Author Archive | Jef Nickerson

East Side graffiti clean-up results



Saturday the 14th The College Hill Neighborhood Association, the District 9 Providence Police, the Providence Preservation Society, the Mayor’s Graffiti Task Force, and Councilmen Cliff Wood and Seth Yurdin sponsored a graffiti clean-up on the East Side.

Approximately 40 volunteers showed up to clean signs, paint mailboxes, sign-posts, alarm pulls, and buildings, and the Mayor’s Graffiti Task Force van power washed some area buildings. Among the volunteers were District 9 Providence Police Officers and 10 kids from the Boys & Girls Club. Channels 6 and 12 showed up to cover the event, and Adler’s Hardware donated over $500 in supplies.

Greater City Providence is planning to coordinate a West Side clean-up later this month. Stay tuned for details.


I play a Geek in The Phoenix


Photo © Richard McCaffrey for The Providence Phoenix

Friend of Greater City Providence Jack Templin and his cohort Brian Jepson are the Providence Geeks. In last week’s Phoenix (still lingering on newsstands until this Thursday), Ian Donnis wrote a nice piece on the Geeks, geek-culture, and the technology industry in Providence. And I jumped into the photo taken last week at Foo Fest (I’m the shiny one).

The Geeks meet monthly at AS220 where you can grab a beer and a taco and join in on the Geek talk and meet others. Not being terribly geek-y myself (not that there’s anything wrong with it), I find the Geek Dinners very interesting and enjoyable (the Dogfish Head beer helps maybe).

The Geeks have one of their famous dinners coming up this Wednesday at 5:30pm at AS220, 115 Empire Street in Providence. I encourage you to check it out!


Fire at Grove Street School

UPDATE 07/18: Sources state that the City has required the building’s owner, Michael Tarro “secure” the building within 7 days.
UPDATE 07/18: The Providence Journal: Arson unit investigating blaze at old school
UPDATE 07/17: The following photos were forwarded to me by the WBNA




From the Providence Journal:

July 17, 2007
Update: Fire at former Grove St. School under control

PROVIDENCE – A late-morning fire has been brought under control at the two-story brick building that is the former Grove Street School.

City firefighters responded at 11:42 a.m. to 113 Grove St., according to James Taylor, chief of communications for the Fire Department. The fire, which was in the basement and first floor, was under control at 12:32 p.m.

Preliminary indications were the fire may have started in the basement. The building inspector is headed to the location.

The former school has been the subject of debate over whether to tear it down.

The former school was damaged when a demolition contractor began ripping it apart without a building permit on Feb. 3. The demolition was partially complete when residents told police and city officials, and the work was stopped.

In May, a trial pitting the city against the family, which now owns the building and began to tear it down, was postponed, after a defendant in the case died.

– staff writer Michael P. McKinney, with reports from Journal photographer Mary Murphy


DRC to review Fogarty Building demo – Monday, July 9, 2007


Rendering of 111 Fountain Street from The Procaccianti Group

Tomorrow (Monday, July 9th), the Downcity Design Review Committee will consider a proposal by The Procaccianti Group (TPG) to demolish the Fogarty Building, located at 111 Fountain Street, Downtown. If the DRC grants the preliminary approval for demolition, the DRC will then review plans for the building proposed to replace it.

TPG describes the new building they plan to build as follows (rendering above):

The 111 Fountain Street site is situated between several historic Fountain Street buildings and the vibrant Sabin Street venues (Hilton Hotel, Dunkin Donuts Center, RI Convention Center, and the Westin Hotel). The new building planned for this site includes a bold architecture that relates to the historic fabric of Downcity Providence, while also acknowledging the adjacent newer construction.

This new building will contain approximately 22,000 square feet of Class “A” retail space at street level in an engaging configuration that connects several existing pedestrian and vehicular destinations. There will be ample parking to accommodate the retail space in the new building, as well as the numerous events from venues throughout the Downcity area.

Greater City Providence is eager to see a new building constructed at the Fogarty Building site. Greater City Providence encourages the DRC to approve the plans to demolish the Fogarty Building, and based on the renderings we have seen for the new building, believe TPG is going in the right direction (finally) with the design for the new building. Design-wise, the DRC should ensure that whatever material screens the parking decks, actually screens the decks. We should not be able to see cars lined up inside that building. The screening being used at the Westin down the street appears to be adequate and a variation of that material should be used.

Continue Reading →


Brown Bookstore topic of next GC: Exchange – July 10, 2007

2007-0710_gcexchange_webOur next Greater City: Exchange meeting will take place next Tuesday, July 10th starting at 5:30pm at Spats Restaurant. Spats is located at 182 Angell Street (near the corner of Thayer), we will be meeting on the lower level.

