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James Kennedy: Reconnect Providence with a real 6/10 Boulevard

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This post was originally written as an Op-Ed submitted to the Providence Journal. It was originally published at Transport Providence and appears here with permission.

James Kennedy is part of the group Moving Together Providence. You can follow him on Twitter at @transportpvd.

RIDOT has dubbed its proposal for a 6/10 Connector Big Dig a “highway-boulevard hybrid”, but the 6/10 Dig is sharply at odds with the Moving Together Providence proposal for a genuine 6/10 Boulevard. Like the “cooler and warmer” scandal that has captured the public’s attention and revulsion, highway-boulevard hybrid is state-government-speak for nonsense. But the mistakes embedded in RIDOT’s 6/10 approach are orders of magnitude more expensive than the $4.5 million Reykjavik excursion, and its failure will stay with us for decades.

It’s pretty obvious why the 6/10 Connector has segregated Silver Lake, Olneyville, and the West End from each other, and not hard to understand how it made Providence’s “second downtown” its poorest neighborhood. Less obvious, but vital, is for suburbanites to understand how RIDOT’s policy fails them, and to join in a statewide movement for a genuine boulevard.

Urban highways funnel traffic and collect it into a few chokepoints, instead of allowing it to disperse naturally. Olneyville has next to no job centers that would draw outsiders, and the neighborhood itself is almost 50% car-free. But 11:30 on a Wednesday in Olneyville Square feels like let-out time for the Newport Jazz Festival. How can a place with so little economic activity and driving be so congested?

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Citizens plans campus in the middle of nowhere

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Rendering of Citizens planned campus in Johnston

On Wednesday, Citizens Financial Group announced their plans to build a corporate campus on a greenfield site in Johnson outside Route 295, while maintaining their current corporate headquarters in Providence.

As reported by WPRI, the 420,000 square foot campus will house 3,200 employees. Construction will start this year with occupancy in 2018.

Rhode Island Public Radio reports the campus will feature an on-site cafeteria, fitness center, and walking paths.

The Providence Journal reports on some financial help Citizens received for the project, notably:

Citizens and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation have agreed to split the $6-million cost to build new exit and entrance ramps onto Route 295, between current exits 6 and 7, where the highway crosses Greenville Avenue. The DOT will pay $3 million, and construction is expected to start in the spring of 2017, DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin said;

Didn’t we just pass a super-controversial bill to toll trucks because RIDOT can’t afford to maintain what it has now? Now RIDOT is building infrastructure for private development?

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WPRI: Here are the 32 construction projects Mayor Elorza is touting for 2016

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Cranes used to construct the Waterplace towers in 2006

Dan McGowan put together a comprehensive list of developments planned for the city in the next year or so. As the past has shown though, we should be careful not to count our Vaporscapers before they’ve hatched.

From the massive life-sciences complex on the former I-195 land to a small expansion of a metal company near the port of Providence, Mayor Jorge Elorza says Rhode Island’s capital city will see between $500 million and $700 million in new construction in 2016.

In his State of the City address last week, Elorza said the city expects more than 30 “major construction projects” to break ground this year, part of a once-in-a-generation boom that could provide a significant boost to the city’s coffers through new tax and permitting revenue.

So where are these new projects located?

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Providence Planning Department Neighborhood Planning Survey

From the City of Providence Department of Planning & Development:


square-p-01From 2007-2012, the Department of Planning and Development conducted extensive community outreach as part of the Providence Tomorrow neighborhood planning process. The neighborhood action plans were an important result of that process.

As several years have now passed, we feel that it is important to update the action plans for each neighborhood to make sure that they reflect current goals and issues. These documents will serve as a central repository for all planning-related issues, containing a prioritized list of issues and opportunities specific to each neighborhood including those pertaining to redevelopment, crosswalks and sidewalks, nuisance properties, parks and playgrounds, zoning, parking, schools, public transportation, drainage, historic preservation, and business needs, among many others.

Once the action items are updated to reflect current needs and goals, the Department of Planning + Development will work to identify funding to complete specific projects, build on opportunities that exist, and resolve other issues as needed.

