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Not the apartment for you

If you go to public hearings on new development projects often enough, you’ll hear a familiar refrain—the apartments are too small, there’s no garden, too little parking, etc.—which boils down to: “I wouldn’t want to live there.” Well, guess what, not everyone wants to live where you do.

Some people live alone, some people have big families; some people like small places that are easy to clean, some are cheap, some have lots of furniture; some people like to garden, some people like to come home from work and watch Netflix, some people drive, some people walk, bike, or take the bus. Well, perhaps, this building isn’t built for you.

Healthy neighborhoods need a range of housing types, from family sized apartments and homes, to micro units and hip bachelor lofts and everything in between. The desire to have other people live the way I do, (“I like to garden. Gardening is important to (my) community. This building has no gardens. Therefore it’s bad for our community”) is a suburban desire. It’s the desire for middle-class conformity and normalcy.

When you travel to other healthy cities around the world (or even in the US), you see the vast array of ways that people are happy to live. I hope that you’ve found a place you like to live; I don’t think it’s helpful to kick away the ladder of other people finding places they may like to live. Guess, what, this apartment isn’t for you.

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The impacts of where we park

A few weeks back my wife and I were walking around the corner of our street on the west side when we noticed that if felt different. On both sides of the street the curbs were parked with cars—our neighbors across the street were having a house party. Typically there are few cars parked on our street, with the consequence that the street feels very wide and cars go speeding down it. But with the street densely parked the drive lanes are narrowed; drivers feel more constrained driving down the street causing them to slow down. Sometimes cars even have to stop to give way to a car going the other way, helping slow traffic on an otherwise quiet residential street with many children and pets. There’s even a name for this kind of street, a “give-way street.”

We saw another example of this phenomena during PVD Fest. The Sunday party in Dexter Training Ground meant that hundreds of cars were parking in the usually vacant on-street parking spaces around the park. Usually Dexter Street and Parade Street feature cars accelerating up the wide drives past a park where children play, but again the parked cars slowed traffic by narrowing the road width, and bonus: put a wall of steel between the moving cars and the sidewalk and park.

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R.I. economy needs investment in modern and efficient transportation infrastructure

Train Station at T.F. Green Airport, photo from RIDOT

Last week, Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced that, from July through the end of the year, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commuter rail service will be free for people traveling within the state. The intention of the pilot program is to attract new riders who, in theory, will then realize the convenience of the rail line and continue to utilize it in the future. However, unless you are commuting to and from Boston, commuter rail service in Rhode Island is not very useful. Despite offering three MBTA stations in the state, service proves to be infrequent and unreliable. Lack of coordinated policy in solving transportation problems is a major cause. Large expenditures for highways and extending MBTA service to South County, albeit solving some traffic problems, have failed to eliminate growing traffic congestion throughout the Providence metropolitan area. If some action is not taken, rising immobility may erode the basic economic fiber of the state.

To become more economically independent from Boston and promote more local sustainable development, Rhode Island must develop a stronger public transit system. For example, looking to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor connecting Providence with Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C., it is one of the region’s most important transportation arteries. Yet, most Rhode Islanders associate the route only with long-distance commuting, which is an unfortunate association falling far short of its full potential.

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2017 Providence 4th of July Celebration & Fireworks

Image from Department of Arts, Culture, + Tourism by Michael Christofaro

The City of Providence will celebrate with fireworks, food, music, and more at India Point Park on July 4th. Details from the Department of Arts, Culture, + Tourism:


Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, the City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and the Providence Tourism Council are pleased to announce the City’s annual Independence Day Celebration will be held at India Point Park on Tuesday, July 4th 2017 beginning at 7PM. The event will feature family fun, a bike parade and valet, live entertainment and a fireworks display. This event is free and open to the public.

“The City’s Independence Day Celebration is a highlight of the summer season in our Creative Capital,” Said Mayor Elorza. “I look forward to joining visitors and residents at India Point Park to celebrate the Fourth of July at this family-friendly, free event and our signature fireworks display.”

