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Capital Center Commission Meeting – November 13, 2013

featured-capital-center Capital Center Commission Meeting
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 • 12:00 noon
Joseph A. Doorley, Jr. Municipal Building
444 Westminster Street, 1st Floor Conference Room Providence, RI 02903

Agenda

  1. Roll Call
  2. Minutes
    Approval of CCC Special Meeting Minutes of October 17, 2013
  3. Election of Secretary/Treasurer
  4. Ratification of Previous Votes
    Ratification of votes taken at the October 17, 2013 CCC Meeting
  5. State House Parking Issues
  6. Adjournment

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PBN: Free parking has done little to spur commuter-rail use

Until more people need to get to Providence, [Wickford Junction garage operator Robert] Cioe said, those who do go will be able to drive in and find parking at rates that make it difficult for “park-and-ride” from the suburbs to compete.

Johnson & Wales University is preparing to open a 700-space parking garage downtown, the state is expanding a surface lot near the capitol while adding another, Brown University’s plans for redeveloping the South Street Power Station include a city-financed, 600-space parking garage and the Interstate 195 Commission wants the state to build a new parking garage next to the Garrahy Judicial Complex.

We don’t have enough parking but we have too much parking?

William Lawrence, a transportation consultant in South Kingstown who used to manage real estate for the MBTA, said there are currently a number of barriers standing in the way of commuter-rail ridership to Providence, in addition to the economy.

They include the inconvenience of getting from the Providence train station to many offices and the comparatively cheap cost of parking in or taking a bus into the city.

If we expect people to leave their cars at home, or at a park n’ ride, we need to make moving about the core better. We can’t put people on trains, let them off, and say, ‘good luck!’

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ProJo: Commission meets to discuss possible Garrahy Complex parking garage

A legislative commission began looking Wednesday into whether building a parking garage adjacent to the Garrahy Judicial Complex on Dorrance Street would be a useful public project.

Garages are easy to build, going up Erector set fashion in months, but expensive — from $30,000 to $35,000 per space, he noted.

“They don’t support themselves out of the gate,” [I-195 Redevelopment District Commission chairman Colin] Kane said.

So it sounds like Kane is setting up the expectation that the public will have to subsidize this parking. GrowSmartRI tweeted:


…indeed.

Update: GrowSmartRI updated their status to indicate that Mr. Kane let them know that he “discussed the importance of transit, walking, and zipcars as part of the transportation equation.” We see the fact remaining that an entire Commission was created to ‘discuss’ parking at one specific location. A Commission where other transportation options may be mentioned, but are hardly the focus. Parking should be being discussed as a part of a transportation system. Parking should not be the focus where every other form of transportation is treated as, ‘oh, sure, that’s important too.’

Previously: State to study Garrahy Courthouse Garage. Again.

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State defiantly moves ahead with surface parking

state-house-parking

In spite of Providence Zoning rules and Capital Center rules forbidding it, the State is moving ahead with plans to expand a surface parking lot on the State House grounds and building a new surface parking lot adjacent to the State House.

ecoRI reports that the Department of Administration (DOA) has already started work on expanding the Assembly Members parking lot on the State House grounds. “Work on the two tiers of new parking to the east of the Statehouse, along Smith Street, will replace 2,000 square feet of grass with some 40 parking spaces.”

Meanwhile, as we discussed in July, the DOA has spent $3.1 million purchasing property along Francis Street next to the Veterans Memorial Auditorium for even more surface parking.

The Chairman of the Capital Center Commission, Deming Sherman is none to happy about all this. Sherman told The Providence Journal that there should be less parking around the State House, not more and that a parking garage should be built behind the DOA building.

When the State restarted the project to expand the parking lot on the State House lawn in June of this year, Sherman contended that the plan had to be submitted to the Capital Center Commission for review, the DOA claims that their authority supercedes the Capital Center Commission (which was created by the State) as well as City zoning.

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Capital Center Commission Meeting – October 17, 2013

featured-capital-center Capital Center Commission Meeting
Thursday, October 17, 2013 – 12:00 NOON
Joseph A. Doorley, Jr. Municipal Building
444 Westminster Street, 1st Floor Conference Room Providence, RI 02903

Agenda

  1. Roll Call
  2. Minutes
    2.1 Approval of Commission Special Meeting Minutes of August 28, 2013
  3. Parking Lot Discussion Discussion regarding parking issues near the State House
  4. Designation of Auditor
  5. FY 2014 Budget
  6. Adjournment


See also: State to pay $3.1 million to buy land for prohibited parking

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Park(ing) Day Providence – September 20, 2013

parking-day

What is Park(ing) Day?

