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What Cheer/What Jeer 2011

We’re taking a look back at 2011. What Cheering the good and What Jeering the bad.

whatcheer195 Demolition

You guys all know there are like a dozen cities all over the country that are insanely jealous that we tore down our downtown expressway, right?

Putting aside what happens with the 195 Commission (we’ll talk about that in a minute), it is so totally awesome that the highway is gone. Even without any development happening yet, the Jewelry District has been transformed. Suddenly, with the highway gone, people realize the Jewelry District is on the edge of Downcity. And while the sidewalks aren’t exactly jammed, it is certainly noticeable how many people now choose to walk between Downcity and the Jewelry District, who would not before.

Chestnut Street

Route 195 being torn down at Chestnut Street in the Jewelry District

whatcheerBroadway Bike Lanes / Gano Street Sharrows

Anticipated since at least 2008, bike lanes finally showed up on Broadway in 2011.

We also saw the city’s first sharrows show up on Gano and other streets, helping to connect the East Bay and Blackstone bike paths.

Let’s hope we see more bike infrastructure sprouting up on streets all over town in 2012.

whatcheer35 Weybosset Façade

It is going to mean a parking lot, but a parking lot was in the cards all along, we’ve saved the façade for future use and that is going to greatly blunt the impact of the parking lot.

Thanks to the Providence Preservation Society, the Providence Revolving Fund, and all others involved in saving the façade.

35 weybosset rendered

Image: © Chad Gowey 2010. All rights reserved.

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Report: Grove Street School Demo Permit Issued

Tweet from GoLocalProv’s Dan McGowan:

Sought comment from the city, of course it happens to be Friday after 4pm…

Merry Christmas.

Updated:

Previous posts about Grove Street School.

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UPDATED: Grove Street School ordered to be demolished by the City

Grove Street School

Grove Street School

Update 08/30, 7:00pm:

Assistant City Solicitor Michael Tarro told The Associated Press he was terminated Tuesday but would not speculate on the reason. A spokesman for Mayor Angels Taveras said only that Tarro had been “separated” from city employment.

link

Update 08/27, 4:15pm:

Press Release from the City of Providence:

Grove Street School Building Owners Further Demolish Property after City Officials Revoke Demolition Permit

PROVIDENCE, RI – The owners of the former Grove Street School took down more of the building late this morning, without a demolition permit and despite a direct order not to proceed from the City of Providence Director of Inspections & Standards and the City’s Building Official.

Mayor Angel Taveras expressed deep frustration and disappointment with the property owners for again attempting to raze the historic building without authorization, and said the City will pursue all legal remedies against them including criminal and civil charges.

Late last night Mayor Angel Taveras and Ward 13 City Councilman Bryan Principe toured the partially demolished Grove Street School to discuss the Fire Marshal’s decision to condemn the building and pending actions to demolish the structure in advance of Hurricane Irene.

Early this morning, engineers came to the site and upon consultation were able to propose a strategy for securing the building through the storm. Serious issues remained with the building but officials believed that the structure could be temporarily secured.

Later this morning, a demolition crew hired by the property owner arrived at the 95 Grove Street property. The City of Providence’s Building Official and the Director of Inspections & Standards both informed the crew that the demolition permit had been revoked. Despite this order, the contractor entered the property and proceeded to further demolish the building until Providence police arrived.

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February 3, 2007


Channel 10 video from February 2007.

Four years today, workers contracted by the family of Assembly Member and Assistant City Solicitor, Michael Tarro attempted the illegal demolition of the Grove Street School on Federal Hill. The owners had no demolition permit and a stop work order was in place. But on a cold weekend morning, crews came out to try to tear the building down. Neighbors alerted police and the Mayor and the demollition stopped.

Since then, the building has stood with a gaping wound in its side, while the Tarro family has ignored repeated court orders to secure the building, and repeated offers from others to buy it from them.

February 4, 2007

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Regarding “Little Red School and the Big Bad Wolf”

The below is a letter to the Editor of the Providence Journal in response to David Brussat’s editorial “Little Red School and the Big Bad Wolf.” As of this date, the ProJo has not printed the letter.

In David Brussat’s “Little Red School and the Big Bad Wolf,” 1/13/2011, he portrays a disturbing instance of demolition by neglect of Federal Hill’s historic Grove Street School. The owner of the Grove Street School, Representative Michael Tarro, has been a blatantly irresponsible building owner defying city law all the while as an Assistant City Solicitor of Providence.

The Taveras administration defines, the city solicitor is responsible for “implementing all legal policies and procedures of the city to ensure that municipal services and activities are conducted in accordance with city policy and ordinance” as quoted in the Providence Journal in “Mayor appoints Padwa to city solicitor post,” 1/15/2011.

It is unconscionable that Michael Tarro continues to hold a position of enforcing city laws he himself willfully chooses to disobey, despite losing every battle in court over the past four years. As a former resident of Providence who could see the Grove Street School, a mere city lot away, from my own home, I am appalled that this issue is still not resolved and that the building continues to be open to the harsh elements.