At the meeting, representatives from the Brown Bookstore will be joining us to talk about their plans for the upcoming renovation of the store. I’m sure there will also be much talk about the evolving nature of the retail experience on Thayer Street. As always, there will be plenty of time to mingle and enjoy drinks and discussion with other people.

We hope to see you there!

RIPTA: Routes 35, 40, 42, 49, 78, and 92 Green Line to the top of the Hope Tunnel.

Cleanup tomorrow at Dexter Park – July 7, 2007

Friends of Dexter Training Ground will be having a park clean-up tomorrow at 9:00am

Photo by B. Sachs

Cleanup of Dexter Park!

This Saturday, July 7th from 9-11am we will be having a post-July 4th cleanup of Dexter Training Ground. We will be picking up litter, cleaning graffiti, and making note of anything that needs fixing or attention.

If you use the park at all and enjoy seeing it clean, I encourage you to help out. Supplies are provided as well as refreshments. The more people we can get, the quicker the park gets clean.

Thanks in advance!

Baruch Sachs
WBNA Friends of Dexter Training Ground


Bradford Street safe, for now.


Image from Google Maps

Tonight the Providence City Council did the right thing and voted to send the resolution to abandon a portion of Bradford Street back to committee, meaning it will return to the Planning Department and City Plan Commission for review, as it should have all along. Earlier in the evening, the Public Works Committee of the City Council did not have a quorum to hear a resolution to transfer the air rights over part of Federal Street to a developer to build a condo tower at this location. We have been assured that the entire issue will be sent back to Planning and CPC to be presented to the public as one proposal.

Thanks to everyone who wrote letter, sent email, made calls, and otherwise made their Councilors aware of the fact that the process that was unfolding here was wrong. Special thanks to Aaron Masri for digging through various ordinances and charters to find the exact line sections and paragraphs that were being flaunted. Also to David Rocha for pounding the pavement yesterday in the rain during Liberty Fest to talk to people about the issue and urge them to contact their Councilors.

Of course all this does not mean that the street is now guaranteed not to close. But all indications are that the Planning Department and the CPC will require significant changes to this proposal, and most likely will not be in favor of abandoning Bradford Street. A friendly letter to Planning and the CPC wouldn’t hurt however. We will post the date of the CPC meeting this will be heard at as soon as it is announced.


In the News: Bradford Street

Providence Business News: Luxury condo tower plans draw ire

The Providence City Council is scheduled to vote July 5 on a street abandonment that would make way for a luxury, high-security condominium tower rising above Interstate 95 at the entrance to Federal Hill.

Vista Della Torre is an $80 million, 33-story project at the intersection of Bradford and Federal streets proposed by Frank and Michael Zammiello, a local father-and-son development team.

Continue Reading →


Does the Providence Comprehensive Plan allow for the abandonment of Bradford Street?

Recapping the preceding sequence of events, on June 19th, City Plan Commission reviewed a request, referred to it by Providence City Council, to abandon a portion of Bradford Street. The developer of a 180 unit residential high-rise, which includes a 275 space parking garage, claims that this street abandonment is necessary to accommodate the proposed site plan. The City Plan Commission voted to continue the request, meaning their review has not been completed. Later that evening, the Public Works Committee of Providence City Council voted to approve the abandonment. Greater City Providence opposes the abandonment of Bradford Street (see Don’t abandon Bradford Street).

Looking ahead, on Thursday, July 5th, the Providence City Council will vote on the resolution to abandon a portion of Bradford Street. However, section 1014 (d) of the City of Providence’s Home Rule Charter indicates that council’s vote may not be pursuant to its provisions (paragraphs 1 & 3 which pertain to this project are referenced below). To paraphrase the charter, section 1014 (d) states that a project such as the abandonment of Bradford Street cannot proceed unless it complies with Providence’s Comprehensive Plan. Also, any project which requires city council approval, such as Bradford Street’s abandonment, must be submitted to the Director of the Providence Department of Planning & Development to determine if it complies with the Comprehensive Plan. Any appeals from the director’s decision would then be heard in front of the City Plan Commission.

The importance of citing the above paragraph cannot be understated enough. The review process for abandoning Bradford Street has not complied with section 1014 (d) of City of Providence’s Home Rule Charter. Providence’s Planning Department and City Plan Commission has not been given a chance to verify this project’s compliance with Providence’s Comprehensive Plan as is stated in the charter. Therefore, in order to ensure that the public’s interest is being represented and the merits of this project are adequately reviewed, please contact the Providence City Council. Insist that no vote be held until it can be determined by the Planning Department that the abandonment of Bradford Street complies with Providence’s Comprehensive Plan.

