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East Providence, Village on the Waterfront

Rendering from Village on the Waterfront LLC

ProJo reports that the East Providence Mayor and City Council are WICKED excited about the prospect of a $167 million condo, marina, commercial development on that city’s waterfront.

“Are you kidding me,” said an excited Mayor Joseph S. Larisa Jr. “This is the single greatest private economic development project in the history of East Providence. At the end, we will have an absolutely, tremendous project that frankly, no one else is willing to do. [The Chevron Corp. and Village on the Waterfront group led by Providence Realty Investment LCC] know the recession will end at some point soon, hopefully, and they want to be poised to have a project up-and-running that will be great for the city and, of course, great for them.”

“This is the best thing that has ever happened for the city,” Councilman Bruce DiTraglia said.

BEST THING EVER! I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubbles, the leaders of East Providence are certainly aware of the number of proposals that have gone nowhere on the East Providence waterfront, and certainly, they are aware that the economy… well it kinda sucks right now.

On the other hand, the developer is Chevron, yes that Chevron. If anyone has money to make a development like this happen, it would probably be an oil company. The site being developed, or more accurately, redeveloped, is the company’s former “light product terminal.”

View Village on the Waterfront in a larger map

The East Providence Waterfront Commission’s page describes the development like this:

Chevron has entered into a cooperative agreement with Village on the Waterfront LLC to transform Chevron’s former light products terminal on Veteran’s Memorial Parkway into a mixed-use community called “Village on the Waterfront.” The 26-acre site will have 600 residential units contained in townhomes, condominiums and apartments with 40,000 sf of commercial uses, including a restaurant, shops, office space and a fitness center. Ten percent of the housing units will be affordable housing, as required by Waterfront District regulations.

There will also be a kayak beach and rental store that will be open to the public, along with all open space, trails, and a proposed fishing pier. Waterfront Drive will be extended south through the site, as will a spur to the existing East Bay Bike Path. Construction is expected to begin in 2011: the project will be constructed in five phases over nine years.

The project was approved by the commission last year, the reason it is in the news now is that the city has approved a financial arrangement with the developer including a TIF.

The Village will be built in 4 phases, with the first phase projected to start in 12 to 18 months and to take 12 months to complete. The first phase encompasses mostly infrastructure, site remediation, water, sewer, electric, extending Waterfront Drive, and development of the commercial structures and some residences. East Providence Planning Director Jeanne Boyle told the Journal she expects the project to be complete in 8 to 10 years.

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News & Notes

avoiding car-centered language: a directive [Human Transit]

Yes, crash sounds emotive while accident sounds cool, so it’s easy to assume that accident is more objective or factual. But sometimes the facts are emotive, and only an emotive word will accurately describe them. The directive even notices that avoiding the emotive word can constitute an emotional bias in the other direction: “Sheila was in a car accident!” “Oh no, I hope she’s OK!” “Well, she killed three cyclists, so she’s pretty upset!” “How terrible! I’ll send her some flowers.”

Human landscapes in SW Florida [The Big Picture]

Save-A-Lot (grocery store) Grows by Targeting Low-Income Neighborhoods [Retail Traffic]

Reclaim Your Streets: How to Create Safe and Social Pedestrian Plazas [Yes!]

Ten tips for planners to convert a shopping center into a village center [New Urban Network]

Driven Apart: How Sprawl Is Lengthening Our Commutes and Why Misleading Mobility Measures Are Making Things Worse [CEO for Cities]

Driven Apart ranks how long residents in the nation’s largest 51 metropolitan areas spend in peak hour traffic, and in some cases the rankings are almost the opposite of those listed in the 2009 Urban Mobility Report.

For instance, the UMR depicts Chicago as having some of the worst travel delays, when it actually has the shortest time spent in peak hour traffic of any major US metro area. In contrast, Nashville jumped from 31st to first on the list of those with the longest peak travel times.

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Where the Ocean State Aquarium Should Be

Ted Nesi over at WPRI just posted some analysis on Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Moffitt’s proposed aquarium. An aquarium in Rhode Island rivaling the Georgia Aquarium, in Atlanta, in size has been a cornerstone of the Moffitt campaign. Moffitt has even gone so far as to set up a non-profit for the project, and has some rudimentary renderings of a possible building.