Park(ing) Day is a worldwide event for artists, designers, and citizens to transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks. For more information, visit the global Park(ing) Day website.

When is Park(ing) Day?

In 2013, Park(ing) Day is on Friday, September 20, from approximately 9:00am to 5:00pm (times may vary by spot – Parks can only be in the space when it is legal to park a vehicle there.

How many spots will there be?

35 Parklets throughout Providence

Where can I go to see parks?

Parks are located around Providence.

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WPRI: Is it time for Providence to tax land rather than buildings?

The idea is to shift toward taxing the value of something whose supply won’t change due to tax rates – land – instead of the buildings and other improvements made there. The hope is that doing so would spur development, pushing those who own vacant land to do something with it.

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Parking crisis

This image from the June 28, 1977 issue of Star Magazine shows a truck swallowed up by a hole in a Providence parking garage. Any ideas of which garage it may be?

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News & Notes

Flying Into Boston 005 - Tilt Shift v2

Boston. Photo (cc) Kevin Tostado.

The Boston Globe: Don’t require more spaces; price curbside ones properly

If you give a valuable resource away for free, the inevitable result is overuse and crowding. In the old Soviet Union, groceries sold eggs and butter at near-free prices, and therefore shoppers faced long lines and empty shelves. In modern Massachusetts, on-street parking is available at low or no cost, and therefore drivers can’t find a parking spot. Low parking costs also ensure there are more drivers congesting the roads.

Small comfort I suppose that even in Boston, residents are aghast at the idea of reduced parking minimums.


The Boston Globe: Boston’s population boom speeds up

It’s not just the city proper. If you look at the other New England cities of 50,000 people or more you see that in general, the closer these sizable cities were to Boston, the faster they grew. (An exception: the similarly fast-growing cities along southern Connecticut’s I-95 and commuter rail corridor, which fall into the orbit of New York City.) This is an acceleration of a trend that began in 2000-2010, when Boston grew faster than the rest of New England for the first time in more than a century.

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Kennedy Plaza/Circulator Phase 3 Informational Meeting – July 10, 2013

The City will be having an informational meeting about proposed enhancements and reconfiguration of the Kennedy Plaza area as well as details about Phase 3 of the Downtown Circulator project. The Circulator project includes reconstruction of LaSalle and Emmet Squares, Fountain Street, Broadway, part of Dorrance Street, and Exchange Terrace.

circ-meeting

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 • 5pm-6pm
444 Westminster Street, 1st Floor

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State to pay $3.1 million to buy land for prohibited parking

state-house-parcels

Image from Google Maps

As Ted Nesi reported in his Saturday Morning Post and ProJo reports today, the State Properties Committee has agreed to spend $3.1 million acquiring several parcels on Francis Street across from the State House and the Veterans Memorial Auditorium. State officials tell ProJo they would like to turn the land into a parking lot ‘available for visitors to state offices on Smith Hill and patrons of Veterans Memorial Auditorium.’ The Governor’s Director of Administration, Richard Licht, told Ted Nesi, “It may be 25 years or more before we actually put a building on it, but we’ll never get it for a lower price.”

The parcels are within the City’s D-1 zoning designation (as well as in the Capital Center District). D-1 zoning regulation list surface parking as a prohibited use except for as a carefully defined interim use (ephasis mine):

Interim surface parking may be permitted by waiver by the DRC as an interim use so long as it is either accessory to another interim use on the same lot, or to accommodate parking to serve a construction project. Said construction parking shall cease when the construction is complete. Interim Use surface parking lots shall conform to Section 502.2 E.

Why is the State spending money for land to use for a prohibited use? State government has been shrinking, why would we need more parking on Smith Hill? Isn’t there a public garage at the DOT? Isn’t there street parking? Isn’t there parking at the mall? Isn’t the State strapped for cash? Couldn’t people take the RIPTA to Smith Hill? Is there really a parking crisis up there, can people not get their business with the State done due to a lack of parking (I’ve never found that to be the case)?

This would be a fine place for more State offices, but we do not need for it to be a surface parking lot for 25 years.

Oh, and just in case you forgot what state you were in, RINPR reports that most of the parcels in question are owned by former Senate Majority Leader John Hawkins. Isn’t that convenient for the retired Senator?

