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Tag Archives | Reader Submissions

Reader Photo: Sweeping the sidewalks

sidewalk-sweeping

A reader sent in this photo of crews this morning sweeping the sand and salt (and glass and poop and puke…) from the sidewalk on the Broadway Bridge over Route 95. A sure sign of spring and Yay! pedestrian infrastructure getting attention!

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Guest Post: A Trip to Newport; The Breakers Welcome Center

breakers

The Breakers in Newport

An anonymous reader is taking the readers of Greater City Providence to Newport and laying out the proposal set forth by the Preservation Society of Newport County to construct a permanent welcome center on the grounds of the landmark property, The Breakers.

The city of Newport has long been the center of tourism for Rhode Island and much of southern New England. Known for its sandy beaches, sailing, historic architecture spanning three centuries, superb dining, art galleries, and historic landmarks, the city by the sea has welcomed millions seeking to explore, learn, relax, and to enjoy themselves. Tourism is on the rise and museums are in the midst of creating world-class visitor centers meant to provide the proper introduction to an institute, property, or collection. In late August 2012, an article published by the Newport Daily News announced plans by the Preservation Society of Newport County to construct a 3700 sq ft ‘welcome center’ on the grounds of The Breakers. Plans were not yet finalized; however, the Preservation Society had announced that the architectural firm of Epstein-Joslin of Cambridge, MA had been chosen to design a structure that would fit into the historic grove and landscape of the organization’s flagship property.

The intent is to clear away unsightly and temporary structures that house a ticketing venue, seasonal portable toilets, and a vending machine and replace them with a permanent structure. The new structure will house restrooms, café, and ticketing venue.

As the flagship property, The Breakers receives roughly half of the visitor attendance that the Society will see annually and collectively in a collection of eleven historic properties. That equals to nearly 400,000 visitors out of 800,000 that will tour the great mansion built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1893-1895. The Breakers is one of the top five most-visited house museums in America, among the notables: Biltmore, Monticello, and Mount Vernon. The Preservation Society is also one of the top four major cultural organizations in New England with the other three in Boston; the Museum of Science, the New England Aquarium, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Comparing to other institutions, the accommodations at The Breakers is subpar.

The proposal, as announced, sparked a wave of letters sent to the Newport Daily News, Newport This Week, and the Providence Journal. Most were against the proposal in various tones, fearing business would be lost at area establishments that are dependent on tourism traffic to the mansions on Bellevue Avenue, while others pointed at historic preservation and the thought of the fabric of the landscape being forever ruined. Whatever the case may be, there are many reasons to not build a visitor center period, especially on the grounds of the mansion.

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Reader Submission: Unpaved Smith Hill

Providence New capital hill

In response to recent discussions on parking at the State House reader Nicolas R. Mariscal submits a Photoshop rendering (above) of what the State House area could look like with better land use planning. Nicholas says:

I saw your post on the parking situation at the state house, and agree that the surface parking is an eyesore, like it is almost everywhere else around Providence.

So I was bored after class today and photoshopped an aerial image of the RI State House that could get rid of the surface lots, still keeping in mind that most people commuting will drive to work.

Got rid of the surface lots, and feel a parking garage with a nice facade/metal screen, lighting and shops on the first floor could go on the fourth side(blank side) of the odd postmodern plaza in the middle of all the state offices. Creating a nice courtyard between all the buildings.

I like the idea of combining a parking structure with ground floor retail uses on the State House complex grounds. There really is no good place in the immediate area to get a bite to eat or a cup of coffee for state employees or visitors. Retail at a garage could help that, and the central plaza could become a good place for workers and visitors to enjoy thier lunch.

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Guest Post: Demolishing of a block in Olneyville

Photos and commentary provided by a Greater City Providence reader.

Tired of those pesky real estate taxes, then tear down a block on Plainfield Street between Dyke and Atwood Streets just off Olneyville Square. What will replace those buildings, surface parking? How many more buildings will see the wrecking ball before the Olneyville’s historic mill district loses its historic status?

olneyville-001

olneyville-002

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Reader Rant: Urban design by traffic engineers

olneyville 001

Update: This project was done by the City without the involvement of RIDOT, which makes the entire situation worse actually.

Urban Design by RIDOT! Was the City complicit? I’m almost at a loss for words about the thoughtlessness in locating a new traffic signal control box within a public plaza in Olneyville Square. If this happened in Wayland Square instead, there would be protest demonstrations. The photos speak for themselves regarding alignment and adjacencies to building frontages and the information kiosk. How many 10’s of thousands or dollars did they spend on this piece of junk? Is this urban design by traffic engineers? This is as bad as when they place signal arm pole bases in the center of sidewalks so that people have to walk in the street. There should be a law against this. Or better yet the Design Review Commission should review all RIDOT installations within the City. Since Olneyville is a less affluent neighborhood, I suppose we should expect this new control box to sit where it is for the next 40 or 50 years. I guess the consolation is that there are new fake old streetlights.

olneyville 002

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Reader Submission: No joy at the DMV

FAILThough Governor Chafee made a great show of improving the DMV early in his term, we still hear no end of complaints about the agency. Below is an email a reader sent us about her recent experience:

I spent an hour on hold where a single sentence repeats over and over and over just to get to a voicemail box of an employee in the communications department?

