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News & Notes

broadway-snow

Broadway

The Boston Globe: Lower rents, wide choices draw tenants to Route 128

Kendall Square and the Innovation District may be the hip places to be, especially for tech companies, but a mini-revival of sorts is under way along America’s original technology highway.

The western suburbs around Route 128 are experiencing a building boom, with new headquarters for growing companies such as TripAdvisor and Vistaprint among five huge developments under construction in Needham, Waltham, and neighboring towns.

But, but, but… Providence. We don’t necessarily have to give everyone $75 million to move here, the Assembly knows that, don’t they?


ABC News: More Prefer Public Transit to Road Building

Americans in an ABC News/Washington Post poll favor expanded public transportation options over road building in government efforts to reduce traffic congestion. But where they live makes a difference.

Overall, 54 percent prefer focusing on public transit, such as trains and buses, while four in ten say the government should focus on expanding and building roads instead. Preference for public transit, though, ranges from 61 percent of urban residents to 52 percent of suburbanites and 49 percent of people in rural areas.


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News & Notes

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Eddy Street in Providence. Image from Google Street View.

CityLab: Why 12-Foot Traffic Lanes Are Disastrous for Safety and Must Be Replaced Now

Unfortunately, trained to expect this sort of behavior, highway engineers apply the same logic to the design of city streets, where people behave in an entirely different way. On city streets, most drivers ignore posted speed limits, and instead drive the speed at which they feel safe. That speed is set by the cues provided by the environment. Are there other cars near me? Is an intersection approaching? Can I see around that corner? Are there trees and buildings near the road? Are there people walking or biking nearby? And: How wide is my lane?

When lanes are built too wide, pedestrians are forced to walk further across streets on which cars are moving too fast and bikes don’t fit.
All of these factors matter, and others, too. The simplest one to discuss, and probably the most impactful, is lane width. When lanes are built too wide, many bad things happen. In a sentence: pedestrians are forced to walk further across streets on which cars are moving too fast and bikes don’t fit.

As with most other State and County road departments across the country, RIDOT mostly insists that all roads should strive for 12′ lanes and the Providence DPW does not much disagree.


BuzzFeed News: The Hidden Reason Why Rent Is So Expensive In Cities: Parking Spaces

While many factors contribute to drive up the price of rents, parking is among the most significant, according to University of California Los Angeles professor and renowned parking guru Donald Shoup. BuzzFeed News sat down with Shoup during the CityLab 2014 conference in Los Angeles Monday to talk about how parking makes housing more expensive. His point: “It’s unfair to have cities where parking is free for cars and housing is expensive for people.”


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News & Notes

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Kansas City. (cc) Zach Werner

The New York Times: Millennials Going to Kansas City, to Live and Work

On one of the hottest days of the year in mid-July, Michael Knight, a real estate developer, made note of the torn-up street outside Commerce Tower, which opened in 1965 as this region’s first modern high-rise office structure with a glass curtain wall.

Workers were preparing the road for Kansas City’s $100 million streetcar starter line, which will begin running in 2015. It will include a stop right outside the 30-story office building, and the streetcar is one reason among many that the Commerce Tower Group, of which Mr. Knight is a partner, acquired the property just 70 days after he walked through it for the first time a year ago.

In October, the company plans to begin converting the 500,000-square-foot tower into a $90 million vertical city of residential and office space, and retailing and restaurants. The renovation will also include a Park University satellite location, which already operates in the building, and an early childhood school, among other amenities like a fitness center and a rooftop gathering spot.

I think it is cool that Knight Rider went into real estate.

The number of people living in the central business district has increased about 50 percent, to 20,000, since 2000, according to the Downtown Council of Kansas City. Apartment developers added more than 6,130 units from 2002 through 2012, and occupancy is above 95 percent, according to the Kansas City office of Cassidy Turley, a real estate brokerage firm.

Officials would like to see the current number of downtown residents double.

Officials in Providence seem to have no goals whatsoever about increasing the population in Providence, even with similar demand for downtown living as what is seen in Kansas City.


Governing: Do Cities Really Want Economic Development?

So many cities and regions continue to struggle economically. Even within nominally well-performing places there are pockets that have been left behind. Most of the have-nots in the current economy have been struggling for an extended period of time, often in spite of enormous efforts to bring positive change.

