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Author Archive | Jef Nickerson

ProJo: Bids opened for Providence train station exterior work

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Photo taken in 2006

With a bid of approximately $6.9 million, J.H. Lynch & Sons submitted the lowest of five proposals for the construction work. Bids were opened Friday at the R.I. Division of Purchasing office on Capitol Hill.

State officials will take about two months to review the bids and certify the winning bid.

This project will address the deplorable conditions of the plaza areas around the station, repairs to the garage roof (which is the plaza), and improve pedestrian, bike, bus, and auto connections between the station and Kennedy Plaza.

We should likely expect work to begin in the spring 2015 construction season.

RIDOT recently was awarded a TIGER grant to design a new intermodal bus station at the train station. Voters will be asked to approve the purchase of bonds through Question 6 to further that project to reality.

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ProJo: Paul Graseck: City Council still has time to save Pawtucket landmark

pawtucket

A recent controversy instigated by the Pawtucket City Council betrays a shortsightedness that runs counter to the city’s effort to revitalize its downtown. City council members have proposed removing the leaky tower that rises above City Hall instead of repairing it.

Taking down the tower — a 1933 Art Deco landmark that decorates the building in which the mayor’s office is housed, a structure on the National Register of Historic Places since 1983 — would be a serious error in judgment, proof that the council members entrusted with the responsibility to promote and enhance Pawtucket have neither instinct for how to jump-start the local economy nor vision of what the city can become.

I’d contribute to a “Save the Pawtucket City Hall Tower” Kickstarter.

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News & Notes

Rendering of the Boston Public Market

Project for Public Spaces: Boston’s Public Market To Be a Hub for Local Food

PPS’ public markets team has just returned from Boston and is excited to announce that it has begun creating an implementation plan for the first floor of Parcel 7, a MassDOT-owned building that is slated to house a public market. Both local residents and vendors are energized by the decision to re-purpose Parcel 7 into a marketplace that will promote regional food, support the New England economy and foster social integration.

More on Boston’s new public market, set to open in 2015 at their website.

The American Conservative: What to Do With Waterfronts?

Many city waterfronts used to be seedy industrial spaces: Dickensian areas once characterized by water trade and commerce, marked occasionally by squalor or disrepute. But as cities have changed, grown, and gentrified, our waterfronts are changing too.

Nonetheless: changes, even good changes, have consequences. Waterfront projects—be they in wealthy, well-kept communities or in run-down spaces—need a sense of scale and structure in order to foster beneficial growth.

When I wrote about Alexandria’s waterfront project, New Urbanists Peter Katz and Philip Bess both offered a wealth of ideas and tips for excellent, human-scale waterfront development. There were a lot of things we discussed that I simply didn’t have room for in my story—so here are a few “bonus” comments from the two men. They explained five specific ways to help make a waterfront a good New Urbanist space:

I think the best piece of advise in this list is the building it for locals, not tourists. Tourists like local things, but locals do not always like tourist things.


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CANCELLED City Plan Commission Meeting – October 21, 2014

CPC City Plan Commission Meeting
Tuesday, October 21, 2014 – 4:45pm
444 Westminster Street, First Floor
This meeting has been cancelled

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

Major Subdivision

460-rochambeau

1. Case No. 14-031 MA – 440-460 Rochambeau Ave 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)

Minor Subdivision

550-veazie

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)

Adjournment


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CNU New England: Vision for Greater Kennedy Plaza Walkabout and Panel Discussion – October 15, 2014

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Vision for Greater Kennedy Plaza: Walkabout and Panel Discussion

Providence, Rhode Island
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Please join CNU New England for a walkabout in Providence’s Kennedy Plaza and panel discussion at Aurora to review the progress, programming, and next steps for the Vision for Greater Kennedy Plaza. Through a public-private partnership between the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy and the City of Providence, this project seeks to create a pedestrian-friendly environment, encourage transit ridership, bolster economic well-being, promote arts and culture, and encourage tourism. The first steps toward implementation of the long-term vision are under construction, so please come join us to discuss what’s next. “Ideas for admission” are encouraged at the door – provide your walkabout observations and thoughts regarding next steps toward implementation of the vision.