I need my vehicle title returned. There seems to be an online database that I could use to accomplish this task, but can’t access without paying a huge amount of money. Why restrict it? So many of your customers could be using online tools instead of perpetually unavailable personnel to solve their problems.

I paid to register my car and my title was sequestered. Now I need to pay to recover it? And waste hours of my time to get no service whatsoever?

Your service is so terrible that dealing with you is the most dreaded errand of any errand. I’d rather spend a day cleaning toilets with a toothbrush than visit your offices. At least I would know that my goal was something that could be accomplished.

You have a new building, and NOTHING has improved except for your lobby. You should have stayed in Pawtucket, hired 10 more people for customer service, and 5 people to put any service possible online for FREE.

How have your experiences at the DMV been of late? Better? Worse? You wish you were dead so you’d never have to go there again?

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Barry Schiller: Pawtucket’s misguided decision to close the Visitor’s Center

pawtucket

Image from Google Streetview

Barry Schiller, a retired Rhode Island College math professor, is a long-time member of the State Planning Council’s Transportation Advisory Committee. He also was on the RIPTA Board of Directors 1995-1999.

Have you heard that Pawtucket officials are “doing away with Pawtucket’s RIPTA bus hub?” This was reported in the 11/29 Valley Breeze.

The article indicates that Pawtucket officials believe passengers hanging around at this hub near the Visitors Center are interfering with their hopes for downtown redevelopment. But their proposal is likely to result in passengers losing an indoor waiting room, with access to heat, seating, bathrooms, travel information, and security. Though buses will still stop in downtown Pawtucket and RIPTA has not yet worked out alternative service, closing this facility would likely make passengers have to stand around outdoors, even in the snow, cold and dark that comes at winter and at night. Further, “spreading the service” out among other nearby bus stops, as mentioned in the article, could make it harder to transfer. Passengers may have to wait at isolated locations which are perceived to be less safe.

It is ironic that this comes at a time when RIPTA is investing in enhancing service on the #99 Pawtucket-Providence line.

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Like: A train station with working clocks

Clocks

The whole train station is now all in the same time zone. Image submitted by Cliff Wood.

There is a very good reason why train stations have clocks, it is so you can know how long you have before your train arrives. So the fact that each clock on the clock tower at the Providence Train Station has displayed a different time for the better part of forever has been a terrible embarrassment.

So thank goodness, the clocks are finally fixed. The above photo was sent in from Cliff Wood at 9 o’clock this morning. This is almost as exciting as when the escalators were finally fixed.

Hooray!

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Reader Photos: Grove Street School

Reader photos sent to us of Grove Street School demolition. This is from about 5pm today.

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Reimagining of Providence Station by Jonathan Winslow

A couple months I Rebooted Providence Station. Shortly after that, Portland, Oregon based architect Jonathan Winslow forwarded me the plan he did for the station area while he was a student at RISD.

Jonathan Winslow

On his website you can see that Jonathan’s plan is a complete re-imagining of the existing train station. The new station features an atrium allowing light to reach down to the railroad platforms, an attached hotel, expanded restaurant and retail space, visitor information, new ticket booths, expaned waiting areas, and more.

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Tighter parking enforcement but fewer points of collection

New parking regulations on meter in Providence.

A reader points out to us, while the city has tightened parking regulations, expanded meter collection times, and increased parking rates, the parking meter itself is becoming somewhat of an endangered species in the city.

Missing parking meters on Ship Street in Providence.

The above photo shows what I guess we could call the Ship Street Extension, where Eddy loops around under where the highway used to be. There are 9 or ten parking spaces here, but only three meters remaining. Vandals, errant 195 removal equipment, who knows. There’s also 15 or so parking spaces on Dean Street where it was rebuilt between Atwells and Spruce Street where there are meter posts, but no meters on top of them. I’m sure there are examples of this throughout town.

I don’t know how long it takes a new meter to pay for itself, or even how much a meter might cost, but if we didn’t have this dearth of functional meters where parking is supposed to be paid, then perhaps the additional collections realized from that would allow us to not have to have paid parking on Saturdays, or at the very least, it could go further towards closing our budget gap.

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Route 195 demolition at the Chestnut Street Overpass

The final Route 195 overpass on the west side of the river started coming down today in earnest. Chestnut Street is currently closed at the Old Route 195 and crews are furoiously working removing the bridge. The entire Jewelry District is shaking as they bang away at it.

Here’s a few photos I took this morning:

Chestnut Street

Under the bridge. Everyone got all weepy when the murals came down on Wickenden Street, no love for the mural on Chestnut?

Chestnut Street

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Alissa Graham: Providence Independence Trail

Prospect Park

This post was originally posted on Alissa Graham’s blog, Alissa: Adventurer and is reproduced here with permission.

Yesterday, May 4th 2011, Rhode Island’s Govenor Chaffee and Providence Mayor Tavares unveiled the “Independence Trail.” This three mile, downtown Providence trail will “feature 75 sites ranging from a place where George Washington slept to a statue of Civil War General Ambrose Burnside, whose distinctive facial hair coined the word ‘sideburns.'” (wpri.com)

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