Public Safety Plan

The Department of Art, Culture + Tourism works closely with our public safety agencies to ensure each event is a fun and secure experience. Please take note of the items below:

  • Spectators are asked to be aware of their surroundings. If you see a suspicious person, object or vehicle in the park, please report the sighting to (401) 272-3121 or notify nearby law enforcement personnel.
  • Do not store or leave any personal items, backpacks, or packages unattended in the park.
  • Bags may be subject to random search.
  • No fireworks of any kind are allowed in the park.
  • No open flames of any kind are allowed in the park.
  • Per the regulations of the Providence Parks Commission, dogs, skateboards and open flames/grilling will be prohibited in the park.
  • Expect delays when leaving after the fireworks.
  • The public is strongly encouraged to access the park by the India Point Park Walking Bridge located at East and Wickenden Streets.

The City will also be observing the following traffic plan to ensure easy access in and out of India Point Park on July 4:

  • India St., from Newport Ferry landing to the I-195 East off-ramp, will be closed for City of Providence 4th of July activities on Tuesday, July 4 at 8 am through Midnight.
  • Exit 2 (India St./Gano St.) off of I-195 East will be closed for City of Providence 4th of July activities on Tuesday, July 4 from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Please follow signed detour.
  • Parking will also be prohibited from 5 a.m. to midnight on Tuesday, July 4.
  • No stopping will be allowed on Route 95 or Route 195. The Rhode Island State Police will be posted on the highway.
  • Passengers on the Providence-Newport ferry should allow additional time for parking. Ferry customers must access the landing area from South Main Street. Check their website for more information about this service.
  • Boats are permitted in the Bay but safety regulations will be strictly enforced, including requiring navigational lights, life jackets, and a 200 yard security zone around the fireworks barge. For more information on boat safety laws, please visit: uscgboating.org.
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ProJo: Former Providence Mayor Paolino seeks $4.25M in tax help for new hotel

Image from ZDS

Former Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr. is seeking $4.25 million in state tax help to redevelop his historic office building at 30 Kennedy Plaza into a 48-room boutique hotel that he says would attract guests visiting the tenants in his adjacent office tower at 100 Westminster St.

When he bought both buildings and a nearby parking lot in early 2014 for about $60 million, Paolino said he hoped to turn the smaller of the buildings, built in the mid 1800s, into a hotel.

[…]

Paolino said challenges remain with his hotel plans. He has been one of the loudest critics of existing conditions at Kennedy Plaza, where many of the state’s bus routes converge. He said the city’s recent imposition of a no-smoking policy in Kennedy Plaza will help the area become more of a park and less a place where people loiter. But more must be done — the reason, Paolino said, that he has become chairman of the Downtown Improvement District.

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Free in-state train service, July 3rd through the end of the year

Wickford Junction Station. Photo from RIDOT’s Facebook Page

Press Release from RIDOT:


RIDOT Offering Free In-State Commuter Rail Trips Between Wickford Junction, T.F. Green And Providence Stations

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is encouraging Rhode Islanders to leave their cars at home for the daily trip to work, catching a flight, or a visit to the capital city by making in-state travel free on trains between Wickford Junction, T.F. Green and Providence stations.

RIDOT is making commuter rail service free for a limited time, beginning on July 3 and running through the end of the year. The promotion will raise awareness of this convenient transit service, encouraging more people to use the train instead of the busy Route 4 highway corridor and the subsequent challenges of driving into and parking in Providence.

“Rhode Island ranks on the bottom when it comes to the percentage of travelers who use transit as opposed to cars, yet we have the infrastructure and train service to make it easy for people to get around our state without a car,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said. “Making it free for a period of time will make more people aware of this great service and provide them an opportunity try it and use it on a regular basis.”

Parking at Wickford Junction Station is free year-round. The facility – located minutes from Exit 5 on Route 4 in North Kingstown – includes covered garage parking, restrooms, a climate-controlled indoor waiting area, electric car charging stations and vending machines.

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PawSox Propose Private-Public Funded $83 Million Ballpark at Apex Site

Rendering of The Ballpark at Slater Mill from the PawSox

The Pawtucket Red Sox yesterday released plans to build an $83 million ballpark at the Apex site along Route 95 in Pawtucket. The plan envisions funding for the ballpark coming from the team, the State, and the City of Pawtucket.

