceptance of DRC Meeting Minutes of August 19, 2014
  3. Acceptance of 2015 CCC Meeting Schedule
  4. Parcel 6: Building B – Request for approval to construct a new apartment building (Building B). Buildings A and B of the Capitol Cove Project were previously approved by the Commission in 2003. Building A was completed in 2008.
  5. Parcel 9: GTECH Building – Request for approval to conduct exterior building alterations, install new signage and landscaping for The Capital Grille.
  6. District Maintenance Issues
  7. Adjournment

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Zoning for 210 West Exchange

Exhibit 10 - Zoning Ordinance

Did you look at the new zoning map and see a little piece of downtown zoning floating by itself on the back side of Federal Hill? I’m told this piece of downtown zoning in the midst of an otherwise mixed-use manufacturing zone was created by the City Council for a proposed development at 210 West Exchange Street.

The proposed building would top out at 185′, ~17 floors with 198 residential units and a 136 room Aloft Hotel. It would sit up against the highway between West Exchange Street and the former G. Fox building.

A study created for the developer, WestX Capital, describes the project like this:

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New Providence Zoning Ordinance effective December 24, 2014

zoning-2014

Lots of information to digest in this new ordinance, some highlights as we see it; no parking minimums downtown, parking maximums in designated transit oriented development areas, special provisions for neighborhood commercial in residential areas, changes on Broadway to the Residential-Professional zone to allow more neighborhood commercial by right.

What does everyone else think?


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Downtown Design Review Committee Meeting – December 8, 2014

featured-drc Downtown Design Review Committee
Monday, December 8, 2014 – 4:45pm
Department of Planning and Development, 1st Floor Conference Room 444 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of Meeting Minutes of September 8, 2014
  • Acceptance of 2015 DDRC Meeting Schedule

New Business

jwu-artist-rendering1

1. DRC Application No. 14.19: 75 Chestnut Street (Public Hearing) The applicant, Johnson and Wales University, is proposing to construct a new academic building at 75 Chestnut Street. The applicant is requesting waivers from D?1 Regulations for the transparency and multiple entrance requirements at the ground floor level on the Pine and Friendship Street elevations of the new building.

Adjournment


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News & Notes

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Toronto, Canada – Image (cc) Geee Kay

The Globe and Mail: Toronto to narrow traffic lanes in hopes of increasing safety

Toronto will narrow many of the city’s traffic lanes in a bid to increase safety by reining in speeds while freeing up space for bicycle lanes or wider sidewalks.

The city has just finished a new policy for lane widths, guidelines that will be rolled out gradually across Toronto.

It will mean that, over a period of years, the lanes on streets across the city will be redrawn. A city official said current widths can encourage drivers to go faster than necessary. The new lanes will generally range from 3 to 4.3 metres, depending on location.

3 to 4.3 meters equals 9′ 11″ to 14′ 1″ in American. 14′ is crazy wide, but 9′ 11″… RIDOT would faint dead away.

For example, buses operated by the TTC are up to 2.97 metres wide, including mirrors, and lanes on bus routes are to be a minimum of 3.3 metres wherever possible.

3.3 meters equals 10′ 6″.


The Atlantic: How Political Leadership Makes City Streets Bikeable

Becoming more bikeable: That seems to be a must for any self-respecting major American city these days. But what does it take to achieve that goal? Resources, of course—the funds to create the infrastructure for safe and comfortable bikeways. But the most important thing is political will. It takes real political leadership to overcome opposition to change.

Just ask people in Pittsburgh, which is making great progress on its goals to become more bikeable. It’s happening partly because of long-term, purposeful advocacy from organizations like BikePGH. But the most important factor in Pittsburgh’s success is the political leadership of Bill Peduto, the city’s mayor of only eleven months.

Indeed, big overhauls in the structure of a city require direct input from a Mayor.



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PBN: Developer negotiating with panel for Fox Point land

baccari-195-parcel

Image from Google Streetview

A city developer has entered into exclusive negotiations with the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission to purchase a piece of former highway land in the city’s Fox Point neighborhood.

Richard Baccari II, principal of Royal Oaks Realty LLC, confirmed in an email Monday that his group had signed a “letter of intent” to buy a property between Pike Street and Tockwotten Street from the commission.

I’ve heard some very preliminary information on this project, and it sounds interesting. See previous post about the project here.

In response to a public records request from Providence Business News, I-195 commission Executive Director Jan Brodie earlier on Monday said by email that the commission had signed two letters of intent, one more than had been made public last week when the panel approved a purchase and sales agreement with a Dallas developer planning a student apartment building.

See, this a problem. As I’ve said before, I understand the need for discretion when doing real estate deals, but the fact that PBN had to do a public records request is troubling. Private citizens can do public records requests too, but how many of us do? The perception of the Commission this creates is not good. And it is not like this is any kind of state secret. This project has been reported in the media, people in the industry are well aware of this project, which makes all the secrecy all the more annoying.

