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2014 State of the City Address

Mayor Angel Taveras delivered his final State of the City Address last night at City Hall:


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Image from Angel Taveras Twitter feed


Working and Investing in Providence

Mayor Angel Taveras – 2014 State of the City Address
Tuesday, February 11, 2014

(as prepared for delivery)

Mr. President, honorable members of the Providence City Council, distinguished guests, and fellow residents of our great Capital City –

In April, I had the pleasure to be present for the Omni Group’s purchase of the C.J. Fox factory. Anyone who drives on Route 95 South through our city knows the Omni Group has been hard at work renovating the complex at the entrance to historic Federal Hill.

The Omni Group is a homegrown company, headquartered in Providence. Like most businesses, they went through some tough times beginning in 2008. Financing their project became a major challenge when Wall Street imploded and the economy went into a tailspin.

But the Omni Group made it through the hard times, and now they are moving forward and investing $5 million to convert the old factory complex into office space. Bill DiStefano, Omni’s President and CEO, told me they decided to expand their business again because they believe Providence is heading in the right direction.

I tell you this story because it speaks to the overall state of our city. The state of our city is improving.

We’ve been through the hard times of the Great Recession. But we never lost hope. And we never stopped believing that better days were ahead. We are working hard and making investments that will propel Providence into a future of greater economic strength and prosperity.

I want to talk to you tonight about all we’ve done to move Providence forward in the past year. And then I want to talk to you about what we will do in the coming months.

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→ PBN: Costly bridge work looming

6-10-bing

Image from Bing Maps

At an estimated cost of up to $500 million, [the Route 6/Route 10 interchange] is the most expensive unfunded highway construction project on the state’s to-do list and could be one of the toughest to find the resources for.

We need to be thinking beyond replacement.

Asked about the possibility of not rebuilding the interchange or replacing sections of the expressway with surface-level roads, Lewis said elimination was “not workable.”

“It’s just too much a part of the transportation system” to eliminate, Lewis said. “I don’t think there is a transit option that would take care of this need. If [routes] 6 or 10 access was not available, all that traffic would have to go somewhere else and shift to [Interstate 95] and local roads.”

Sigh.

Call San Francisco, ask them about the Embarcadero.

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News & Notes

Electric car charging.

Electric car charging station in St. Petersburg, FL. Photo (cc) CityofStPete

→ Grist: States promise to sell one new EV for every 24 people by 2025

They’re starting to step up. Eight states that represent, according to the New York Times, “a quarter of the national car market” just announced they’re going to work together on creating a better system for drivers of electric vehicles. They are, in descending order of population size, California, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and they say their goal is to help get 3.3 million new EVs sold by 2025. With a combined population of 79 million people, that means one EV for every 24 people.

How are they going to do it? By creating a system that will give EV owners something only gas-guzzling car drivers have now: certainty about where and when and how they’ll be able to fuel up.

I’m all for things that help improve the environment, but I’ve got to say, I’m a little sad that the environmental press is not being more thoughtful on this story. Reduced carbon emissions are wonderful, but it is not simply the carbon which is problematic, it is safety (for people inside and outside of cars) land-use, household budgets, and more. These are among the things states are supposed to do to encourage electric cars:

  • More charging stations
  • Building codes that require chargers at workplaces and “multifamily residences”
  • Reduced tolls
  • Better parking
  • Cheaper electricity prices

These are all things that encourage more driving; encouraging sprawl, paving land, putting pedestrians and cyclists in conflict with auto-traffic (I don’t think you’re any less dead after getting run over by an electric vehicle than you are getting run over by a gas powered one), and leaving individuals and families tied to the expense of a car (granted, made less so by reducing the costs of powering the vehicle).

Rhode Island seems quite proud of itself for being part of this group of states, but Rhode Island continues to poorly support alternatives to automobile use, namely mass transit and cycling infrastructure.

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News & Notes

OneFund-2 Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick announced The One Fund Boston, to raise money to help those families most affected by the tragic events that unfolded during Monday’s Boston Marathon. To contribute to The One Fund Boston, go to theonefundboston.org.

→ The Atlantic Cities: How President Obama’s Budget Proposal Would Affect Cities

President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2014, released [last week], focuses on economic growth and a strong middle class. Better urban development isn’t the first item on that agenda, but it’s an important part of the administration’s priorities for the coming year.