Neighborhood Planning Survey: English | Español
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ProJo: Providence City Council OKs tax deal for hotel on Fountain Street

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Rendering of proposed extended stay hotel which would replace the Fogarty Building on Fountain Street.

On an 10-1 vote Thursday night, the City Council gave final approval for a tax-reduction agreement that will clear the way for the demolition of the vacant Fogarty Building on Fountain Street and its replacement with a $40-million high-rise hotel.

Once the mayor’s office signs off on the agreement with the hotel developer, Cranston-based Procaccianti Group, the company plans to apply for the needed permits to demolish the building, company spokesman Ralph V. Izzi Jr. said.

The company expects to begin tearing down the old social services office building within six to nine months of getting the permits, Izzi said, with hotel construction taking 12 to 18 months after that, he said.


I much prefered the ‘general hospital from the eighties‘ design they were proposing back in May of last year.

Also, how lame are we that we’re giving permission to someone who owns two surface parking lots a block away to tear down yet another building in our city?

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ProJo: Redeveloped Jewelry District building will include 57 apartments, restaurant space

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Image from Google Streetview

Work will begin soon on the redevelopment of an historic Jewelry District building into 57 apartments and ground-floor restaurant space, and the new owners hope to have the building reopened by the end of 2016.

[…]

[Brian] Poitras [president of Waldorf Capital Management LLC] said architects Martha Werenfels and Ed Cifune of Durkee, Brown, Viveiros & Werenfels are leading the design project. He said the building will include a restaurant space and some common areas on the ground level and apartments on all six floors.

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Capital Center Design Review Committee Meeting – October 6, 2015

Capital Center Commission Design Review Committee Meeting
Tuesday, October 6, 2015 • 8:00am
Joseph A. Doorley, Jr. Municipal Building
444 Westminster Street, 1st Floor Conference Room Providence, RI 02903

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ccc-roundAgenda

  1. Roll Call
  2. Minutes
  3. Meetings of June 16, 2015 and August 4, 2015
  4. Parcel 12
    Continued design review of plans for the construction of a new hotel on the property.
  5. Adjournment
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Downtown Design Review Committee Meeting – September 21, 2015

Downtown Design Review Committee
Monday, September 21, 2015 – 4:45pm
Department of Planning and Development, 1st Floor Conference Room 444 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903

drc-roundOpening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of Meeting Minutes of June 15, 2015 and August 17, 2015

New Business

1. DRC Application No. 15.18: 342 Eddy Street (Public Hearing) – The subject of the hearing will be an application by The Narragansett Electric Company requesting waivers from D-1 Design Regulations for non-conforming new construction. The applicant is proposing to construct a new Substation Switchgear & Control Building at 342 Eddy Street, Providence, RI. The applicant is seeking waivers from the requirements for building height and fenestration.


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Proposed building for Parcel 8, image from Kite Architects.

2. DRC Application No. 15.19: 566 South Water Street and Parcel 8 (Eastside I-195 Overlay District) – Proposal by Royal Oaks Realty, LLC to construct a new mixed-use building on the property. The DRC will review the project and make a recommendation to the I-195 District Commission.

Adjournment

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Capital Center Commission Design Review Committee Meeting – August 4, 2015

Capital Center Commission Design Review Committee Meeting
Tuesday, August 4, 2015 • 8:00 am
Joseph A. Doorley, Jr. Municipal Building
444 Westminster Street, 1st Floor Conference Room Providence, RI 02903

ccc-roundAgenda

  1. Roll Call
  2. Minutes
    Meetings of May 19, 2015 and June 16, 2015
  3. Parcel 12
    Presentation of revised plans for the construction of a new hotel on the property.
  4. Adjournment
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ProJo: Major development proposed for ‘premier’ waterfront property in Pawtucket

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Peregrine Group LLC and city officials expect to announce Tuesday a proposal for a commercial and residential development on nearly 11 acres of prime waterfront property along the Seekonk River and bounded by Division, Water and School streets.