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News & Notes

broadway-snow

Broadway

The Boston Globe: Lower rents, wide choices draw tenants to Route 128

Kendall Square and the Innovation District may be the hip places to be, especially for tech companies, but a mini-revival of sorts is under way along America’s original technology highway.

The western suburbs around Route 128 are experiencing a building boom, with new headquarters for growing companies such as TripAdvisor and Vistaprint among five huge developments under construction in Needham, Waltham, and neighboring towns.

But, but, but… Providence. We don’t necessarily have to give everyone $75 million to move here, the Assembly knows that, don’t they?


ABC News: More Prefer Public Transit to Road Building

Americans in an ABC News/Washington Post poll favor expanded public transportation options over road building in government efforts to reduce traffic congestion. But where they live makes a difference.

Overall, 54 percent prefer focusing on public transit, such as trains and buses, while four in ten say the government should focus on expanding and building roads instead. Preference for public transit, though, ranges from 61 percent of urban residents to 52 percent of suburbanites and 49 percent of people in rural areas.


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ProJo: 195 Commission agrees to deal on $50-million, 500-bed student housing development

195-parcel-28

Image from 195 District Parcel 28 – Google Streetview

The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission voted behind closed doors Monday to sign a purchase and sale agreement with a Texas development firm that specializes in privatized student housing to build a $50-million, six-story housing development that will accommodate 500 renters on the west side of the Providence River.

Kane said the commission authorized him to sign the purchase and sale agreement, which will be a binding document requiring the firm to break ground by August 2015. Brodie said the firm expects to open its doors Sept. 1, 2017, ready for people to move into its rental units.


First, yes, it is going to be great to get something built on the 195 Land, and work is projected to begin next summer. With 20,000 square feet of retail space, this project should be able to provide some badly needed retail services to the Jewelry District neighborhood. And having 500 units of housing dropped from the sky has the potential to really have a positive impact on the neighborhood.

However, as the commenters at ProJo said, this deal literally took place behind closed doors. However, people involved in development and real estate all seemed to know this deal was coming, it was just the general public that may be surprised to hear about this this morning. So, if the people most involved in the process, pretty much know what is going on through industry chatter, where’s the need for the secrecy? I know there is a degree of discretion needed to complete a real estate deal, but the Commission really needs to do something about the perception that these Executive Sessions send to the public.

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PBN: Would dredging return bustle to riverfront?

Last dredged in the 1990s, the river is now so shallow in places that even the Proud Mary has to dance around obstructions and can’t reach Waterplace Park at low tide. “I know where all those difficult places are, but north of Point Street you can run aground virtually any time,” McGinn said. “I just have to be careful and cannot go into Waterplace Park basin when it’s real low.”

Preventing the river from filling in with natural sediment requires periodic dredging, something neither the city nor state has been eager to finance in recent years. The federal government declined to tap a pool of funds set aside for dredging projects that maintain cargo shipping channels.

As a result, much of the center and eastern side of the river is too shallow for boats even at midtide and the WaterFire lightings must be planned around tidal schedules and closures of the hurricane barrier to keep water inside.

Now the depth of the river and role marine traffic should play in the revitalization of downtown has become a discussion point again as the state begins construction of new public spaces on the former Interstate 195 land.


What if traffic in the Woonasquatucket looked like this?:

“Amsterdam Canals: It’s busy on the Prinsengracht” © Peter Eijking

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Providence Rink opens Saturday, November 15, 2014

skating-center

From the City of Providence:


The Providence Rink Opens Saturday, November 15th for the 2014-2015 Season

The Providence Rink will be open for ice skating season starting on Saturday, November 15th at 10:00am. Regular hours of operation during the week are Monday through Friday, 10am until 10pm and new hours for Saturdays and Sundays are 10am until 10pm. The Rink is open on all winter holidays.

General admission is $7 for adults, $4 for seniors, $4 for children (12 and under), and $4 for military. Skate rentals are $5 and skate sharpening is $7. Season passes are available and priced as $90 for an adult, $200 family of four, $50 children and seniors. Special rates are available for birthday parties, school groups, business and social groups, and for full ice rental for private events. Visit www.providencerink.com for details and to make your reservations.

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ProJo: Opening of Washington Bridge bike path in Providence delayed

washington-bridge

Photo of construction in October 2013

The opening of a new linear park for bikers and walkers on a transformed section of the old Washington Bridge has been delayed until the end of the year, according to the state Department of Transportation.

“It’s looking like in December that we’ll have it open for use, that’s what we are shooting for right now,” said DOT spokeswoman Rose Amoros.

When I took the above photo, over a year ago, they were saying, “next summer.”