Three agencies in particular are at the core of that work, with offices dedicated to making sure community development contributes to regional and national economic growth. The president’s 2014 budget would change how each of these agencies invest in community development.


→ The Atlantic Cities: New Chicago Plan: Pedestrians Come First

[I]n the Second City – as in just about every American metro – autos have long dominated city streets and how we think about who uses them, why they exist and what defines them as successful. This summer, though, Chicago is planning to roll out a small-sounding but seismic policy shift: From now on, in the design guidelines for every effort from major streetscape projects to minor roadside electrical work, transportation work must defer to a new “default modal hierarchy.” The pedestrian comes first.

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Providence 2013 State of the City Address


Mayor Angel Taveras

2013 State of the City Address

Providence Is Recovering

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 • (as prepared for delivery)

Photo of the Mayor delivering the State of the City from the Mayor's Office.

Photo of the Mayor delivering the State of the City from the Mayor’s Office.

Governor, Mr. President, honorable members of the Providence City Council, distinguished guests, and my fellow residents of our great Capital City –

One year ago I stood before you in this Chamber with an urgent message for our City and the entire State of Rhode Island. Providence was in peril. Despite many difficult decisions and painful sacrifices made to pull Providence back from the brink, we were still $22 million short of closing a $110 million structural deficit.

Crucial steps necessary to navigate our City safely through our Category 5 fiscal hurricane had not yet come to pass. We still needed to reform our unsustainable pensions. And we needed Providence’s large, tax-exempt institutions to contribute more.

As I stood before you on February 13, 2012, Providence was running out of cash, and running out of time. In the months that followed, there were some who said Providence could not avoid filing for bankruptcy.

BACK FROM THE BRINK

Today it is my privilege to deliver a much more hopeful report on the State of our City: Providence is recovering.

Through collaborative efforts and shared sacrifice, we have all but eliminated our City’s $110 million structural deficit, and we expect to end this year with a balanced budget. Working together, we have accomplished what few believed possible.

We were determined to address the root causes of Providence’s fiscal emergency and prepared to act unilaterally if necessary. And we knew our City would never achieve a lasting recovery without addressing our unsustainable and spiraling pension costs.

In April, following months of actuarial analysis and public testimony, this City Council unanimously approved a pension reform ordinance that put Providence’s pension system on a sustainable path.

We recognized that passing the ordinance would likely lead to a high-stakes lawsuit with no real winners – because a decision in favor of the status quo would push our City over the brink. However, faced with the challenge of negotiating pension changes with more than 2,000 retirees who were not represented by a single entity, we saw no alternative.

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City Plan Commission Meeting – January 15, 2013

Notice of Regular Meeting
Tuesday, January 15, 2013 – 4:45pm
Department of Planning and Development • 1st Floor Meeting Room
444 Westminster Street, Providence

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of minutes from November 20th 2012 meeting – for action
  • Approval of minutes from December 18th 2012 meeting – for action
  • Director’s Report

Major Land Development Project

1. Case No. 12-011 MA – 257 Thayer Street (Final Plan Approval) The CPC approved the preliminary plan to construct a four story mixed use building with 95 dwelling units, underground parking and a landscaped courtyard in December 2012. The applicant is seeking final plan approval subject to fulfillment of preliminary plan conditions – for action (AP 13 Lots 42, 48, 104, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238 and 241, College Hill)

See also: UPDATED: Graduate student housing apartment building proposed on Thayer Street

Institutional Master Plan

2. Amendment of Providence College’s Institutional Master Plan (IMP) The applicant is seeking to amend the IMP to reflect the institution’s requests for street abandonments and changes to the Institutional Overlay Zone – for action (Elmhurst)

See also: Letter to the campus from P.C.’s President regarding their PILOT agreement

City Council Referral

3. Referral 3359 – Abandonment of portions of Huxley Avenue, Wardlaw Avenue and Cumberland Street Petition by Providence College to abandon Huxley Avenue between AP 119 lot 8 and lot 229 and Cumberland Street between AP 81 lot 189 and lot 195 and Wardlaw Avenue from AP 81 lot 186 to lot 189 – for action (Elmhurst)