Please note that the July 5th City Council Meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:00PM at City Hall. The public will not be allowed to speak at this meeting. Ask that your written correspondence be read into the public record if you want to be heard.

From City of Providence Home Rule Charter of 1980, as amended:

Section 1014 (d): The effect of the comprehensive plan.

Paragraph 1: No public or private improvement or project or subdivision or zoning ordinance shall be initiated or adopted unless it conforms to and implements the comprehensive plan and elements thereof.

Paragraph 3: All development and project plans and proposals and all privately developed projects and developments which require approval by the city council or by other city boards, commissions or committees shall be submitted by the appropriate aforementioned public agency to the director of the department of planning and urban development for determination as to compliance with the comprehensive plan and its elements. All appeals from the director’s decisions shall be submitted to the city plan commission for a determination as to compliance with the comprehensive plan.


Don’t abandon Bradford Street

Last October, hundreds of Providence residents, as well as city employees and elected officials, participated in the week-long kickoff of Providence Tomorrow, a neighborhood planning and growth process that showed that regardless of neighborhood, income or race, Providence residents support the move into the 21st century by making Providence a more urban, more walkable, transit-oriented city, while upgrading the quality of life in the neighborhoods and preserving what is special about their communities. Over five hundred comments have been made on the Planning Department’s website regarding the Comprehensive Plan, and public hearings on the subject have been well attended. Providence is poised to continue its evolution as a renaissance city, and Providence residents, businesses, and employees are interested and excited about being a part of shaping the vision of Providence’s future.

However, last week, something happened to derail Providence’s diligence and served to remind us all of why we want change in the city. While the City Planning Commission (CPC) voted to continue a request to abandon a portion of Bradford Street, a viable city street, for a large scale building project dubbed Vista Della Torre, just an hour later, in a move that may prove to be legally questionable, the City Council Ordinance Committee voted to approve the abandonment without the necessary recommendation from the CPC.


Proposed site plan for Vista Della Torre

Greater City Providence opposes the abandonment of any portion of Bradford Street. Bradford Street serves as a vital north-south connector in a neighborhood with high traffic and few north-south arteries. Bradford provides a connection from Downtown via West Exchange Street to Atwells Avenue and Broadway. The street is also one with great potential for dense development in this area so close to Downtown. Closing the street provides roadblocks to future development along the street. The traffic plan proposed by Garofalo & Associates for the Vista Della Torre on Federal Street does not serve the residents of the neighborhood or the city at large.

The abandonment of Bradford Street and making Federal Street one way will displace traffic to other areas such as Dean Street, which already sees a very high level of traffic and presents a hazard to pedestrians in the area, and will most likely negatively affect businesses at the end of Broadway. Federal Hill has already lost several streets (and housing stock) to abandonments which never served the public, but instead are used for parking. These issues and others need to be addressed before permission is given to abandon a public street.

While Greater City Providence does not reject the concept of a tall, important gateway building project for this location outright, a lot of unanswered questions remain, and the current design of the building and the site plan is unacceptable. If street abandonments at the City Plan Commission or City Council level are the only public input for a project of this size, then it behooves us to fight that battle where we can. One of the unfortunate lessons of the past has been that you cannot “unring the bell” – street abandonments cannot be taken back when the developer’s project falls through or changes drastically. Providence has seen entirely too many of these projects fast-tracked with little or no public comment; the details of which are often worked out on the sly, benefiting not Providence as a whole, but merely a few individuals whose commitment to the City’s vision and quality of life may be suspect at best.

Greater City Providence promotes the growth and development of the Greater Providence region in as urban a pattern as possible. Special emphasis is placed on the development of more walkable, affordable, and vibrant neighborhoods that are served by more robust mass transit and fueled by greater economic opportunity. Our primary focus is participating in the zoning and planning process to ensure that the Providence of the future is an urban environment and not a city plagued by inconsistent, uninspired, automobile-centric, and suburban-style development.

We encourage you to contact your elected officials to voice your opinion about this project and specifically the abandonment of Bradford Street, which may be voted on by the full City Council as soon as next week. Please contact your City Council person, and Ward 13 Councilman John Lombardi about the street abandonment. Please contact the Mayor to ask why this project is moving through the approval process so fast, with so little chance for public input, and without the proper approvals by the proper agencies in the proper order.