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News & Notes

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Eddy Street in Providence. Image from Google Street View.

CityLab: Why 12-Foot Traffic Lanes Are Disastrous for Safety and Must Be Replaced Now

Unfortunately, trained to expect this sort of behavior, highway engineers apply the same logic to the design of city streets, where people behave in an entirely different way. On city streets, most drivers ignore posted speed limits, and instead drive the speed at which they feel safe. That speed is set by the cues provided by the environment. Are there other cars near me? Is an intersection approaching? Can I see around that corner? Are there trees and buildings near the road? Are there people walking or biking nearby? And: How wide is my lane?

When lanes are built too wide, pedestrians are forced to walk further across streets on which cars are moving too fast and bikes don’t fit.
All of these factors matter, and others, too. The simplest one to discuss, and probably the most impactful, is lane width. When lanes are built too wide, many bad things happen. In a sentence: pedestrians are forced to walk further across streets on which cars are moving too fast and bikes don’t fit.

As with most other State and County road departments across the country, RIDOT mostly insists that all roads should strive for 12′ lanes and the Providence DPW does not much disagree.


BuzzFeed News: The Hidden Reason Why Rent Is So Expensive In Cities: Parking Spaces

While many factors contribute to drive up the price of rents, parking is among the most significant, according to University of California Los Angeles professor and renowned parking guru Donald Shoup. BuzzFeed News sat down with Shoup during the CityLab 2014 conference in Los Angeles Monday to talk about how parking makes housing more expensive. His point: “It’s unfair to have cities where parking is free for cars and housing is expensive for people.”


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UPDATED: Possible project at Parcel 12

parcel-12

Image from Bing Maps

The so-called ‘triangle-parcel’ in Capital Center adjacent to Burnside Park could soon see a new development.

On the October 9th agenda of the Providence Redevelopment Authority is a:

Motion to approve lease with option to purchase Parcel 12 located at 5 Exchange Street, to First Bristol Corporation.

According to the Minutes of the PRA July 10th meeting , the lease would be for the construction of a hotel. First Bristol are the owners of the Hampton Inn & Suites on Weybosset Street.

The last proposed development on Parcel 12 was way back in 2006 when The Carpionato Group also proposed a hotel on the site. Let’s hope this one is a little less ugly.

Update: ProJo reports:

The company envisions a six-story building with 120 suites, with an estimated cost of $18 million to $20 million, Karam said.

First Bristol seems to be leaning toward an extended stay hotel concept.

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News & Notes

One proposal to combat sea-level rise in Boston, convert Clarendon Street into a canal.

BostInno: 6 Visuals for How Boston Can Adapt to Rising Sea Levels

Though Boston has historically grown outwards into the ocean, with landfill expanding its boundaries over the decades, the threat of it being submerged back into the Atlantic is very real. Though the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has introduced numerous legislation in an attempt to curtail rising sea levels, as has the City of Boston, there needs to be a shift in thinking from how we can combat the effects of climate change to how we can adapt to them.

A new report published by the Urban Land Institute’s Boston/NewEngland branch makes a number of municipal design suggestions and reaffirms on several occasions that the time to act is now.

The study, called The Implications of Living With Water, examines four specified areas dangerously at-risk should Mother Nature decide to unleash her wrath in the form of a hurricane not unlike Sandy, which devastated the Eastern seaboard from New York City down to Florida.


BostInno: It’s Official: Allston Is Going to Get a New MBTA Station

Tuesday afternoon Governor Deval Patrick announced that previously derailed plans for West Station are back on. When West Station is complete, commuters will be able to make direct trips back and forth between Allston and Back Bay or South Station – without having to suffer the misery of the Green Line.

Harvard University will help pay for the new railroad station in Boston’s Allston neighborhood.

