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News & Notes

The Atlantic Cities: The Simple Math That Can Save Cities From Bankruptcy

We tend to think that broke cities have two options: raise taxes, or cut services. Minicozzi, though, is trying to point to the basic but long-buried math of our tax system that cities should be exploiting instead: Per-acre, our downtowns have the potential to generate so much more public wealth than low-density subdivisions or massive malls by the highway. And for all that revenue they bring in, downtowns cost considerably less to maintain in public services and infrastructure.


The Hill: Transportation advocates see little hope for pre-election long-term highway bill

Transportation advocates are losing hope for passage of a highway bill before the election following Congress’s decision this week to pass another short-term funding extension.

Instead of approving the multi-year transportation bill that passed the Senate, lawmakers adopted a temporary extension of legislation that already funds road and transit projects. The short-term measure, signed Friday by President Obama, extends federal transportation funding until June 30.


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Temporary uses for the 195 Land – your ideas

Betaspring

Photo blatantly stolen from Betaspring’s Facebook Page.

Two of my Facebook friends/pages-I-like posted photos of themselves recreating on the 195 Land during this week’s crazy heat wave. The above photo shows people from Betaspring playing a game of wiffle ball on the 195 Land next to their offices on Chestnut Street.

Bad economy or no, redeveloping the land left behind by the relocation of Route 195 is going to take years, decades even. So, unlike the lots in Capital Center behind Citizens which have been turned over to parking, we should be finding good temporary uses for the land.

Right now most of the land is just seeded, we’ll see as spring turns to summer if anyone maintains that grass and if pick-up games of wiffle ball will still be an option. If past is prologue, then I don’t have very much confidence that this grass will be mowed and that trash will be cleared, etc.

So the question is, what would we like to see as temporary uses on the 195 Land? Some of it can certainly just be grass that sits there and is hopefully cared for, we’re not going to have active uses on all the avaialable parcels. But what uses could we bring to the land? Which parcels should those uses live on? How can temporary uses be moved as they are (hopefully) displaced by development? And, how can we make it clear that these are indeed temporary uses, how can we avert the cries to save something that people have grown fond of, but was never meant to be permanent (the “park” which people cried was being taken away to build GTECH for example)?

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News & Notes

Sidewalk cafe proposed on Boston's Newbury Street Boston Business Journal: Clover food truck to open Newbury Street sidewalk café

Clover Fast Food Inc., the popular food truck operator with multiple locations in Boston and Cambridge, is coming to Newbury Street.

The company, which features single-cup drip coffee for $2 and a soy BLT for $5 on its menu, is leasing a 275-square-foot sidewalk space from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

A kind of wheel-less food truck if you will. Sort of resembles the proposed café on the Providence River Pedestrian bridge.


The New York Times: Use of Public Transit Grew in 2011, Report Indicates

In another indication that more people are getting back to work, Americans took 200 million more rides last year on subways, commuter trains, light-rail systems and public buses than they did the year before, according to a new report by a leading transit association.

Americans took 10.4 billion rides on public transportation in 2011 – a billion more than they took in 2000, and the second most since 1957, according to a report being released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association, a nonprofit organization that represents transit systems.


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News & Notes

500 days of summer park bench

Photo (cc) jaywei80

The Atlantic Cities: In Defense of Loitering

Not long after American inner cities started to empty of street life in the 1960s and 70s, government officials went for the benches. Benches encourage people to sit still. And sitting still is a quasi-crime in urban America commonly known as “loitering.” You may recognize its related anti-social behaviors: standing still, milling about and strolling a little too slowly.

It’s hard to remember how we got here, to criminalizing a leisurely pursuit that’s embraced on most European streets. But the cycle went something like this: Residents moved out of cities and stopped using their public spaces and streets. The only people still walking them were deemed riffraff: the homeless, jobless and, officials feared, gang members and prostitutes.


San Francisco Chronicle: Privately owned public spaces: Guidance needed

The Roof Terrace at One Kearny shows why we’re lucky that San Francisco requires downtown developers to provide space in their projects that is accessible to the public at large.

It also is a case study in why the generation-old guidelines must be improved.

Privately managed “public” spaces are one of the things being discussed for 195 land development. The spaces would offset the large footprints of lab buildings, and provide open space that the City would not have to pay to maintain. However, there are obviously lots of questions of accessiblity to answer.


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Downcity Design Review Committee Meeting – February 13, 2012

Notice of Regular Meeting
Monday, February 13, 2012 – 4:45pm
Department of Planning and Development
1st Floor Meeting Room
444 Westminster Street, Providence

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of Meeting Minutes of November 14, 2011 and December 12, 2011
  • Annual Election of Vice Chair

New Business

Biltmore Garage, formerly the New Parkade.