Why is this? Perhaps we need to consider the possibility that these places are getting exactly the results they want: Maybe they actually don’t want economic development.

Jane Jacobs took it even further. As she noted in The Economy of Cities, “Economic development, whenever and wherever it occurs, is profoundly subversive of the status quo.” And it isn’t hard to figure out that even in cities and states with serious problems, many people inside the system are benefiting from the status quo.

This is a something that I’ve been hearing more of around Providence lately; some feel that people in Rhode Island don’t actually want anyone to be successful, especially if those people are from away. I think of the General Assembly reading the Jacobs quote.


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Sign-up for Providence Park(ing) Day

parking-day-thumbProvidence businesses and residents can now sign up to be part of Providence’s Second Annual Park(ing) Day, which this year falls Friday, September 19th.

Park(ing) Day will feature the state’s first ever temporary protected bike lane from Dean Street to Tobey on Broadway. We hope the temporary installation will start a conversation on permanent changes that can be made to our city streets to better support biking.

For more information, you can email parkingdaypvd@gmail.com or go to the Rhode Island ASLA website.

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RIPTA to relocate buses out of Kennedy Plaza to accommodate construction starting July 12, 2014

ripta-map-k-plaza

From RIPTA:


RIPTA to Temporarily Relocate Bus Stops Out of Kennedy Plaza to Accommodate City of Providence Construction

All Routes Detoured Out of Kennedy Plaza Beginning Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) will temporarily relocate all bus stops out of Kennedy Plaza beginning Saturday, July 12, 2014 to accommodate City of Providence renovations of the Plaza. These renovations will create a large civic space, reorganize bus berth locations and improve pedestrian connections to and from the plaza. The work is expected to be complete Fall 2014. All routes will be slightly detoured to avoid entering Kennedy Plaza. Bus stops will be relocated to Exchange Terrace, Sabin Street, Exchange Street, Fountain Street and Steeple Street. Park N’ Ride service will be relocated from Exchange Terrace to Sabin St. but will continue to pick up passengers at other downtown locations. Peter Pan and Greyhound passengers will continue to load and unload at their current stop in front of the Kennedy Plaza Terminal.

Ticketing and other passenger amenities will remain open inside the Kennedy Plaza Terminal during the construction period. RIPTA’s Kennedy Plaza sales and information outlet will remain open during construction. Customers are advised to enter through the side door on the Fulton Street side, near City Hall.

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News & Notes

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Bloomberg: Icahn Urges Family Dollar CEO to Seek Sale ‘Immediately’

The retailer has been struggling to compete with rival discounters, drugstores and big-box retailers such as Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. To combat slumping sales, Family Dollar embarked on a review of its business this year. As part of its turnaround plan, the company is closing about 370 underperforming stores and opening fewer new ones. It’s also lowering prices in a bid to entice shoppers.

‘Consistently Underperformed’

Family Dollar has “consistently underperformed its peers” in same-store sales, total revenue growth, sales per store, sales per square foot, operating margins and capital-structure efficiency, Icahn wrote in the letter, which opened by remarking on the “cordial nature” of the previous night’s discussion.

Meanwhile, in Providence we’re throwing out our zoning regulations to accomodate the “proven business model” of this “consistently underperforming” retailer. Olneyville risks ending up with an empty big box more craptacular than the building that was torn down to make way for it.

Providence Business News: Solomon proposes citywide 15-year tax stabilization plan

“I want to send a loud and clear message to the development community that Providence is open for business,” Solomon said in the news release. “If we don’t bring certainty to this process we are losing a once in a lifetime opportunity to grow our tax base, grow our population and create much needed jobs. I plan to reach out to the developers who have expressed frustration with the process to assure them my plan will remove the politics and uncertainty that has plagued this city for far too long.”

The new system would be based on recommendations issued earlier this year by an economic development task force formed by the city council partly in response to the continued vacancy of the Industrial Trust building.

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What Cheer / What Jeer 2013

We’re running a little late this year but we’re finally ready to run down the What Cheers and What Jeers of 2013.

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WHAT CHEER: South Street Power Station (Maybe)

In 2013 we got another plan to redevelop the moribund South Street Power Station. While numerous plans for the building, which at one point was known as the Dynamo House, have come and gone, this latest plan engenders optimism as Brown University is involved now.

In January the New York Times and then The Brown Daily Herald reported on rumors of the university becoming involved in the project. Then in June Brown announced it’s plans for the building in a letter to the campus community.

