Tag Archives | Knowledge District

PBN: Legal tangle hinders power station redevelopment


Ownership of the vacant power plant is hampered by multiple stakeholders, mortgages, deed restrictions and up to 20 mechanics liens tied to one of the most ambitious and ill-fated public-private partnerships in the state’s history.

And then there are the $26 million in state historic tax credits attached to Dynamo House that the partnership between Commonwealth Ventures LLC and Brown University intend to use to help finance construction. The current owners of the power station control the tax credits.

With this tangled legal web in mind, the city’s Davol Square Plan lays out a strong case for seizing the power station using the city’s powers of eminent domain if clearing the title through negotiation fails.


News & Notes


Wetlands to provide a storm surge buffer for New York City. Image from Architecture Research Office

Fast Company: A Plan To Hurricane-Proof New York, With A Ring Of Wetlands

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there have been a flurry of ideas on how to deal with the prospect that storms of such magnitude may no longer be once-in-a-lifetime events but the most visible manifestation–if you’re not a polar bear–of the havoc wreaked by climate change.

Seawalls. Levees. The kinds of things the Army Corps of Engineers typically builds to protect low-lying places like New Orleans just aren’t feasible for a place like Manhattan, says Stephen Cassell, the cofounder of New York’s Architectural Research Office. “It’s hard to predict how bad climate change will be,” Cassell says, noting that Sandy’s devastating surge was nearly 14 feet, which wasn’t even the worst-case scenario. “What if we build a barrier and the surge goes beyond that?”

Yes Providence, what if the storm surge is higher than our storm surge barrier?

New York Post: Growing NY through smarter taxes

How might two-tiered taxation work? In New York, land and improvements in residential areas are subject to an 18.6 percent property tax.Thus, land with a taxable value of $10,000 would be taxed $1,860, and improvements with a similar taxable value of $10,000 would owe another $1,860, a total of $3,720. Under a two-tier system, the tax rate for land could jump by, say, 50 percent, while the rate for improvement could be halved.In that case, the owner would pay $2,790 in land taxes and $930 for improvements — keeping the total to $3,720.

But here’s the payoff: The owner’s tax bill under that scheme would climb another $2,790 if he purchased a second lot with a taxable value of $10,000 — but by only $930 if he used that money toward building.Thus, hoarding would be discouraged; development encouraged.

The two-tier property tax has a proven record of success. In 1979, Pittsburgh began taxing land at a rate six times higher than improvements. In the ensuing decade, building permits increased by 70.4 percent.

Via: Nesi’s Notes

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News & Notes

TriMet: MAX and Bus on Portland Mall

MAX train and bus in Portland, OR. Photo (cc) TriMet.

The Atlantic Cities: Can Light Rail Carry a City’s Transit System?

We often think of light rail as a single component of a larger transit system, but if it’s done right it can just as soon serve as the foundation. Since 1981 a dozen American cities have built light rail lines atop bus-only systems. In five of them — Dallas, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, and San Diego — light rail now accounts for at least 30 percent of all transit ridership in the metropolitan area, even as it covers less than that much service space in the region.

Thompson and Brown settled on three key factors in the success of these systems. First, a great light rail system anchors a transit network that’s dispersed throughout a metro area. Second, it acts as an express regional alternative to the local bus network. And third, it promotes transfers between the bus and rail systems. The researchers believe these traits can serve as guides for future light rail planners “by setting forth attributes that these services need to possess in order to attract substantial ridership.” Car-free commuting push pays off in Kendall Square

Doug Taylor used to get to work the way most Americans do, driving alone. Then he switched jobs to one of the many Kendall Square companies that offer financial incentives for employees to leave their cars at home. After trying the commuter rail, the 48-year-old Medford resident soon discovered he could pocket even more by biking.

Taylor is part of a set of statistics so surprising it looks like a mistake. ­Despite the rapid expansion in and around Kendall Square in the last ­decade — the neighborhood absorbed a 40 percent increase in commercial and institutional space, adding 4.6 million square feet of development — automobile traffic actually dropped on major streets, with vehicle counts falling as much as 14 percent.

Not for nothing but, modern day Kendall Square is a model City and State leaders are looking toward in regards to the (so-called) Knowledge District. Though leaders have not been looking enough at the transportation aspects of the area.

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Link Construction report: 10 projects that will change the innovation landscape in Boston and Cambridge

If you drive around Boston and Cambridge, you can’t help but notice that the construction cranes are clustered in three neighborhoods these days: Kendall Square, the Innovation District, and Longwood Medical Center.