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City Plan Commission Meeting – November 18, 2014

CPC City Plan Commission Meeting
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 – 4:45pm
Joseph Doorley Municipal Building, 444 Westminster Street, First Floor

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of minutes from September 16, 2014 meeting – for action
  • Approval of minutes from September 30, 2014 special meeting – for action
  • Vote to elect Administrative Officer for City Plan Commission
  • Director’s Report

City Council Referral

1. Referral 3385 – Amendment of Section 404 of the Zoning Ordinance The proponent is requesting that Section 404 of the Zoning Ordinance be amended to remove the requirement that solar uses in Historic Districts be reviewed by the Historic District Commission – for action

Minor Subdivision

2. Case No. 14-032 MI – 550 Veazie Street The applicant is requesting to subdivide 550 Veazie Street measuring approximately 6.5 acres into two lots, each measuring approximately 3.9 acres and 3.02 acres– for action (AP 78 Lot 417, Wanskuck)

Major Subdivision – Public Informational Meeting

3. Case No. 14-031 MA – 440-460 Rochambeau Avenue The applicant is requesting to subdivide two lots at 440 and 460 Rochambeau Ave. measuring approximately 33,453 SF and 114,873 SF respectively, into 12 lots. Each proposed lot would measure more than 6,000 SF – for action (AP 93 Lots 14 and 339, Blackstone)

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ProJo: Symposium offers wish list of ideas to spur development of Route 195 land

ridot-195

Photo from RIDOT

Jan A. Brodie expects there’ll be a groundbreaking in 2015 on the vacant former highway land in the heart of the capital city, but she unveiled a holiday wish list Friday afternoon for what she thinks would push forward pending development projects.

Brodie, executive director of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, would like no sales tax and no corporate taxes for projects built on the nearly 19 acres available for development after the state’s highway-relocation project. She’d like an “institutionalized, predictable” tax-stabilization agreement for city property taxes that would last at least 15 years, she told about 60 people gathered for the final session of the Providence Preservation Society’s year-long symposium, “Building the New Urban Experience.”

No one on the panel supported Chapel View as a vision for what should be done on the 195 land. Thank goodness.

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Sim City writ large on the Providence Waterfront

cianci-waterfront

Screenshot from YouTube.

Today’s Providence Business News reports on the divergent visions of the Providence Mayoral Candidates for the Providence Waterfront.

As with many issues, Elorza wants to continue the Taveras position on Allens Avenue, which is to reserve the land there, through zoning restrictions, for industrial use only. Supported by the City Council under President Michael Solomon and existing Allens Avenue landowners, that position was a change from Cianci’s late 1990s plans and those of his successor, David N. Cicilline.

Elorza does want to increase exports from the working waterfront, through market studies and trade missions, activities normally handled by state economic-development officials.

Not to be overlooked, the people who currently own the land along the Allens Avenue waterfront support this direction.

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RIDOT: Rhode Island’s Transit Future

One of the most crucial components of a healthy economy and quality of place is a sound transportation system: one that supports diverse modes of travel and seamlessly connects Rhode Island to the rest of the world – and Rhode Islanders, more meaningfully to each other and to opportunity.

Since I’m a big geek I watch videos like this and visit websites extolling the virtues of various transit systems around the world and I think to my self, ‘our system really sucks.’

Then I see a shiny video showcasing our system and I wonder if all those other cities just have really good videographers hiding the suckitude of their systems.

I think it is half and half; half our system sucks compared to others, and half other systems suck too but are good at publicity. Look at how the Interlink is described in that video, it sounds good, but it is not really there yet. There are a number of factors why, there’s really no there there at Warwick Station, it is not really a destination other than the airport (regardless of what this video is trying to sell us about the area). Rhode Islanders really still love their cars. There’s a chicken and egg about not enough riders so not enough service and not enough service so not enough riders, etc.

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UPDATED: Providence Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission Meeting – November 19, 2014

aurora

featured-bikeped Providence Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission Meeting
November 19, 2014, 5:00pm at Aurora
276 Westminster Street. Hosted by the Providence Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) group, Cornish Associates, and Aurora
Note different start time and location

Agenda

  • 5:00: Introductions and Introduction to BPAC and CNU
  • 5:05: “Bike/Ped Safety Assessment Planning/USDOT Secretary Foxx’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Initiative,” Nick Garcia, USDOT
  • 5:45: Complete Streets: Intentions Behind the Resolution/Making it Useful
  • 6:10: Tactical Urbanism to Address Bike/Ped Roadway Challenges, Molly Henry, East Coast Greenway
  • 6:25: New Business
  • 6:30: Adjourn

Update: This meeting will not have a formal agenda. Instead it will be an informational meeting with the Providence Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC). Please come, enjoy a cocktail, and meet and discuss the BPAC with the BPAC Commissioners. This is a good time to give feedback on the direction you would like to see the BPAC go under the new administration coming into City Hall in January.

Full disclosure: I am a member of this Commission.
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