Those plans include a home for the long talked about URI/RIC Nursing School, office space for Brown, and some sort of retail component in the former power station building. Brown also has a developer engaged in building a student apartment building in the neighboring parking lot along Point Street and the City is involved in plans for a parking structure across Point Street from that.

The latest news on the project comes from the ProJo just before Christmas with reports that the PRA is considering condemning the building so the project can move forward.

While this could all be looked at as another in a long line of proposals for the building, Brown’s involvement makes this proposal seem more promising. 2014 will show us if this project actually moves forward.

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Storm updates from the City – No school, parking ban, no trash collection Friday

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Providence parking ban ends at noon (Jan. 3rd).
TRASH REMOVAL
Garbage and recycling collection will not take place today, Friday, January 3, 2014. If your regular trash pickup day is Thursday, your trash will be picked up tomorrow, Saturday, January 4, 2014. If your regular trash pickup day is Friday, your trash will be picked up on Monday, January 6, 2014.

Trash pickup will be delayed by one day next week:

  • Monday pickup will be Tuesday
  • Tuesday pickup will be Wednesday
  • Wednesday pickup will be Thursday
  • Thursday pickup will be Friday
  • Friday pickup will be Saturday

The regular trash pickup schedule will resume on Monday, January 13, 2014.

From the City:


Providence Public Schools Closed Tomorrow, Jan. 3 – Parking Ban Begins at Midnight

Residents urged to exercise caution during frigid conditions

PROVIDENCE, RI – In preparation for a winter snow storm forecast to bring frigid temperatures and leave up to eight inches of snow in Providence, Providence Public Schools will be closed tomorrow, January 3, 2013.

Mayor Angel Taveras has declared a citywide parking ban beginning at midnight tonight. The parking ban will remain in effect until further notice.

Snowfall is expected to peak in intensity during the evening hours tonight and will continue through tomorrow morning. The storm will be accompanied by frigid temperatures and wind gusts up to 45 miles per hour that will greatly reduce visibility and make extended outdoor exposure dangerous.

The Department of Public Works has prepared all equipment and personnel to respond to the storm. The City’s Emergency Operations Center has been partially activated with Providence Emergency Management staff.

Residents can stay up to date on the latest storm developments from the City by using the filter #PVDsnow on Twitter and following the accounts of Mayor Taveras and PEMA.

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RIDOT receives grant to combat distracted driving

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Photo (cc) Bossi

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced today that it is one of only seven states to receive a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) incentive grant designed to combat distracted driving. The $459,000 grant is part of NHTSA’s National Priority Safety Program.

“Rhode Island continues to lead the way in proactively addressing highway safety programs,” Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said. “Through the receipt of this grant, we can step up our ongoing efforts to ensure highway safety and ensure that drivers stay focused while driving. I want to congratulate RIDOT and our many partners in law enforcement as they continue to do all they can to make our roadways safer.”

RIDOT will use the NHTSA funds to develop a comprehensive distracted driving prevention program, which launches in October 2013. It will focus on Rhode Island drivers and include education, community outreach and increased funding for enforcement efforts.

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I rebuilt North Main Street for you

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I rebuilt North Main Street and you can rebuilt it and other roads too. Streetmix is a new online app that let’s you custom build your own street with streetcars, bus lanes, bike lanes, and more. I made a quick measurement on Google Maps to figure out that North Main is about 94′ wide and filled in my infrastructure from there.

Create your streets and post the results here.

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Curb extensions being installed on Atwells

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Atwells Avenue at Sutton Street.

It has been nearly three years since City Councilman Terry Hassett was struck and severely injured by a hit and run driver on Atwells Avenue; one in a long line of pedestrian injuries and fatalities on the Avenue. Now, we are finally seeing some action on building pedestrian safety interventions.

After the Councilman was struck, we listed some recommended safety interventions including curb extensions such as those being installed now.

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Atwells Avenue at America Street.

Hopefully we’ll continue to see more of this type of infrastructure installed in the city to promote pedestrian safety.