Moffitt states, “In its four years in operation, the [Georgia] aquarium has brought in 12 million visitors, pumped $4 billion into the local [Atlanta] economy and spun off 50 new businesses. Moffitt foresees a larger aquarium on Aquidneck Island or, perhaps, in East Providence.”

Nesi in his analysis pokes holes in Moffitt’s claims on the economic impact of the Georgia Aquarium on Atlanta, which are well worth following the link over to read, but his final conclusion is what we’re talking about here:

Long story short, if Moffitt wants his aquarium to have the same impact as Atlanta’s, he’d better plan to locate it in a major regional capital city and surround it with three professional sports teams, a top global news organization and a huge public park. I’m not sure if Aquidneck Island or East Providence fit the bill.

It is likely a safe bet that an aquarium in Rhode Island would have some sort of positive economic impact on the region. Would I base my gubernatorial campaign on the idea? Probably not. And I’m not really seeing how the state at this time could focus on such an endeavour, Moffitt suggests the aquarium would cost $500 million. Certainly the state doesn’t have $500 million lying around.

I’d be all for the state doing what it can to help a non-profit or some other entity raise the funds for an aquarium, so long as it was in a place that would maximize the economic impact. As Ted says, Aquidneck Island or East Providence are not those places. The Dynamo House might be though.

Dynamo House

If we wanted an aquarium rivaling the size of the one in Georgia, we’d need the Dynamo House plus a substantial addition to it. Though we don’t necessarily need one that huge, the New England Aquarium would likely fit nicely inside the Dynamo House shell for instance.

With SBE&R having pulled out of Rhode Island, the Dynamo House’s future is very much in flux. Dynamo is not situated amongst three professional sports teams or the headquarters of a global news organization. It is however next to a proposed waterfront park, on the route of a proposed streetcar line, up the block from the extant Children’s Museum, and in the heart of the next great development frontier in Rhode Island.

Dynamo House

If Mr. Moffitt is serious about his aquarium, this is where I think it should be.

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The New New Parkade


The Parkade. Photo by Jef Nickerson

I hate it when bloggers say this, and I do it all the time, but seriously, I really did hear about this the other day. Whatever though, PBN is first to the interwebs with it.

But PBN is behind a paywall, so here’s the scoop. Cornish Associates has purchased the Parkade Garage on Washington Street. Cornish of course has been responsible for much of the redevelopment on Westminster Street including the Peerless Lofts. Cornish plans to renovate the garage and keep it open for public parking as well as leasing spaces to some area businesses.

The garage is one of the properties that the Providence Journal’s parent company has been trying to sell in Providence.

There’s two things that could end up being quite interesting in relation to this property. First up is Cornish’s long term plans of putting retail in the ground floor along Washington Street (something that I dream about every time I walk by). Currently there is a small office/retail space at the Union Street corner of the garage. This was most recently occupied by Groundwork Providence, but has sat vacant for several years since the Journal ended Groundwork’s lease.

Most of the street level facade along Washington Street is well suited to fill in with usable retail space. There are no ramps in the way, the ceilings are high, it is on a busy street, and obviously, parking won’t be an issue.

The other potential development here is the Biltmore’s plan to move their driveway from Dorrance Street, to the ‘back’ of the building on Eddy Street, across from the garage.

Continue Reading →

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Cranston City Council Resolution passed in regards to the proposed CVS in Edgewood

Cranston City Council Resolution passed in regards to the proposed CVS in Edgewood:

THE CITY OF CRANSTON

RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL ENCOURAGING RESPONSIBLE DEVELOPMENT TO PROTECT AND PRESERVE THE HISTORIC WATERFRONT NATURE OF THE EDGEWOOD/PAWTUXET VILLAGE AREA

John E. Lanni, Jr., Council President

Resolved, That

Whereas, The City of Cranston was recently ranked the best community to live in Rhode Island by GoLocal.com, and

Whereas, one of the aspects which contributed significantly to this ranking was the historical, waterfront Edgewood/Pawtuxet Village area, calling it one of the State’s most “picturesque villages” and

Whereas, area residents, as well as the City of Cranston generally, take great pride in the historical and tranquil nature of this community and are concerned with the preservation of neighborhood’s character and seek to prevent further erosion by irresponsible developments which are incompatible with the area, and