1. DRC Application No. 12.3: 51 Washington Street (The Biltmore Garage)
Proposal to create five new ground floor commercial spaces on the Washington Street elevation of the parking garage. The project includes the installation of new storefronts, signage and continuouscanopy.

Adjournment


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News & Notes

The Transport Politic: Time to Fight – With a House like this, what advances can American transportation policy make?

Actions by members of the U.S. House over the past week suggest that Republican opposition to the funding of alternative transportation has developed into an all-out ideological battle. Though their efforts are unlikely to advance much past the doors of their chamber, the policy recklessness they have displayed speaks truly poorly of the future of the nation’s mobility systems.


The New York Times: How About Gardening or Golfing at the Mall?

Malls, over the last 50 years, have gone from the community center in some cities to a relic of the way people once wanted to shop. While malls have faced problems in the past, the Internet is now pulling even more sales away from them. And as retailers crawl out of the worst recession since the advent of malls, many are realizing they are overbuilt and are closing locations at a fast clip


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The Arcade: Cautious Optimism

Arcade

Rumors have been swirling about the Arcade since, well probably since 1828 when it was built, but certainly since 2008 when Granoff kicked out all the retailers and closed it.

I’ve heard all manner of stories about the place over recent years but haven’t written about any of them because I’m very much of the “I’ll believe it when I see it,” opinion. The rumors however are ramping up now with GoLocalProv reporting about it earlier this month and PBN reporting on it today, and a special event scheduled for Wednesday with the Mayor and Governor attending. So, the noise has risen to the point where I must write about it.

The plan according to information gathered by GoLocalProv and PBN is to re-open retail on the ground floor and convert the 2nd and 3rd floors to residential uses.

First. Was it necessary to kick out the retailers and close the joint for 4 years in order to build apartments on the upper floors? Sure, there are costs to having the building open, but there were rent paying tenants and those tenants had customers (myself among them). Whatever, I’m always first to admit that I’m not an economist, maybe closing down made the most sense for the owners. So, yay, they’re going to re-open it.

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News & Notes

Two-way traffic

Photo (cc) Oran Viriyincy

National Post: Taking a u-turn on the one-way street

Two years ago, city crews went to St. Paul Street – the one-way spine of downtown St. Catharines, Ont. – took down the “no entry” signs, painted new lines and opened up the street to two-way traffic. According to planners, it would slow cars down, make the downtown more pedestrian friendly and spur retail development.

St. Catharines was only following the example of hundreds of cities in the United States and Canada that have been shutting down their one-way streets since the 1990s. In Ottawa last week, planners announced they are considering the two-way conversion of several streets in the shadow of Parliament Hill. Two-way roads would help to “‘normalize’ the streets, by slowing traffic, creating a greater choice of routes, improving wayfinding, creating a more inviting address for residential and commercial investment and improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists,” according to a plan drafted by consulting firm Urban Strategies Inc. [...]


The New York Times: Paved, but Still Alive

Absent hard numbers Mr. Ben-Joseph settles on a compromise of 500 million parking spaces in the country, occupying some 3,590 square miles, or an area larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. If the correct number is 2 billion, we’re talking about four times that: Connecticut and Vermont.

As the critic Lewis Mumford wrote half a century ago, “The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle is the right to destroy the city.” Yet we continue to produce parking lots, in cities as well as in suburbs, in the same way we consume all those billions of plastic bottles of water and disposable diapers.


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News & Notes

Boxpark

Photo from Boxpark’s Facebook Page.

News & Notes Shipping Containers & Shopping – London’s ‘Retail Revolution’ Finally Opens [This Big City]

London’s first pop-up shopping mall has finally opened, after originally being slated for a Summer launch. Located in east London, at the intersection of Bethnal Green Road and Shoreditch High Street, ‘Boxpark‘ is made entirely from reused shipping containers and has been called a ‘retail revolution’ by its owners. I paid a visit last week to see if it lives up to this ambitious statement.

Route 195 land?


The wisdom of crowds – The strange but extremely valuable science of how pedestrians behave [The Economist]

Messrs Helbing and Moussaid are at the cutting edge of a youngish field: understanding and modelling how pedestrians behave. Its purpose is not mere curiosity. Understanding pedestrian flows makes crowd events safer: knowing about the propensity of different nationalities to step in different directions could, for instance, matter to organisers of an event such as a football World Cup, where fans from various countries mingle. The odds of collisions go up if they do not share a reflex to move to one side. In a packed crowd, that could slow down lots of people.


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News & Notes

Texting while driving. Photo (cc) larry zou

News & Notes Replace parking lots with people [Montréal Gazette]

Exterior parking lots are holes in the urban tissue that disfigure the downtown core of a city. All efforts must be deployed to encourage property owners to redevelop these outdoor spaces and at least bring the parking indoors.