Mayor David Cicilline: (401) 421-2489
Councilman John Lombardi (Ward 13, Federal Hill): (401) 453-3900
City Council members: (401) 421-7740 (ask for City Council office)
Department of Planning & Development: (401) 351-4300

Street tree grant deadline

PNPPThe deadline for the next round of Providence Neighborhood Planting Program street tree grants is rapidly approaching. Applications must be postmarked or received by June 2, 2007 to be considered for a neighborhood planting for Fall 2007.

Over 6000 Providence residents have taken advantage of the Neighborhood Planting Program, a private organization which award groups of Providence residents with 5-20 trees on their street, providing they participate in the planting and take on the responsibility of the young trees’ care. The City of Providence is a partner in the PNPP and matches the cost of the street trees and the preparation of the granted locations.

Each December and June the program gets as many as 45 applications from residents and neighborhood groups for street trees. A strong application is one where there are at least five households involved (including children,) with consecutive plantings along one street (ie., not a “one here, one there” planting spread across several streets,) and where the residents are willing to participate in the aftercare necessary to keep street trees healthy.

Applications are available on the web at or by calling 351-6440, or by stopping by the Program office at 8 Third Street.


Bret discusses Transit 2020 on “The City”

This month Greater City Providence’s Vice President, Bret Ancowitz appears on The City, Mayor Cicilline’s cable access television show. Also appearing are Scott Wolf, Executive Director, Grow Smart RI and Garry Bliss, Director of Policy, City of Providence.

The topic of conversation was the recently released Transit 2020 Report. We look forward to having Garry at our next GC: Exchange meeting on May 8th to discuss Transit 2020.

You can view the show below or catch it on TV at the following times:

Channel 18 – Providence/Kent County area
Thursdays 10:00pm / Fridays 9:00am

Channel 15 – (Interconnect C) Statewide
Mondays at 6:30pm / Wednesdays 8:30pm

The show runs throughout the month of April


Another successful GC: Exchange

Tuesday night we held our third GC: Exchange meeting at MoJoe’s Bar & Grill on Broadway. The evening was very informative and (I hope) a lot of fun for everyone there.

I’d like to thank our special guests for attending and sharing their work with us.

First up were Baruch Sachs and Cynthia Langlykke from the West Broadway Neighborhood Association. Baruch and Cynthia told us the history of the WBNA, got us all up to speed on their current work, and discussed some of their plans and wishes for the future. You can download the handout they had here .

Also be sure to visit the WBNA website for more info on the upcoming Armory Open, taking place May 11th at the Cranston Street Armory.

We also had Stephanie Federico and Pleshette Mitchell from City Hall come to talk about the Mayor’s Graffiti Task Force. The Task Force is preparing to announce people who have won the $500 reward for information leading to an arrest. Through the spring the Task Force will be catching up on the graffiti that has been piling up over the winter. In the summer neighborhood watch programs will be implemented throughout the city. We look forward to seeing the city continue to attack the graffiti problem and seeing how the community can become more involved. We’ll be talking more with Stephanie and Pleshette in the coming months and will be posting more information here.

In addition to thanking our guest speakers, I’d also like to thank MoJoe’s for hosting us, and of course thank everyone who came. We had some great questions for our guest speakers and some great discussion over good food (mmmm Doughboys…) and drink.

The next GC: Exchange will be on Tuesday, May 8th (as always the 2nd Tuesday of the month) where we will be discussing the Transit 2020 report. Check back here for the time and location of this and future meetings, or sign up for our newsletter to receive our latest news.


Tree planting season is here


Photo by Kathryn Laferte for the Providence Neighborhood Tree Planting Program

The Providence Neighborhood Tree Planting Program has upcoming tree planting events on April 14th and 21st:

SATURDAY April 14th
8:15am: Transit/Hope/George Power & Hope Williams/Governor
12:15pm: Brook Street
1:00pm: Pitman/Waterman Salvation Army
70 Trees

SATURDAY April 21st
8:30am: 50 Pembroke Street
10:30am: Corner of Tell and Knight Streets
10:30am: Westminster Street
1:15pm: Third Street
42 Trees

There will also be a planting on Arbor Day, April 27th. Check The Providence Neighborhood Tree Planting Program for details.

Getting out and planting trees is a good way to meet your neighbors and of course a great way to help the environment and make the city a generally better place to live. For more information on this spring’s tree plantings and how to request tree plantings on you street, please visit The Providence Neighborhood Tree Planting Program.


Graffiti Taskforce


Under the Exchange Street Bridge in Waterplace Park; Tuesday, March 27th, 2007.