Whereas, the tranquil, historical waterfront character of this neighborhood is under constant threat and vulnerable to irresponsible overly aggressive commercial development by developers motivated solely by bottom line profits whoignore their corporate civic responsibility to the area residents in which they seek to locate or develop, and

Whereas, the CVS Corporation is currently in the active planning stages of a new store to be located at the corner of Broad Street and Norwood Avenue, one of the highly visible entry points to this “picturesque village” and historic waterfront community, and

Whereas, the project by CVS presents a unique opportunity to not only preserve and protect the picturesque, historical and waterfront character of the area, but also enhance it, and has exhibited sensitivity to local concerns and corporate responsibility in developments in other historical areas in of the State, and U/Resolutions/Edgewood Pawtuxet Village CVS

Whereas, the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Review receive various applications and petitions from individuals doing business or seeking to do business in this area which present an opportunity to present further deterioration of the underlying nature of this community, and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT, that the Cranston City Council hereby appeals to the Chief Executive Officer and President of the CVS Corporation to be a good neighbor to the resident areas, by being responsive to their concerns, and assist the City of Cranston in preserving and protecting this neighborhood;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, the Cranston City Council hereby urges the CVS Corporation to work closely with area residents, the Mayor, the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Review on this project, to protect this “picturesque village” and historic waterfront community as a valuable asset to the City of Cranston; and further urges the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Review to make the preservation of the historical, waterfront character of this neighborhood a primary consideration in any future projects they review.

The City Clerk shall forward certified copies of this Resolution to the Chief Executive Officer and President of CVS, the members of the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Review.

Sponsored by Council Vice President Livingston, Cosponsored by Councilmen Lupino

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CVS in Edgewood, Update

CVS has responded to concerns about their proposed store in the Edgewood section of Cranston offering a “colonial” design alternative, which does not address many of the issues concerning the community, or taking 24-hours off the table.

The above renderings (courtesy of the STOP CVS in the Historic Edgewood Neighborhood, Cranston RI Facebook page) represent the design consessions CVS is bringing to the table. This is instead of their typical beige dryvit box they plop down at most locations. This alternative design would also remove the large sign pylon (which would require Cranston zoning approval) and brings the landscaping and distance from neighboring properties in bounds whereas they will not need zoning variances.

According to an article in the Journal, company officials are also “considering” adding more windows and a pedestrian walkway across the 75-car parking lot.

Considering!?!!? a pedestrian walkway!?!?!??! CONSIDERING!?

OK, I have some harsh words for CVS in a second, but first, WHAT THE F*CK CRANSTON!? How in the world does your city’s zoning allow CVS to consider a pedestrian walkway? Like they can or cannot provide a walkway, whatever the hell they feel like, no big whoop. I’m well aware that Providence zoning is probably similarly weak (someone please cite for me where Providence requires pedestrian accomodations if it does so I can feel better), but I’m yelling at Cranston right now. Traffic is a problem that Cranston has, they are well aware of it, in fact the city is working on a traffic plan for the very intersection where this CVS is hoping to locate. Hey Cranston, you know a good way to fight traffic? ALLOW PEOPLE A WAY TO WALK IN YOUR CITY! My Maude, my head is exploding here!

Continue Reading →

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Quonset Gateway hotel

Rendering from Quonset Development Corporation

Governor Carcieri, RIEDC Director Keith Stokes, the Quonset Development Corporation and hotel developers from New Boston Fund, Waterford Development and ProCon broke ground last Thursday for a new Towne Place Suites by Marriott hotel. The 103-guestroom hotel will sit on 4.6 acres across from The Shops at Quonset Point, and is designed for the extended-stay traveler looking for moderately priced accommodations.

“The pace of building and job creation at Quonset has been impressive, in spite of the economic downturn,” said Governor Carcieri.

The development joins eight other construction projects currently underway or recently completed at the Quonset Business Park, home to 164 companies. Quonset has added 2,700 new jobs since 2005, bringing total employment up to 8,842 jobs.

“The fact that the developers were able to finance a hotel in this difficult economy speaks volumes about the depth and breadth of the growth at Quonset – and the potential here,” said QDC Managing Director Steven King.

The new hotel at the Gateway is expected to be the first LEED-certified in the state.

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CVS in Edgewood

Neighbors in the Edgewood section of Cranston are opposing plans for a 24-hour, drive thru CVS in their neighborhood.