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Kennedy Plaza/Circulator Phase 3 Informational Meeting – July 10, 2013

The City will be having an informational meeting about proposed enhancements and reconfiguration of the Kennedy Plaza area as well as details about Phase 3 of the Downtown Circulator project. The Circulator project includes reconstruction of LaSalle and Emmet Squares, Fountain Street, Broadway, part of Dorrance Street, and Exchange Terrace.

circ-meeting

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 • 5pm-6pm
444 Westminster Street, 1st Floor

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10 reasons why the Apponaug Circulator is ‘not ready to go’

The Providence streetcar project is not the only TIGER grant application coming from Rhode Island. RIDOT has also submitted an application for the Apponaug Circulator Long-term Improvements Project .

The Mayor has thrown his support behind the streetcar however the Governor (former Mayor of Warwick) is not on board, saying through a spokesperson to WPRI that the streetcar project is, “not ready to go.”

I contend that it is the Apponaug project is not ready to go, here’s why:

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RIDOT rendering of Four Corners in Apponaug.

1. 20th century traffic solutions

The one-way circulation as it exists today was a temporary response to the construction of the Post Road Extension by-pass built in the 1970’s. High-speed traffic from that bypass was dumped into the one-way circulation to reach Routes 117 and 1 at the southern side of Apponaug.

The current circulator project seeks to relieve problems cause by heavy through traffic and fix “numerous roadway deficiencies [that] exist along all legs the circulator, including narrow lane widths, narrow or nonexistent shoulder widths, insufficient horizontal curves, poor curb reveal, and poorly defined curb openings.” At the same time, it seeks to improve the environment for area businesses, pedestrians, and cyclists.

These wide lanes, wide shoulders, broad curves, and etc. are exactly what make a village center environment such as Apponaug a poor place for pedestrians and cyclists and by extension, a poor place to run a business. This kind of engineering perpetuates the high-speed movement of automobiles and will not help get pass-through traffic to stop and patronize area businesses.

Basically, these conditions extend the road environment of the Post Road Extension straight through Apponaug.

2. Walkability

While the plan calls for reducing the section of Post Road between Four Corners and Williams Corner, the main historic business district, to one lane and installing curb extensions leading to raised crosswalks through that section, the rest of the roadways through the project feature four-lane arterials with wide shoulders; not an ideal environment for pedestrians.

The project features four roundabouts and one tear-shaped not quite roundabout at Williams Corner. While the proposal claims that, “A key characteristic of roundabouts is their ability to handle pedestrian crossings safely,” I’m dubious about the safety of pedestrians in any roundabout that has two-lanes of high-speed traffic moving in each direction. ‘Yield to pedestrians’ and speed limit signs can be put up all over the place, but traffic will move at the speed the road is engineered to allow it to move at.

The business district portion has good pedestrian enhancements, the rest of the project area is not ideal and continues to cut pedestrians off from the surrounding areas.

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A cornucopia of highway safety bills at House Judiciary – March 5, 2013

Rhode Island State House

The General Assembly House Judiciary Committee will have hearings on the following bills Tuesday, March 5th:


Subject: House Committee on Judiciary Hearing scheduled for Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at the Rise in the House Lounge

HOUSE COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
NOTICE OF MEETING
DATE: Tuesday, March 05, 2013
TIME: Rise of the House (around 4:30pm)
PLACE: House Lounge – State House

SCHEDULED FOR HEARING AND/OR CONSIDERATION

House Bill No. 5061pdf

BY Corvese, Malik, Palangio, Ucci, Azzinaro

ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES — PASSING, USING OF LANES, AND RULES OF THE ROAD {LC49/1} (would create additional penalties for motor vehicle violations at intersections and rights-of-way that cause serious bodily injury or death)

01/10/2013 Introduced, referred to House Judiciary
03/01/2013 Scheduled for hearing and/or consideration


House Bill No. 5101pdf

BY Palumbo

ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES – MISCELLANEOUS RULES {LC322/1} (would prohibit dogs from sitting on the lap of a motor vehicle operator. Any person in violation of such would be subject to fines)

01/16/2013 Introduced, referred to House Judiciary
03/01/2013 Scheduled for hearing and/or consideration


House Bill No. 5149pdf

BY O’Neill, Gallison, Lally, Amore, Jacquard

ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES — MOTOR VEHICLE OFFENSES {LC591/1} (would grant judges and magistrates the authority to prohibit drivers adjudicated of certain motor vehicle offenses from operating a motor vehicle not equipped with an ignition interlock system)

01/23/2013 Introduced, referred to House Judiciary
03/01/2013 Scheduled for hearing and/or consideration

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