4. Referral 3360 – Extension of I-2 overlay zone Petition by Providence College to extend the I-2[1] overlay district to include certain lots on Wardlaw Avenue and Cumberland Street – for action (Elmhurst, AP 81 Lots 186, 188 and 189-196)

See also: Presumed Parking Lot-ification

CPC Administration

5. Election of Officers Election of CPC officers – for discussion and action

Adjournment



[1] I-2 Educational Institutions – This zone is intended to permit higher education institutions and their expansion in a planned manner while protecting the surrounding neighborhoods. (Providence Zoning Ordinance)

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What Cheer / What Jeer 2012

It is that time of year for us to take a look back and What Cheer the good and What Jeer the bad.

whatcheer

Work commences on the Washington Bridge Linear Park

It has been in the works for years, but finally RIDOT has started work on the Washington Bridge Linear Park.

Through a $22 million contract, RIDOT will rebuild the remaining section of the original Washington Bridge that carries the existing bikeway and a section of the original highway bridge. In the same footprint will be a much wider bikeway and linear park. It will feature a separate bikeway and walking path, scenic overlooks, park benches, flag poles, decorative lighting and landscaped planters. The project also calls for restoration of the historic, multi-arch granite façade of the Washington Bridge and two operator’s houses from which an original drawbridge was controlled.

When opened, the new linear park will be named the George Redman Linear Park, after the East Providence resident who was instrumental in making the East Bay Bike Path a reality 25 years ago. Redman continues to advocate for bike path development across the state.


whatcheer

Wind Turbines at Fields Point

While they were installed in January, the whole City was speculating when the would finally start spinning. Turns out they wouldn’t start up until October. But now they are finally spinning and adding some environmental goodness to the Providence skyline. Hope we’ll some more.


whatcheer

Overnight parking expansion

While it has been studied endlessly for years (even as the rest of the world seemed to be able to embrace it and not devolve into chaos), in April, overnight parking has finally started spreading throughout the City.


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City Plan Commission Meeting – November 20, 2012

Notice of Regular Meeting
Tuesday, November 20, 2012 – 4:45pm
Department of Planning and Development
1st Floor Meeting Room
444 Westminster Street, Providence

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of minutes from October 16th 2012 meeting – for action
  • Director’s Report

Minor Subdivision

View Brown Streets in a larger map

1. Case No. 12-047MI – Preliminary Plan Approval for creation of new lots from the abandoned portions of Brown and Benevolent Street The applicant, Brown University, received approval for abandonment of the portion of Benevolent Street between Brown Street and Magee Street and abandonment of Brown Street between Charlesfield and George Streets. The applicant is requesting that new lots be created for both abandonment areas – for action (College Hill)

2. Case No. 12–048MI – Preliminary Plan Approval for creation of new lot from the abandoned portion of Olive Street The applicant, Brown University, received approval for abandonment of the portion of Olive Street between Brown and Thayer Street. The applicant is requesting that a new lot be created for the abandonment area – for action (College Hill)

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News & Notes

Dunsmuir Separated Bike Lanes 462

Protected bike lane in Vancouver, Canada. Photo (cc) Paul Krueger

→ USA Today: More small towns thinking big

These small but growing towns are applying some of the most forward-thinking planning tenets to create true downtowns, arts districts and new traffic patterns that alleviate congestion and encourage walking. They’re changing zoning to build city-style condos and apartments above stores. And they’re getting away from big parking lots and strip malls by putting parking underground and behind stores. Often, the downtowns are created around a new city hall, transit stations, arts center — or all three.

“We’ve got to start designing our cities for people first and automobiles second,” says Carmel Mayor James Brainard, a lawyer who picked up some European design sensibilities while studying in England.


→ American Planning Association: Milwaukee’s transit debate: Streetcar desire vs. disaster

Mayor Tom Barrett is the prime mover behind Milwaukee’s plan to build a brand-new streetcar system. Bright, modern vehicles would traverse a two-mile route through the city’s East Side, downtown and historic Third Ward, a former warehouse area now popular for its shops and restaurants.

Barrett believes flashy streetcars can revitalize Milwaukee’s city front and points to the popularity of the 10-year-old system in Portland, Ore. Today’s streetcars, Barrett says, are more about attracting attention than providing transportation.

“I look at this as an economic development tool,” Barrett told the Tribune. “Look at Portland. That system has aided in spurring development and growth, which is what all communities are looking for now.”


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