The MBTA has long range plans to do short run subway-like service on some of it’s commuter rail lines within areas in and close to Boston using smaller DMU trains.

If/when the MBTA moves ahead with plans for purchasing DMU’s, Rhode Island should be ready to get on board with them (sorry). DMU’s would be perfect for running higher frequency intra-state service in Rhode Island.


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Providence Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission meeting – September 17, 2014

featured-bikeped Providence Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission Meeting
September 17, 2014, 4:30 PM
444 Westminster Street, First Floor

Agenda

  • 4:35 Denise Kaplin: International Walk to School Day
  • 4:50 Jef Nickerson: Pedestrian “Beg Button” ban proposal/action
  • 5:20 Eric Weis: Bike Path Updates – George Redman Linear Park, Blackstone Bikeway segment 1, and Woonasquatucket paths
  • 5:30 Nate Urso, Providence DPW: Road Construction Updates
  • 5:45 Dave Everett: Updates – Safe States Pedestrian Injury Prevention Program; Greater Kennedy Plaza Bike Hitches and Racks
  • 6:00 Adjourn

Public comment is welcome at BPAC meetings.

Full disclosure: I am a member of this Commission.
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Hope Street Cyclovía – September 7, 2014

hopestreetcyclovia

From the Facebook event page:


Join Mayor Angel Taveras and the City of Providence for a car-free event that will open up Hope Street for walking, skating, running, cycling and exercise.

Free and open to the public! Featuring Zumba, YMCA’s Y on the Move obstacle course, Recycle-A-Bike, crafts, road bike and BMX demos, a pop-up playground, a dog fashion show, health information and screenings from The Miriam Hospital, and musical performances by Joe’s Backyard Band and Emeline Easton!

The event will take place on Hope Street between 9th Street and Rochambeau Avenue, Sunday, September 7th from noon to 4pm.

Local partners include the City of Providence’s Healthy Communities Office and Office of Sustainability, The Miriam Hospital- a Lifespan Partner, Hope Street Merchants Association, Bank RI, Walgreens, Zipcar, and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission.

For more information visit ProvidenceRI.com

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

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Orange Street from Weybosset Street. Image from Google Street View

Update: September 8th, 2014

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.

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News & Notes

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Kansas City. (cc) Zach Werner

The New York Times: Millennials Going to Kansas City, to Live and Work

On one of the hottest days of the year in mid-July, Michael Knight, a real estate developer, made note of the torn-up street outside Commerce Tower, which opened in 1965 as this region’s first modern high-rise office structure with a glass curtain wall.

Workers were preparing the road for Kansas City’s $100 million streetcar starter line, which will begin running in 2015. It will include a stop right outside the 30-story office building, and the streetcar is one reason among many that the Commerce Tower Group, of which Mr. Knight is a partner, acquired the property just 70 days after he walked through it for the first time a year ago.

In October, the company plans to begin converting the 500,000-square-foot tower into a $90 million vertical city of residential and office space, and retailing and restaurants. The renovation will also include a Park University satellite location, which already operates in the building, and an early childhood school, among other amenities like a fitness center and a rooftop gathering spot.

I think it is cool that Knight Rider went into real estate.

The number of people living in the central business district has increased about 50 percent, to 20,000, since 2000, according to the Downtown Council of Kansas City. Apartment developers added more than 6,130 units from 2002 through 2012, and occupancy is above 95 percent, according to the Kansas City office of Cassidy Turley, a real estate brokerage firm.

Officials would like to see the current number of downtown residents double.

Officials in Providence seem to have no goals whatsoever about increasing the population in Providence, even with similar demand for downtown living as what is seen in Kansas City.


Governing: Do Cities Really Want Economic Development?

So many cities and regions continue to struggle economically. Even within nominally well-performing places there are pockets that have been left behind. Most of the have-nots in the current economy have been struggling for an extended period of time, often in spite of enormous efforts to bring positive change.

Why is this? Perhaps we need to consider the possibility that these places are getting exactly the results they want: Maybe they actually don’t want economic development.

