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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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Link

WPRI: Providence looking to host IndyCar race

City officials led by Providence Mayor Angel Taveras have spent the past few months trying to lure IndyCar to Rhode Island’s capital city after learning the organization is considering bringing a Grand Prix race to New England. Taveras attended a race in Baltimore last Saturday as part of the effort.

When I saw the Mayor Tweet about this last week, my immediate thought was I did not like the idea. I suppose I can see the economic impact benefit, but it just doesn’t seem Providence to me, if that makes any sense.

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News & Notes

If you’re on Twitter or Facebook and live in Providence, then you’ve seen this story posted a thousand times already today, if you’re not, then here you go:

The New York Times: 36 Hours in Providence, R.I.

Providence’s grit and obscurity make it easy to underestimate. On the verge of bankruptcy, with a former mayor who served four years in federal prison for racketeering conspiracy, the capital of the country’s smallest state has something of an image problem. But like Portland, Ore., or Austin, Tex., it’s also a town many times more creative and cosmopolitan than its modest population and municipal troubles suggest. Home to an Ivy League college, one of the best design schools in the country and a major culinary institute, Providence, unsurprisingly, has exceptional food, compelling art and architecture, a thriving gay scene and an inordinate number of very smart people. Yet the city remains unpretentious and affordable, a place where even the best restaurants rarely demand reservations.


Boston Society of Architects: Why punish Rhode Island?

…the [Boston-Providence] corridor has remained overshadowed, particularly after a few recent academic and professional Boston–Washington (Bos-Wash) rail concepts that shift the primary rail corridor between Boston and Washington westward, away from Providence and southern Rhode Island. The shift would reward regions and states, such as Connecticut, that have pursued a suburban auto-centric approach well into the 21st century. In turn, the process punishes Rhode Island after 15 years of rail-oriented advancement and three major breakthroughs…

See also: Fast Lane: High speed rail: right here, right now


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Economic Development by Surface Parking

Fogarty Building

On the agenda [.pdf] for Monday’s Zoning Board of Review meeting is a proposal by The Procaccianti Group (TPG) to demolish the Fogarty Building at 133 Fountain Street. A variance is requested to use the vacated lot for surface parking as a “transitional use.”

PRI XII, LP: 133 Fountain Street* (at Sabin & Mathewson Streets), Lot 422 on the Tax Assessor’s Plat 25 located in a Downtown D-1 Central Business Zone and the Downcity Overlay District; the applicant is seeking use and dimensional variances from Sections 303-use code 64.1(Footnote 5), 502.5, 502.5(A), 502.5(B), 502.5(D), 502.5(E) and 502.5(F) to demolish the existing building and to use the subject property for a surface parking lot as a transitional use. The lot in question contains approximately 22,796 square feet of land area

*The building is actually at 111 Fountain Street.

Take a wild guess why TPG wants to tear this building down. Hardship due to property taxes, which will be reduced if the building is removed from the property.

Sigh.

Why don’t we just put a giant welcome to Houston sign on Route 95? Oh wait, Houston is actually building infill now and has a light rail line and everything. Soon we won’t even be as nice as Houston. But we’ll have some kick ass parking and nowhere to go.

A number of sources tell me this newfound desire to remove the building is being driven by Mayor Taveras’ newly appointed Economic Development Director, Jim Bennett. TPG asked for Mr. Bennett’s help in reducing their tax burden and shortly thereafter, TPG is applying for a variance and doing an end-run around the Downcity Design Review Committee. Mr. Bennett is now living in the Regency Apartments, owned by TPG (TPG does not own the Regency).

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Mayor Taveras Launches Economic Development Director Search

Among Mayor Taveras’ immediate goals for economic development in the City of Providence are maximizing the development of the newly recovered I-195 land; improving the City’s public transportation system; retaining existing businesses, recruiting new investment and reforming the City’s zoning, permitting and licensing processes; strategic investments in Providence’s arts and entrepreneurial communities; the pursuit of policies to reduce the City’s carbon footprint and grow a green economy, and; expanding workforce development and training in all neighborhoods.

Thursday, January 20, 2011
Providence business leaders tapped to lead search and selection process

PROVIDENCE – Mayor Angel Taveras has formed a search committee to seek and identify candidates for a cabinet-level position to lead the City’s economic development effort. The eight member committee will be chaired by attorney and business leader Mark Ryan.

Ryan is a principal at Moses & Afonso, Ltd., where he concentrates on corporate and business law. From 1986 to 2009, he worked in various capacities for the Providence Journal. Ryan is the First Vice Chairman and Trustee of the Providence Performing Arts Center and Director and member of the Nominating and Legislative Committees of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.

Additional search committee members include: Taveras’ Chief of Staff John Pagliarini; Andrew Cortes, Director of Building Futures; William Parsons, Deputy Director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation; Yahaira (Jay) Placencia, Senior Vice President and Senior Client Manager for Bank of America’s Business Banking Division; Jim Riley, Secretary-Treasurer for the UFCW New England Council; Allan Tear, founding partner of Betaspring, a Providence-based entrepreneurship accelerator; and Laurie White, President of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.

“Mark Ryan and the members of this search committee understand the urgency of our mission: to help businesses prosper, create well-paying jobs, and put our City’s residents back to work,” said Mayor Taveras. “This talented consortium of partners represents many facets of our community, and each will bring an important perspective to our effort to recruit an economic development professional who can leverage our City’s assets and forge a new path toward economic prosperity.”

The committee will seek to complete the search process within 100 days.

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