Image from Respect4Edgewood

The proposed CVS would replace the existing Rite Aid on the corner of Norwood Avenue and Broad Street, Rocky’s Hardware would also be displaced from their current location. Directly across from the proposed CVS sits a suburban style monster of a Walgreens.


Image from Google StreetView

The current building housing Rite Aid and Rocky’s won’t win any design prizes, but at least it is built to the street with the parking screened behind/beside it. It is good urban form.


Image from Google StreetView

Tearing down a building properly built to the street to build a new building with a drive-thru situated in a sea of parking is so wrong-headed for this neighborhood that I don’t even know how to begin to write about it. Luckily, Cranston Style already has a great post about it, which you should go read.

From the comments on Cranston Style:

Update: The Cranston Planning & Site Review committee sent CVS back to the drawing board. The next Planning Cmte meeting is 9AM June 2, 3rd Floor, City Hall. THE PUBLIC IS WELCOME to attend & voice opinions. Respect4Edgewood is hosting a neighborhood meeting that evening, June 2, 6PM at William Hall Library on Broad Street.

Like I said, I don’t even know where to start on making the most urban part of Cranston more auto-centric. But really, how anachronistic is a drug store built in the middle of a parking lot with two drive-thru lanes at a time when gas is crawling over $3/gallon again?

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Power of Place Summit (May 14)

The Power of Place Summit
Friday, May 14, 2010 – Rhode Island Convention Center

Playing to our Strengths – Transforming our Economy

Believing intently that Rhode Island has all the ingredients to transform itself into an economic and cultural leader, Grow Smart will convene the 3rd Biennial Power of Place Summit on Friday, May 14, 2010 at the Rhode Island Convention Center. Among the goals for the Summit is to increase the capacity of public and private decision makers to recognize the opportunities for playing more effectively to our strengths and capitalizing on our many place-based assets.

The Summit is expected to draw up to 500 opinion leaders ranging from federal, state and local officials, academics, developers, architects and real estate professionals to planners, investors and staff from many policy advocacy groups. The program will examine the opportunities to achieve sustainable economic prosperity using strategies that revitalize urban and town centers, increase housing options and affordability, promote clean and efficient transportation choices, maintain a vital agricultural sector and that ensure responsible stewardship of our natural resources.

Grow Smart has always championed a multi-issue approach to our future well-being. We’re grateful to our sponsors and our many partners that collaborate with us in presenting this Summit. We will continue to leverage their talents, ideas and energy in transforming our beloved and quirky Rhode Island into an economic and cultural leader for this and future generations.

Click HERE to view Summit Program
Click HERE to see who’s already registered

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Building Brown… and URI… and RIC

One of our Facebook fans shared this link with us.

A 40-minute video of Brown University’s assistant vice president for planning, design and construction, Michael McCormick discussing Browns recent campus building and near future plans, including much on the Jewelry District plans. There is a link to a 10-minute condenced version to give you the gist of what he had to say. The video is not embedable, so you’ll have to follow the link over to Brown’s site to view it.

In other Jewelry District News, ProJo reports today that URI and RIC are planning to team up to build a Nursing School on a portion of the land being vacated by Route 195 in the Jewelry District. The plan requires approval by the General Assembly to post a bond measure to voters.

If approved, construction could start in 2012 and be completed by 2013.

URI and RIC each seperately had plans to build nursing schools and will save $10 million by teaming up to build one $60 million facility in the capital city.

URI’s new President, David M. Dooley has stated that he would like to increase the university’s presense in Providence.

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Community Works Rhode Island Open House (02/25)

COMMUNITY WORKS RHODE ISLAND RENOVATES SIGNIFICANT BUILDINGS IN ITS ONGOING EFFORTS TO STABILIZE THE ELMWOOD NEIGHBORHOOD.

Community Works Rhode Island has completed the renovation of a significant historic residence on Parkis Avenue, for affordable and energy efficient rental units.

February 23, 2010, Providence, RI – Community Works Rhode Island (CWRI) will celebrate the completion of its newest housing at 14 Parkis Avenue, on Thursday, February 25, from 5:00pm-8:00pm. The public is welcome to attend this open house and enjoy the beautiful space, local ethnic food, and music by guitarist Noah Andrade, a ten year old musician of Cape Verdean descent. The open house will be sponsored by Stand Construction.