It’s that time of year again, it seems like every year around this time, Waterplace becomes covered in graffiti (as does much of the rest of the city). Last year at this time I contacted the Downtown Improvement District (DID) to see what their jurisdiction was over Waterplace. They told me it is not in the area that they are responsible for, however they did patrol it and report problems to the Parks Department. This year we have the Mayor’s new Graffiti Taskforce, people with a vehicle and presumably a budget to tackle graffiti, but this year, Waterplace is again in the same sad state it was last year.

Now, I was told last year that the DID shuts down their graffiti operations in the winter because their machinery depends on temperatures being above freezing in order to work. One might also be able to assume that the city’s machinery has the same need for above freezing temperatures. But that does not mean that someone can’t get out with some cleaner and a scrub brush and work on removing the graffiti by hand. Especially if that someone was caught and convicted of tagging public property and was sentenced to graffiti removal. Regular citizens don’t have fancy graffiti abatement equipment and are forced to scrub when their property is tagged, no reason the Graffiti Taskforce can’t be doing the same.

In order to remove graffiti of course, the Graffiti Taskforce needs to know its there, how anyone could miss the graffiti in Waterplace is beyond me, but let’s just for argument’s sake believe that no one in city government is aware of it. What do we do? Well we go online to fill out the handy Graffiti Removal Request Form, how convenient (there’s also a phone number: 1-800-TAGGERS).

This form has some issues though. First of all, at least on my browser, the CSS isn’t rendering properly making the page a little hard to read, but I can suffer through it. Second, the form does not leave a space for additional comments. One of the first things it asks for is an address, well I don’t know what the address would be for “under the Exchange Street Bridge.” So I left the street number blank and listed it as Exchange Street at the intersection with Memorial Boulevard, not very descriptive when you realize where I’m trying to describe. The other thing it asks is what kind of surface is tagged. There is not an option for ’tile wall’ so I chose ‘wall – unknown surface.’ Again, not very helpful. If there were a box at the end of the form for additional comments I could have explained the exact location and the wall type. I really don’t know what good the information I submit will do.

I’ll keep an eye on the situation and report back when the graffiti has been cleaned, or if I hear back from the Taskforce (the form space for my phone number was not working, but I did submit my name and email).


Providence Tomorrow: Washington Park & South Elmwood Neighborhood Charrettes

The Providence Planning Department has announced the first in a series of neighborhood charrettes that will be taking place around the city as part of the Providence Tomorrow planning process.

The charrettes will be taking place at the Washington Park Community Center, 42 Jillson Street on the follow dates and times.

March 22 through March 28, 2007

Kickoff/Open House
Thursday, March 22, 2007 – 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Stop by to say hello and learn more about the neighborhood planning process!

What is the future of your neighborhood?
Saturday, March 24, 2007 – 8:30am to 12:00pm or 1:00pm to 4:30pm
Come spend a few hours telling us what you want the future of your neighborhoods to be. Give us your vision! Come in the morning or the afternoon, the sessions are the same! Childcare will be provided for children between the ages of 3 and 10.

Elected Officials Forum
Monday, March 26, 2007 – 6:00pm to 7:30pm
Tell Mayor Cicilline and your councilmen your ideas about your neighborhoods!

Neighborhood Plan Progress
Monday, March 26, 2007 – 7:30pm to 9:00pm
Check out what’s been done so far. Let us know if we’re on the right track!

Public Works Session
Tuesday, March 27, 2007 – 6:30pm to 9:00pm
Details to be announced soon!

Wrap up party and plan presentation!
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 – 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Come see what we’ve accomplished! Bring the family for food, entertainment, and fun!

Thank you for helping us to spread the word. We look forward to seeing you and the members of your community at our Charrette. If you have any questions about the comprehensive plan or the planning process, please contact Linda Painter, Deputy Director of Planning at 351-4300 ext. 515 or email.


Interim Comprehensive Plan Draft Released

The latest step in the Providence Tomorrow process is the release of the Interim Comprehensive Plan. The plan is online with an interactive system for public comment. Public comment is open until March 30th at which point the planning department will be review the comments and preparing them for presentation to the City Plan Commission.

For those without computer access, a computer terminal has been set up at the Planning Department offices, 400 Westminster Street. Physical copies of the plan are also available in Libraries and Community Centers with comment forms.

Next month the City Plan Commission will host public hearings:

April 11 at 5:30pm
Meeting Street School, 1000 Eddy Street

April 12 at 5:30pm
Times2 Academy, 50 Fillmore Street

The adoption of Providence Tomorrow as the City’s Interim Comprehensive Plan is just the first step in the process. In the coming months the City will host the first of 10 neighborhood charrettes to develop plans for every neighborhood in the city. Those plans will be used to amend the interim Providence Tomorrow into a new comprehensive plan that will guide growth and development in the coming years.