Jane Jacobs took it even further. As she noted in The Economy of Cities, “Economic development, whenever and wherever it occurs, is profoundly subversive of the status quo.” And it isn’t hard to figure out that even in cities and states with serious problems, many people inside the system are benefiting from the status quo.

This is a something that I’ve been hearing more of around Providence lately; some feel that people in Rhode Island don’t actually want anyone to be successful, especially if those people are from away. I think of the General Assembly reading the Jacobs quote.


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Providence Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission Meeting – August 20, 2014

featured-bikeped Providence Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission Meeting
August 20, 2014, 4:30 PM
444 Westminster Street, First Floor
  • 4:35 – Katie Goodrum, Congress for the New Urbanism – CNU and impacts on bike/ped in Providence
  • 4:55 – Sidewalk access during construction – Continued discussion
  • 5:10 – Road and sidewalk conditions in the Wickenden/South Main area – RIDOT communication
  • 5:20 – Butler Ave. at Waterman and S. Angell signal timing
  • 5:25 – Roadwork Report, Nate Urso, Providence DPW
  • 5:40 – James Kennedy, Providence (Park)ing Day
  • 5:55 – Safe States Pedestrian Injury Prevention Program – Providence proposal update (staff)
  • 6:00 – Adjourn

Full disclosure: I am a member of this Commission.
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Better than nothing is not good enough

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New CVS in Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood will feature two-levels of apartments and underground parking. – Rendering by Schemata Workshop

I’ve been hearing the same refrain lately when it comes to less than stellar development proposals in Providence, ‘it may not be great, but it is better than what is there now.’ The McDonald’s and Family Value in Olneyville is cited as better than the vacant lot that is there now. The LA Fitness on North Main is seen as better than the vacant building that is there now. And on it goes, there’s a defeatest attitude around here about having nice things.

As CVS starts to expand into Washington State, one Seattle neighborhood saw the company’s proposal and asked if they could build something better. Unlike CVS’s recent store back here at home in Edgewood, the company building the new store, The Velmeir Cos., said, ‘sure, let’s figure it out.’

The original proposal was for a one-story CVS at what the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce describes as a high profile corner is Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood.

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City of Providence Seeks Public Comment on Sustainabilty Plan

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Over the past year, the City of Providence has been working on its Sustainability Plan. The City has released a draft of that plan and is seeking comment from the public. From the City:


From Mayor Taveras: Draft Sustainable Providence Plan Released for Public Comment

I am pleased to release for public comment a draft of the city’s first-ever sustainability action plan, Sustainable Providence.

In 2013, I released sustainability goals to move Providence forward in six key areas: waste, food, transportation, water, energy, and land use & development. Since then, more than 100 community leaders have worked with my staff to develop and provide feedback on this draft plan to achieve our goals.

Implementing this plan will help build a resilient and sustainable future for Providence as we protect our environment, rebuild our economy and strengthen our community. Thank you for working together with us to create a cleaner, greener city.

Please submit your comments by Friday, August 22, 2014 to Sheila Dormody, Director of Sustainability, sdormody@providenceri.com

Full disclosure: I participated on the Transportation Subcommittee
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WPRO: Former Rhode Island Mall to become factory outlets

PowerPoint Presentation

Interior concept rendering from Winstanley Enterprises

The developers of the former Rhode Island Mall are hoping to open “The Outlets at Rhode Island Mall” late next year.

Winstanley Enterprises of Mass. and Surrey Equities of New York bought the mall back in 2012 and had previously planned to turn the vacant shopping center into several big-box stores.

I hate to say I told you so* about the big box concept but… I told you so.

The completed outlet mall would house between 40 and 60 outlet stores according to Silvera. He says it will have similar tenants to the Wrentham Outlets, but unlike Wrentham, it will not be an outdoor mall – they plan to keep the existing exterior of the Rhode Island Mall, but will completely renovate the inside.


The developer has a marketing brochure online

*Who am I kidding, I love to say I told you so.

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