The building at 14 Parkis has been redeveloped with 10 studio and one bedroom units. A total of three historic homes on Parkis Avenue are currently being redeveloped for a total of 22 energy-efficient, income-restricted rental units. These buildings will all be complete in Spring 2010.

CWRI has owned 18 properties on Parkis Avenue. The organization is transforming a street of Victorian-era urban mansions into an award-winning new community with nearly 100 rental and homeownership units which serve a mix of incomes. The Parkis Avenue redevelopment has won two awards from the Providence Preservation Society for neighborhood revitalization, and also the prestigious national MetLife Award in 2008 for a community safety initiative.

Parkis Avenue is adjacent to the Broad and Elmwood business corridors, and several major bus routes. Neighborhood amenities, schools, social services and downtown Providence are within walking distance. All units have access to convenient laundry, outdoor space, and parking.

Carrie Marsh, Executive Director of CWRI, said “We are thrilled with the renovation of this significant building into bright, beautiful and energy-efficient living spaces, at an affordable level. It is a key piece of the transformation of Parkis Avenue as an anchor of the neighborhood. It allows us to continue to provide stable and well managed housing in a difficult economy.”

The project team for the Parkis Historic Properties is as follows:

  • Developer: Community Works Rhode Island
  • Architect: David Presbrey Architects
  • Contractor: Stand Corporation
  • Consultant: Barbara Sokoloff Associates
  • Attorneys: Chace Ruttenberg & Freedman
  • Financing: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, State of Rhode Island Housing Resources Commission, Rhode Island Housing, City of Providence, the Chestnut Fund, Citizens Bank, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) of Rhode Island, NeighborWorks America, and Community Housing Capital.
  • Leasing: First Realty Management

About CWRI: Community Works Rhode Island was formed by the merger of the Elmwood Foundation and Greater Elmwood Neighborhood Services (GENS) which served Providence’s Elmwood neighborhood for over 30 years, and undertook numerous community development initiatives, created hundreds of units of affordable housing and mixed use development, and invested more than $60 million in to the local community. CWRI is located at 693 Broad Street, Providence, RI 02907, 401-273-2330, communityworksri.org.

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Providence River Pedestrian Bridge

Here’s a quick look at some of the options being looked at now for the proposed Providence River Pedestrian Bridge which will be built at the area where Route 195 currently crosses the river. Thoughts?


Click image to enlarge

Some things to think about; since the plan is to keep the existing piers below the water level, there is actually a large area upon which things can be built. View platforms, small structures for shops, tie ups for boats… How should the bridge accommodate pedestrians and bikes, all together, separate lanes..? Are there opportunities for public art installations to be incorporated into the structure? Should it be sleek and modern, or have a more historic/classic look?

View more and larger images and plans here:
Providence River Pedestrian Bridge

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Vaporscraper: Imperial Place

imperialplace

Rendering from Churchill and Banks

It’s hard to know how close this project ever came to reality, but anything remotely like it in this economic climate seems impossibly far off…

What was it?:

The Churchill and Banks website calls the building’s use “undecided,” but initial thoughs were for a 137,000 sf complex adjacent to Lifespan’s headquarters (well, adjacent to their garage, anyway). Said the website:

“Adding to the site’s attractiveness for a wide variety of development options is the imminent opening of the new bridge and I-95 overpass that will re-connect the city’s south side and sprawling RI Hospital complex to the jewelry district and neighboring riverfront.”

What has happened?:

Absolutely nothing.

What was the potential?:

The Jewelry District has for some time been considered to be on a long (slow) upward trajectory, and the C&B website seemingly correctly detailed the location’s potential. The rendering showed ground floor retail, which the Jewelry District sorely needs, and given the number of surrounding workers, that location seemed as good as any at an attempt. With a new Brown Medical School then building proposed nearby (since canceled) and potentially stunning west-looking sunset views, it seemed a great idea.

1newspaper box 11

What does the developer say?:

Churchill and Banks said that like their moribund Green Street Townhouses, this project too is, “on hold” No time frame yet, but not “indefinitely.”

What could help?:

Given the current economy, probably absolutely nothing. Brown is now the biggest player in the Jewelry District, and they’re in a major retrenchment mode, so things are likely to stay quiet at that vacant site for quite some time…

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