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State to study Garrahy Courthouse Garage. Again.

garrahy-courthouse

Image from Google Maps

Ian Donnis tweeted out a link to the legislation authorizing a new Downtown Garage Commission:


Back in 2005 there was a $20 million proposal to build a garage on this site. Ian Donnis wrote about a similar plan languishing back in 2008 when he was at the Providence Phoenix. And in 2009, then Mayor Cicilline put $47 million in his stimulus wish list for the garage.

The desire for a garage at this site goes back way further than that even. The Providence 1970 plan, written in the early 60’s basically called for Downtown to be ringed with garages just off the highways, then an elevated people mover system would move people around town from the garages. Though the interstate highway that originally prompted this as a location is gone, and an elevated people mover in Providence is a non-starter, the Garrahy Courthouse as a parking garage location lives on.

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ecoRI: ‘Free’ Parking is Bundled Bag of Goods

As I look for a campus to get my graduate degree, a surprising factor weighs into my decision: How much am I going to pay for parking? As a non-driver, Rhode Island College may end up charging me the most of all.

The Rhode Island College website boasts that parking is a free service offered to all students. Economists have a more accurate name for “free” services that are included with the cost of something else: bundled goods. The price of parking on campus is not actually free, it’s just bundled to the cost of tuition. Students pay for a parking spot whether they want one or not, even if they don’t own a car.

In fact, 99 percent of parking spots in the United States are bundled, from groceries to restaurant service, and at almost all of our jobs — so few of us think about parking’s cost. It’s not chump change. The median price of just one parking space is $15,000. With four parking spaces per car in the United States, the real-estate value of all those asphalt rectangles adds up to far more than the total value of all the country’s vehicles.

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Reader Submission: Unpaved Smith Hill

Providence New capital hill

In response to recent discussions on parking at the State House reader Nicolas R. Mariscal submits a Photoshop rendering (above) of what the State House area could look like with better land use planning. Nicholas says:

I saw your post on the parking situation at the state house, and agree that the surface parking is an eyesore, like it is almost everywhere else around Providence.

So I was bored after class today and photoshopped an aerial image of the RI State House that could get rid of the surface lots, still keeping in mind that most people commuting will drive to work.

Got rid of the surface lots, and feel a parking garage with a nice facade/metal screen, lighting and shops on the first floor could go on the fourth side(blank side) of the odd postmodern plaza in the middle of all the state offices. Creating a nice courtyard between all the buildings.

I like the idea of combining a parking structure with ground floor retail uses on the State House complex grounds. There really is no good place in the immediate area to get a bite to eat or a cup of coffee for state employees or visitors. Retail at a garage could help that, and the central plaza could become a good place for workers and visitors to enjoy thier lunch.

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Guest post: Parking reform should start at the State House

historic-state-house

The State House with a lot less parking. Photo courtesy of the Providence Department of Planning & Development.

Reader James Kennedy writes about reforming parking at the State House. Follow James on Twitter: @TransportPVD.

The State House is a great place to start reforming Providence’s parking crisis. The great map that Jef put up last April shows that the State House contributes considerably to the overwhelming of our downtown space by surface parking.

From the outset, 10% of State House parking lot space should be repurposed as a vegetable and flower garden, which could be run in private-public partnership with the Southside Community Land Trust. Repurposing State House parking will highlight one of the city’s best reasons for optimism, the Land Trust’s Lots for Hope program. Produce from the raised beds could be used to fill food banks around the state, or could be sold at Rhode Island’s farmers’ markets to return a modest revenue boost to the state budget.

The remaining spaces should no longer be free. Legislators and other State House employees should receive a transportation stipend, equal to the amount of money currently being spent on paving a parking spot for them to use. Those who continue to drive to the State House would not lose money, but they will at least be aware that parking is a fiscal choice. But many others will choose to save money by carpooling, taking transit, or biking to the capital. The plan will be revenue neutral to taxpayers, in that it will simply repurpose funds already being spent.

Parking demand will decrease if this plan is put in place, and as it does, the state should gradually remove more spaces to increase the area of the garden. As in Denmark, where cities have committed to remove 2-3% of parking spaces per year to reduce their carbon footprints, the State House could set a per year goal for removal of spots, with the eventual culmination of a parking lot half the size of the current one. The gradual pace of change will allow for other transportation options to be developed.

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