Mayor Taveras, please secure this property to prevent further deterioration of a viable piece of Providence’s history, put a lien on the building for the cost of such a task, and get Michael Tarro off the city payroll.

J. E. Cole

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What Cheer/What Jeer 2010

What Cheer/What Jeer was originally supposed to be a monthly, or a quarterly thing, but you know what, it is a lot of work putting a list like this together, so it has become an annual thing. So join us as we take a look back at 2010, What Cheering the good and What Jeering the bad.

whatcheerProvidence River Pedestrian Bridge

Whether you love it or hate it, Providence will soon be getting a new pedestrian bridge over the Providence River. Design firms large and small from around the world entered the competition that led to the winning design. And the competition got people around the city interested in transportation and design.

providence-river-pedestrian-bridge

whatcheerRIPTA

Last year we declared that 2010 would be “The Year of RIPTA” and not to be too smug about it but, we were kinda right.

In December 2009 RIPTA and the City of Providence released the Metro Transit Study, which drew a lot of attention to its proposal to run a streetcar line through Providence. This year, RIPTA embarked on their Core Connector Study, the first step toward bringing streetcars back to Providence. In June, U.S. Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood visited Providence and was very excited about our future plans. RIPTA also took delivery of a new fleet of hybrid buses and trolleys in October. This year also saw RIPTA unveil a 5-year plan for the future of transit in Rhode Island. Finally, RIPTA hired a new CEO, Charles Odimgbe. It is early days yet in Mr. Odimgbe’s tenure, so it remains to be seen if he’ll be What Cheered or What Jeered next year.

Certainly all was not good for RIPTA this year, 2010 saw the continuation of an annual tradition wherein RIPTA’s budget falls short resulting in the agency looking to cut routes and/or increase fares. This year they went with increasing fares yet again. Here’s hoping the incoming Governor and General Assembly can work to address the issues surrounding RIPTA’s budget.

whatcheerElection 2010

What an exciting year that was. New Mayor, new Governor, new Congressman from Providence (even if he is a freshman and in the minority party, that’s good for us!), many new City Councilors, Shoveitgate, The Uncaucas, Chris Young… Let’s do that again real soon (well, not too soon).

whatcheerThe Interlink & MBTA to Warwick

October saw the opening of the long awaited Interlink. The skybridge connects T.F. Green Airport to a parking garage, rental car facilities, and a train station via a skybridge with moving sidewalks over Post Road. The Interlink opening was followed in December by the extension of MBTA Commuter Rail service from Providence to the station at the Interlink facility. Next year that service will be expanded and will go further south to a new station currently under construction at Wickford Junction.

Interlink

whatcheerThe Box Office

The Box Office was completed this year. The building, made out of shipping containers brought national attention to Providence within the construction and design communities for its innovative design. Developers from near and far want to replicate the building in their communities.

whatcheerThe Arts

We What Cheered the arts last year, and we’re What Cheering them again this year. Woonsocket’s Riverzedge and Providence’s Community Music Works each took home one of fifteen 2010 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards (after Providence’s New Urban Arts won the same award last year (go Rhody!)). AS220 celebrated their 25th Anniversary this year, commissioned RISD alum Shepard Fairy to create a mural on Aborn Street, and is wrapping up renovation on its third Downcity Building, The Mercantile Block. And basically, art in Providence just continued to be pretty damn awesome. Buy Art!

Last year, we weren’t really in the mood to What Jeer, we had jeered enough I guess. But this year, oh, here go hell come, are you ready? Let’s do it.

whatjeerRIDOT

RIDOT, seriously, you’re killing us here. While we’ve said it time and again, we really like what Director Michael Lewis has to say about not being able to build more highways to end congestion and needing to be multi-modal and what not… the Director’s words have not been matching the agency’s actions.

From the craptacular original design of the Wickenden Street intersection related to the 195 Relocation, to the ridiculous placement of signs on the sidewalk on the Friendship Street bridge, to the utter disregard for any mode other than automobiles in the planning of the new Union Avenue Bridge, and more, RIDOT has proven that they have a long way to go in understanding how to build infrastructure in an urban environment and serve a multi-modal population.

Governor-elect Chafee has decided to keep Director Lewis on at RIDOT, a decision we agree with. Let’s hope that the Director can make the agency’s actions match his own and the Governor’s visions for how our transportation system should look. We’re hoping next year we might be able to What Cheer RIDOT.

whatjeerThe Arcade/35 Weybosset

Though these are separate properties, they are linked in the public consciousness and the destiny of each may best be served by thinking of them together. The What Jeer here is pretty obvious, the Arcade still sits empty and the facade at 35 Weybosset Street remains neglected.

The neglect of the 35 Weybosset facade is the clearest example available of a developer attempting a demolition by neglect, and he is beginning to get a lot of support for that option, though we clearly think there is a better way.