For years there was not enough of an incentive for owners of these vacant lots to build. Parking lots are a cash business that can be very lucrative. So when they were prohibited from building the amount of square footage that would maximize their return on the investment, the owners of these lots weren’t willing to take the risk. Thus the status quo prevailed.


Combating the Myth That Complete Streets Are Too Expensive [Streetsblog]

Are complete streets really too expensive? According to Norm Steinman, planning and design manager for the Charlotte Department of Transportation, design elements to turn an incomplete street into one that accommodates all users are usually a very low percentage of the total cost of street planning, design, and construction.


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Free parking for holiday shopping

Holiday Parking Program

Starting Friday, November 25th through January 1st, the City of Providence will allow two-hours of free parking (Monday through Saturday, 10am to 6pm) at meters Downcity and in several other retail districts throughout the city. Vehicles must be parked at a legal space, and can only park for free for two hours to avoid being ticketed or towed.

The free parking is to encourage shoppers to come to Providence during the holiday shopping season.

Free parking will be available in the following locations:

  • Downtown Providence (bounded by Steeple Street, west to Route 95; 95 south to 195; 195 east to Point Street; Point Street to Wickenden Street; north on South Main to North Main Street at Steeple Street.)
  • Broad Street: Public to Montgomery Street
  • Atwells Avenue: Bradford Street to Knight Street
  • North Main Street: Thomas Street to Park Row
  • Olneyville Square: Route 10 to Sydney Street and Delaine to Atwood to Magnolia Streets
  • South Main Street: Wickenden Street to Packet Street
  • Wayland Square: East Angel/Angel to Gano Street. Wayland from Angel to Pitman Streets
  • Hope Street: Rochambeau to Blackstone Boulevard
  • Wickenden/Ives: Wickenden at Benefit to Ives at Preston Street
  • Thayer Street: Meeting Street to Bowen Streets
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News & Notes

Amsterdam

Photo (cc) Fang Guo

News & Notes Amsterdam proves bikes and streetcars are allies [Greater Greater Washington]

Cyclists and streetcar tracks don’t always get along, but the two should not be enemies. On the contrary, cities with large streetcar networks also tend to be the most bicycle friendly.

This is because streetcars contribute strongly to the development of more dense, urban, less car-dependent cities – the same characteristics that produce the most friendly urban bicycling environment.


It’s time to forget the big-box store Downtown . . . and think small [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

More boutiques, more women’s clothing and accessories, more home furnishings and entertainment, longer store hours, common courtesy and parking, parking, parking.

If the working group formed by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is serious about improving the retail environment Downtown, those areas might be good places to start.


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10th Annual Craftland Show starts November 25th

Craftland

Celebrate the Holidays With Handmade Gifts From the 10th Annual Craftland Show

Craftland on Westminster Street Offers Stylish and Functional Handmade Items from Artists and Crafters Nationwide

Providence, RI – Craftland kicks off its 10th annual Holiday Show on Friday, November 25, 2011 with thousands of gifts for everyone on your list. Craftland Show features products from 160 artists from around New England and the entire country. Craftland, located at 235 Westminster Street, is the city’s premiere destination for handmade goods by independent artists—from one-of-a-kind craft items to fine art pieces.

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Downcity Design Review Committee Meeting – November 14, 2011

Narrow Building

George C. Arnold (aka Narrow) Building

Notice of Regular Meeting
Monday, November 14, 2011 – 4:45pm
Department of Planning and Development
1st Floor Meeting Room
444 Westminster Street, Providence

Agenda

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of Meeting Minutes of September 12, 2011 and October 17, 2011

New Business

1. DRC Application No. 11.18: 100 Washington Street (George C. Arnold Building) Continued review of the proposal to restore the building, including the installation of new storefronts.

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News & Notes

Hubway bike share system launched this morning in Boston. Photo from Government Center from Hubway’s Twitter feed:

Hubway bike share bikes at Government Center in Boston


A beginning agenda for making smart growth legal [Switchboard]

When then-governor Parris Glendening announced a key portion of what was to become Maryland’s path-breaking land use legislation in the 1990s, he stood in the historic district of Annapolis, where Maryland’s State House is located. He told the crowd that the best parts of downtown Annapolis – a picturesque, highly walkable and much-loved collection of 17th- and 18th-century homes, apartments, shops, civic and church buildings, restaurants and small offices just above the city’s harbor – could not have been built in the late 20th century.


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What should go there? Providence Place Borders Edition

Borders Books at Providence Place

Image from Google Street View

Now that it is official, Borders will be liquidating all of their stores, it is time to play our favorite game; What Should Go There?

The Providence Place Borders will be closing down, creating a large hole in the retail environment at the mall. So, what should go there, Barnes & Noble would be an obvious pick, how about an arcade? Indoor roller derby? Reptile house? Russian sub?

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