What exactly will be in all those new buildings? Here’s my report on ten projects, all currently underway, that will upgrade our city’s innovation infrastructure. You’ll notice that most of it is being driven by life sciences companies like Biogen and Novartis, and also healthcare delivery institutions like Boston Childrens Hospital.

Let’s get some of those cranes down to Providence!


New Downtown Zoning Regulations Signed

Jewelry District Built Out

Jewelry District and 195 Land Built Out.

Press release from the Mayor’s office:

Mayor Taveras Announced New, Streamlined Zoning Regulations for Knowledge District

Simplified, predictable zoning plan provides guideline for development of I-195 land and downtown Providence into vibrant, mixed-use economic corridor

PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Angel Taveras today announced new city zoning regulations that provide simple, predictable guidelines for development of the Interstate 195 land and downtown Providence.

The new zoning regulations will be implemented by both the city and the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission charged with overseeing development of 22 acres of land made available in the heart of Rhode Island’s capital city into a thriving Knowledge District of academic and health care institutions, research and development companies, residences and other uses, linked together by a network of open space.

“The relocation of I-195 and new development downtown is an incredible opportunity for Providence to attract new businesses, open up new revenue-generating property, and build a stronger economy in Providence and Rhode Island,” said Mayor Taveras. “Providence’s new zoning plan clears red tape and gives developers and business owners a more predictable path forward as we work with our academic and health care institutions and our partners at the State House to grow Providence’s Knowledge District into a 21st century economic engine.”

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195 Redevelopment District Commission Meeting – January 30, 2012

A meeting of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission will be held at the offices of Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, 315 Iron Horse Way, Suite 101, Providence, Rhode Island, on MONDAY, January 30, 2012, beginning at 2:00 p.m., for the following purposes:

Public Session

  1. For presentation and discussion regarding the national and regional real estate market.
  2. For presentation and discussion regarding activities and/or plans of Johnson & Wales University, Lifespan, Care New England, and Brown University in and around the Knowledge District, downtown activity and local market conditions.
  3. For presentation and discussion of best practices and examples from other markets


News & Notes

kendall split

Kendall Square in Cambridge. Photo (cc) Lucy Orloski.

News & Notes MIT injecting life into Kendall Square []

For all of its success as a center of commerce, Kendall Square in Cambridge remains something of an urban desert, with unused spaces and buildings isolated by wide streets, exaggerating the sense of emptiness.

In discussing the so-called “Knowledge District” in Providence, I am all the time saying I don’t want to see us make the mistake of creating another Kendall Square.

“MIT’s proposed new development has the potential to transform Kendall Square into a vibrant dynamic place where the activity at the ground is as cutting-edge as the science above,” said Cambridge’s city manager, Robert Healy.

We have the opportunity to learn from Kendall Square and get the right mix from the get go, not have to fix it later.

See also: Harvard looks to private partners to jump start development in North Allston. A model for Providence? [GC:PVD]

Experts struggle to express direness of infrastructure problem to a wary public [The Washington Post]

Alaska’s bridge to nowhere is so seared in the minds of voters as the epitome of wasteful federal spending that experts say hardly anyone is willing to pay more to revitalize the nation’s aging highways, bridges and transit systems.

Despite dire warnings that a cancer is eating away the networks that carry people from place to place and goods to market, there is little urgency among the American people or political will in tight times on Capitol Hill to address the issue.

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City Plan Commission Meeting, November 15

City Plan Commission

Notice of Regular Meeting
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 – 4:45pm
Department of Planning and Development
1st Floor Meeting Room
444 Westminster Street, Providence


  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of meeting minutes from October 18th 2011 – for action
  • Director’s Report – Update on the Downtown Knowledge District Study and zoning of the I-195 East Side parcels


1. Comprehensive Plan Update
Presentation of proposed updates to Providence Tomorrow: The Interim Comprehensive Plan based on the results of neighborhood charrettes and public input – for discussion.


2. Referral 3341 – Petition for underground easement on Thayer Street
Petition for underground easement measuring approximately 230 SF for installation and maintenance of underground conduits and utilities servicing buildings at 315 and 300 Thayer Street. – for action. (College Hill, AP 13 Lot 16 and AP 10 Lot 577)

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Providence Downtown – Knowledge District Development Framework study Community Meeting, October 26

Downtown - Knowledge District Development Framework Study

The Providence Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is pleased to announce that the third Community Meeting for the Providence Downtown – Knowledge District Development Framework study will be held on Wednesday, October 26, 2011. Please join us as we present the draft development framework and preliminary zoning recommendations for Downtown and the Knowledge District, and solicit your input and ideas.