[…]

Kane and his business partner, Samuel Bradner, another principal at Peregrine who is the lead on the project, expect the medical office and residential apartments to cost about $40 million to $45 million to build. Plus, Kane said, they expect the project needs as much as $8 million more in other costs, including parking, walkways and public access to the riverfront.

See also:

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Downtown Design Review Committee Meeting – June 15, 2015

Downtown Design Review Committee
Monday, June 15, 2015 – 4:45pm
Department of Planning and Development, 1st Floor Conference Room 444 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903

drc-roundOpening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of Meeting Minutes of March 9, 2015 and May 11, 2015

New Business

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1. DRC Application No. 13.13: 44 Hospital Street Continued review of the proposal by 44 Hospital Street, LLC to demolish the existing structure located at 44 Hospital Street, and to construct a new six?story mixed?use building on the site. The applicant was granted a waiver for demolition of the existing building and conceptual approval of the new design at the July 8, 2013 DRC meeting. The applicant is returning to the DRC for final design review.

Adjournment

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ProJo: R.I. Senate Majority Leader Ruggerio wants state control of taxes on former Rt. 195 land, tax-stabilization deal

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Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio expects to submit legislation Thursday that would establish state control over the taxes to be paid on former Route 195 highway parcels in the capital city, creating a 20-year tax-stabilization agreement for private developers and removing the city’s control over what taxes would be paid.

Ruggerio led work in 2011 to create the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, which now owns 26 acres of former highway land and seeks to develop the land in a way that stimulates the state’s economy. The land panel just last week extended the deadline for a private developer seeking to build on the land to get a tax-stabilization agreement with the city.

“The administration and the I-195 commission have repeatedly stated they cannot successfully encourage development without the City of Providence creating tax-stabilization standards. Unfortunately, the establishment of clear and predictable tax rates for the I-195 district have not come to fruition,” Ruggerio said in a statement. “We cannot afford to wait any longer. The development of I-195 is critical to Rhode Island’s economic recovery and this legislation will encourage investment, job creation and economic growth.”

I think the City has not been fast enough in moving on their part of getting the land developed. However, I think the administration and the City Council are waiting to hear from the State how we’ll be reimbursed for creating these incentives that theoretically are boosting the economy of the entire state, not just Providence.

Providence carries a heavy burden of hosting so many jobs and so much infrastructure that makes the very existance of this state possible, but doesn’t get very much back for its trouble.

Ruggerio said he last met with Elorza probably in February, but he hadn’t shared his legislation with Elorza before releasing it today.

Well that is just rude. If you’re representing my city, and you’re moving to take away my taxing authority, a phone call or a text, maybe a fax, is in order.

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WPRI: Major life-sciences complex proposed for 195 land

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Life-sciences complex proposed for Parcels 22 and 25. Image from Google Maps.

Two private developers – Wexford Science & Technology LLC and CV Properties LLC – submitted a proposal last week to the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission seeking approval for a million-square-foot-plus multi-use project on parcel 22 and parcel 25 of the vacant former highway land, WPRI.com confirmed Wednesday.

“It is a major life sciences complex that includes lab space, academic research space, a hotel with meeting space and residential and retail components,” Eric Cote, a spokesman for CV Properties, told WPRI.com.

“It is a very large proposed complex,” he said. “The size that it may ultimately be will depend on our discussions with the 195 Commission, so it could change, but it’s currently envisioned as a project in excess of 1 million square feet.


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Warwick Beacon: RI Mall won’t house outlets

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Rhode Island Mall. Image from Bing.

Outlet stores won’t be coming to Warwick.

On Thursday, Adam Winstanley of Winstanley Enterprise LLC confirmed reports the proposal to convert Rhode Island Mall into an outlet mall has been abandoned and that the company has a contract to sell the property, which as Midland Mall was the state’s first suburban mall.

Winstanley sees Rhode Island Mall as “coming back as a big box mall,” meaning in place of smaller stores congregated around a couple of anchor stores, there would be five or six larger stores. He put those stores at between 40,000 and 60,000 square feet each.


Because we all know what a sure bet big box stores have been over the last decade.

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