As for the Arcade, we might have to agree with one of our commenters that the best course of action is eminent domain.

whatjeerGrove Street School

Seeing as the Grove Street School’s current owner, Michael Tarro won election to the General Assembly, the school’s future seems more tenuous than ever.

Grove Street School

The good news is, the new City Councilor for Ward 13, Bryan Principe is an ardent supporter of the building. Let’s hope Bryan and the new Mayor can work on an arrangement with Mr. Tarro on the building’s future.

whatjeerCVS

While in the end, CVS agreed to some minor concessions on their initial proposal for a CVS in Edgewood, they’re still basically dropping a box from the sky into the middle of a parking lot. We still don’t know why CVS hates Rhode Island.

whatjeerUnion Wadding Mill Fire

Did they ever catch the bastard who did this? There’s a $10,000 reward you know.

Photo from Pawtucket Foundation Facebook Page

whatjeerParkinglotification

Last year we What Cheered the Smith-Mathewson Building proposed for where the Downcity Diner used to be. This year it is a parking lot. Sigh.

whatjeerAtwells Avenue

As if enduring 14 months of construction at the intersection with Dean Street wasn’t bad enough, at the other end of the Avenue we had a girl who works at a Salon and a City Councilor run down by errant drivers within weeks of each other. We all know which one got the most attention from the media, including us.

After years of people getting hit on Atwells, to the point where those of us who live up there see it as part of life, the hit and run of Councilman Hassett did serve to jolt us all out of our malaise on the topic. After years of inaction we now have some repainted crosswalks, more signs, and a speed bump at the western end of the Avenue (where most of the pedestrians have been struck). Much more needs to be done to improve the safety situation not just on Atwells, but on roads throughout the city.

Let us not fall back into our malaise where we accept people being struck by cars as an inevitable part of city life, it is not. Let us make sure that we follow through on the outrage that followed the Councilman’s injuries and act to do all we can to ensure that it does not happen again.


We could probably go on, but let’s wrap up the What Cheering and What Jeering there. Feel free to add you own in the comments.

Thank you to everyone who reads and contributes to Greater City: Providence. It was a great year discussing the city we all love.

Happy New Year!

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Photos from the Grove Street School Rally

Grove Street School Rally

This morning around 50 people rallied for Grove Street School on Federal Hill.

Of course we’ve been reporting on this issue for years, but for the uninitiated the story goes like this: The Tarro family illegally demolished a portion of the school in early 2007 and the city has been fighting in the courts (and winning) to get the owners to shore up the building. Michael Tarro is an Assistant City Solicitor and is currently running to replace Steven Costantino in the General Assembly.

Mr. Tarro did not show up at today’s rally, but 5 of his supporters were there heckling during the speaking program. The Tarro supporters claim that the building is a neighborhood nuisance, attracts rats, is unsafe for children who play in it, and should be torn down. While there is no doubt that the building in it’s current condition has become a nuisance, the remedy for that nuisance is not to complete the demolition.

I would also like to point out that people have a personal responsibility for the safety of their children. If I had ever been injured while trespassing in an abandoned building as a child, I would have been grounded, my parents would not have demanded the building I was trespassing in be torn down. My parents probably would have made me apologize to the owners for being in their building.

The neighbors supporting demolition claimed that a park would be built on the site “for the children.” The Tarro family has always claimed that they need to tear down the building for parking for their funeral home across the street. A park has never been part of the plan, and it is certain that the city, with it’s financial house in disarray as it is, will not be building a park here.

Structural engineer and architect Will Yoder spoke about his assessment of the building and finds that the remaining portions (which is the vast majority of the structure) are structurally sound and that the building could be converted to housing or other uses.

Grove Street School Rally

Grove Street School Rally

Grove Street School Rally

Grove Street School Rally

Grove Street School Rally

Grove Street School Rally

Grove Street School Rally

After the rally, those of us with smart phones used them to report the buidling to the city via SeeClickFix.

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Rally for Grove Street School (Sept. 11)


Channel 10 video from February 2007.


Grove Street School
Community Rally

Saturday, September 11th – 10:00am
Grove Street School, 95 Grove Street

Come learn the history of this school and how you can help save this endangered historic building. Bring your camera and camera phones to take photos for SeeClickFix.

Sponsored by the West Broadway Neighborhood Association and the Providence Preservation Society.

You may recall, because I keep bringing it up, that Federal Hill resident, Assistant City Solicitor, and candidate to succeed Steven Costantino in the General Assembly, Michael Tarro and his family own this building, and Mr. Tarro has repeatedly ignored all court rullings, right up to the state Supreme Court, ordering that the building be fixed.

Assistant City Solicitor Illegal tore down building Breaks laws in the city he is paid to be an Assistant Solicitor in Ignores court orders to fix said building Wants to be a lawmaker

Grove Street School
Feb. 4, 2007

Grove Street School
Aug. 9, 2010

Grove Street School
Aug. 9, 2010

Grove Street School
Aug. 9, 2010

Grove Street School
Aug. 9, 2010

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