Community Meeting: Providence Downtown – Knowledge District Development Framework study
Wednesday, October 26, 2011 • 5:30pm – 7:00pm
Meeting Location:
444 Westminster Street, first floor
Providence, RI 02903

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City plan for streamlining development Downtown and in the “Knowledge District”

The Mayor’s office today issues a press release outlining their plans for streamlining the redevelopment of the Route 195 land, Downtown, the Hospital District, and the Jewelry District:

Taveras Enacts Plan for Streamlining I-195 Development

Public and private sector stakeholders will work with federally funded design firm to create comprehensive, streamlined zoning and planning regulations for land made available through relocation of I-195

PROVIDENCE -Mayor Angel Taveras today announced that his administration will put into place a transparent and efficient process to create new comprehensive zoning and planning regulations for all of downtown Providence, with a special emphasis on maximizing the economic opportunities of land made available by the relocation of I-195.

Since work on the I-195 project began in earnest in 2002, City and State leadership have explored a series of ideas for fully maximizing the value of an unprecedented opportunity to reshape the Providence City skyline. Taveras’ effort will streamline the development process of the I-195 properties and reduce barriers to development of approximately 20 acres of property.

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All at once, or slow and steady. How to develop the Route 195 land?

Rendering by Kohn Pedersen Fox via The Architect’s Newspaper

Seemingly (and perhaps literally) since before I was born, Boston has been attempting to redevelop the area across Fort Point Channel from downtown. The Fan Pier area and what is now being called, Seaport Square. Over the decades plan after plan has been proposed and approved only to fall through.

To be sure, some development has indeed happened in the Seaport District, the new Convention Center, associated hotels, office buildings, the new home of the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Federal Court House at Fan Pier, and more have all been developed in the last 20 years. And the city still persists in trying to get some large scale masterplan off the ground for the largest parcels that sit between the city’s core and the nascent development that has occurrured more organically so far.

Boston’s Mayor Menino is billing the Seaport District as an “innovation district,” just as Mayor Cicilline is proposing a “knowledge district” on our city’s Route 195 land and through the Jewelry District. The Seaport District is also touted as being a nationally unique opportunity for the redevelopment of so much land so close to an existing urban core, sound familiar?

The Architect’s Newspaper reports on the approval of the latest masterplan, the $3 billion, 23-acre, 20 block, 22 building, 6.3 million square foot Seaport Square project.

Though no architects have been chosen yet, the first phase is slated to start in late 2011 with apartment buildings and an Innovation Center incubator. The Master Plan approach has allowed the city to look at the neighborhood holistically and decide what ingredients were important, such as pedestrian connections and open space. But as anyone who knows Boston will remind you, we’ve been here before, many times over the last quarter century.

While the plan’s approval is encouraging, city officials are wary of getting left with acres of vacant sites should the development stall out. Indeed, Boston Global Investors CEO John Hynes III played a lead role in a condo and office tower on the site of the former Filene’s department store in nearby Downtown Crossing|a project that notoriously stalled after demolition and excavation in 2008. According to BRA director John Palmieri, the authority has since made final approval of developments contingent on a confidential review of project financing.

Though I’m not painting a pretty picture of the masterplanned approach, that is the question for discussion here. With our economy still possibly years from solid recovery, should we spend that recovery period working on a masterplan for the Route 195 land, or do we want a more organic approach, as each parcel is developed, we review it individually, and figure out how best to fit it into what has been developed prior?


City Plan Commission Meeting (June 15th)

TUESDAY, JUNE 15, 2010 4:45 PM

Department of Planning and Development, 4th Floor Auditorium 400 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903


Call to Order Roll Call Approval of meeting minutes from May 11th 2010- for action


1. Downtown Plan and Knowledge District Study
Presentation of progress on the Downtown Plan and Knowledge District Study by the DPD to Commission members – for discussion.


