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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.”


Boston.com: 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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Nikki’s Liquors seeks to move to Broadway

nikkis-broadway

Many beer afficianados across southern New England are familiar with Nikki’s Liquors on the North Providence / Providence line. Nikki’s is famous for originating the Mix-a-six whereby one can make their own six pack by mixing together any six bottles of the craft beer varieties available.

Owned for the last 12 years by David and Michael Iannazzi, Nikki’s is now fixing to move to the old DePasquale Pharmacy Building on Broadway where they hope to expand their reputation for beer into the fine wine and spirits markets.

On their website about the new location, the owners explain:

  • An area where Nikki’s can become a neighborhood partner and an active part of the community; an area with complementary businesses that attract customers with similar tastes and interests; ease of access to downtown and the highways to further develop our status as a destination specialty shop for craft beer enthusiasts; and more physical space to handle our increasing selection.
  • The facilities provided by 319 Broadway meet all of our criteria. The larger physical size of this location will also provide space to hold craft beer educational classes and seminars. This location will allow us to continue our quest to expand on our vision of creating the most unique specialty craft beer/liquor boutique in the city.
  • We need your support. We believe that the proposed project will be a “win-win” situation for Nikki’s, local area businesses and the Broadway neighborhood community.

As a Federal Hill resident, all I can say is, I can’t wait!

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Downcity Design Review Committee Meeting – July 9, 2012

Notice of Regular Meeting
Monday, July 9, 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 May 14, 2012 and June 11, 2012

New Business

DRC Application No. 12.16: 130 Westminster Street (The Arcade) Proposal by 130 Westminster Street Associates, LLC, to re?open existing window openings and install new windows; install new signage; and install new exterior stair glass enclosures and security gates as part of the renovation plan for the building.

Adjournment


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Downcity Design Review Committee Meeting – April 9, 2012

Johnson & Wales to present plans for demolition of “Mirabar Building” (37 Richmond Street) for construction of new parking garage at Monday’s Downcity Design Review Committee Meeting.

Notice of Regular Meeting
Monday, April 9, 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 March 12, 2012

New Business

1. DRC Application No. 12.6: 40 Westminster Street (Old Stone Bank Tower, now Textron Building) Proposal to enlarge an existing retail entrance on the Westminster Street elevation for a new tenant. Work includes the installation of a new storefront system, overhangs over the retail entrances, and signage.

Other Business

Mirabar

Mirabar Nightclub on Richmond Street

2. Pre-Application Review: Proposed Parking Garage at Pine and Richmond Street Proposal to demolish an existing building at 37 Richmond Street and to construct a parking garage on the site located at the intersection of Pine and Richmond Street. This presentation is for discussion only. No action will be taken by the DRC at this meeting.

Adjournment


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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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