2. Referral 3328 – Petition to abandon the gangway located between Chalkstone Avenue and Lopez Street
Petition to abandon the gangway located between Chalkstone Avenue and Lopez Street. – for action. (Smith Hill)


3. Case No. 10-015 MI – 156 Blackstone Boulevard (Preliminary Plan Approval)
The applicant wishes to subdivide the existing lot measuring approximately 12,186 SF into two lots measuring approximately 5,542 SF and 6,644 SF. The existing dwelling will be demolished. Two dwellings are proposed on the newly created lots. – for action. (Blackstone)


link [.pdf]


News & Notes

Proposed Fox Point mural sparks controversy

“It was ghetto stuff,” says George Goulart, owner of Aqua-Life Aquarium, a Wickenden Street store adorned by a coral reef-themed mural. “That was not the project that I had donated $500 to. I never imagined they’d propose such a surrealistic, cartoonish thing.”

“A mural there says this is a neighborhood in distress,” she says. “We have lived through cocaine dealing, bar brawls, vandalism and bullet holes through our windows. I certainly do not wish to be across from a school that, by design, will come to look like an abandoned subway car or a highway overpass in the Bronx.”

Oh my!

Stop calling it the Knowledge District

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m not really down with this movement to rebrand the Jewelry District as the Knowledge District. Have to agree with Mr. Kane on this one.

“Think of the success of the Meatpacking District and Soho [neighborhoods in New York City]. People love the idea of being tied to something historic,” said Colin Kane, principal at The Peregrine Group, an East Providence real estate firm that has done work in the district.

Especially so as Boston is looking to brand the Seaport area (which itself is a manufactured place name) as the “Inovation District.” Boston’s Seaport is one of those places where there is no there there and Innovation District seems a suitable name for a placeless place. The Jewelry District sets itself apart as a place that already exists and has a history.

Boston Looks At Plans To Deal With Rising Ocean

Ideas to solve the problem include raising the entrances to the city’s subway and highway tunnels, moving electrical equipment out of downtown basements and onto roofs and zoning changes that discourage construction in high-risk areas.

Something we should probably be thinking about too.

Not from the Onion! Black Rock, CO bans bikes on some city streets

“If you go down Main Street there is not much room for a bicyclist, a bus or a car, a truck,” said Mike Copp, Black Hawk city manager. “We are trying to promote safety.”

The city manager said the casino owners knew about the law and support it.

Well, as long as the casino owners are aware and on board.

Reinventing the Parking Lot

Designing livable cities


City Plan Commission Meeting (May 11)


TUESDAY, MAY 11, 2010 4:45 PM
Department of Planning and Development, 4th Floor Auditorium 400 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903


Call to Order
Roll Call
Approval of meeting minutes from April 27th 2010- for action


1.Case No. 10-011MA – Subdivision of land from the relocation of Interstate 195 – Public informational meeting
The presentation is intended to provide information to the public and receive public comment as part of the Commission’s review of a proposed major subdivision. This proposal consists of subdividing land within the State’s right-of- way along the Interstate 195 corridor where the highway will be removed. The corridor extends from Interstate 95 northeast north of Clifford Street, then continuing east, crossing Chestnut, Richmond and Dyer Streets, to the west bank of the Providence River. The land also extends from the east bank of the Providence River at James Street, southerly until reaching Interstate 195 at Tockwotton Street. – for discussion. (Downcity)


2. Referral 3326 – An Ordinance in Amendment of Chapter 27 of the Ordinances of the City of Providence Entitled “The City of Providence Zoning Ordinance,” Approved June 27, 1994, as Amended, to change certain text in Articles I, III, X, and Appendix A; to revise the regulations of the W-3 Zone pertaining to permitted and prohibited uses; to create a new W-4 Zone entitled “Working Waterfront Protection District;” and to apply the W-4 Zone to an area of land along the Providence River south of Thurbers Ave.
In the W-3 zone, this ordinance would prohibit certain currently permitted uses, such as, but not limited to, Residential Mixed Use, incinerators and Other Materials Processing, Distribution and Storage. It would permit certain currently prohibited uses, such as, but not limited to, Temporary Lodging, more than 30 units; educational and health care institutions; marinas; eating and drinking establishments; certain manufacturing uses; Ship and Boat Building and Repair; and tourism-related uses. It would also remove the water-dependency requirement from uses in the W-3 zone. The new W-4 zone would be limited to water- dependent industrial uses. The W-4 zone would apply to land currently zoned W- 3 and W-2, as shown on the map accompanying the ordinance – for action. (Upper South Providence, Lower South Providence and Washington Park)


3. Downtown Plan and Knowledge District Study
Presentation of an overview of the Downtown Plan and Knowledge District Study by the DPD to Commission members – for discussion.


Agenda link [.pdf]