The Pawtucket Red Sox and the City of Pawtucket, with substantial advice and direction from the leaders of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, have reached agreement on a proposal that would keep the team in Pawtucket until at least 2050 with a 30-year lease extension if a plan for a ballpark that is designed to revitalize downtown and the riverfront is approved by the Governor and the State Legislature. The plan is today being presented to the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the President of the Senate for further review and consideration.

The PawSox would pay $45 million, the largest private investment in the history of Pawtucket, according to city officials. The ballpark is estimated to cost $73 million; thus, the club would pay 61.6% of ballpark construction costs. In addition, the minority investment by the State of Rhode Island would be paid back by revenues that are generated by the ballpark and the ballclub, enabling the project to proceed with no new taxes or increases in tax rates. The project will effectively pay for itself from the revenue that it generates. Taxpayers also will be protected by the PawSox, who will take on all ballpark construction cost overruns.

A “Ballpark at Slater Mill” will be part of a larger downtown re-development project. Together, the ballpark and land are expected to cost $83 million; thus, the PawSox would pay about 54% of the entire ballpark and land cost. Even so, the public would own the ballpark and the land, continuing the city’s 75-year practice of providing a public facility. In turn, the PawSox would then pay the highest rent in the International League, increasing their rent in 2020 to $1 million, with annual increases, and devote $500,000 annually from naming rights to help finance the ballpark.

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Developer Proposes Demolition of Historic Fire House in Pawtucket to Build a Family Dollar Store

Image from Google Street View

As reported by The Valley Breeze:

Hose Company No. 6, a former popular restaurant at 636 Central Ave., could be coming down to make way for a new Family Dollar store, city officials confirmed this week.

On April 7, the Pawtucket Historic District Commission received an application from Barone Capital LLC for a certificate of appropriateness associated with the proposed demolition of former Fire Station #6, said Jay Rosa, senior planner for the city.

The property has no local or national historic designation, said Rosa, but the Historic District Commission does review all proposals in which 25 percent or more of a structure that is at least 50 years old is scheduled for demolition.

The building was constructed in 1895. There is a public meeting of the Historic District Commission in May 9th at 7:30pm at Pawtucket City Hall.

This is a rendering of the proposed Family Dollar store:

Image from The Valley Breeze

The rendering indicates they plan to use the existing surface lot that sits next to the fire house, so why do they need to tear down this gem exactly? As I said on Twitter, Family Dollar is a menace.

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Bike Month 2017

Photo angela n.

Providence Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 19th, information from Facebook:

Bike to Work Day is the origin of all National Bike Month events. Started in 1956, this day is a time to try out commuting to work by bike, even if that’s not something you’d normally do. This year, Bike to Work Day is on Friday, May 19th. There will be a big celebration in downtown Providence from 7-9am, in Burnside Park, with free food, booths with community organizations, and a few special guests to applaud your bicycling efforts. There will also be bike trains coming into downtown from all parts of the city, so you don’t have to bike alone!

Visit the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition website for information about all the events happening during Bike Month.
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Downtown Design Review Committee Special Meeting – May 1, 2017

Downtown Design Review Committee Special Meeting
Monday, May 1, 2017 – 4:45pm
Joseph Doorley Municipal Building, 1st Floor Meeting Room 444 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903

drc-roundOpening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call

New Business

1. DRC Application No. 15.30: 111 Fountain Street (Fogarty Building) – Request by PRI XII LLC for a modification to the approved design of a new 9-story extended stay hotel on the site. The applicant was granted final approval at the February 16, 2016 DDRC meeting.

Rendering of 169 Canal Street by DBVW Architects

2. DRC Application No. 16.34: 169 Canal Street (parking lot) – Public Hearing – The applicant, 110 North Main, LLC is requesting a development incentive in the form of a transfer of development rights, and requesting waivers from Providence Zoning Ordinance Section 606, Design Standards for New Construction, for a new 15-story mixed-use building to be constructed at 169 Canal Street. The transfer of development rights requested is from Section 603.G, Incentives/Transfer of Development Rights. The waivers requested are from Sections 606.E.1, Building Facades/Ground Floor Transparency, 606.E.3, Building Facades/Upper Level Transparency, and 606.A.4, Building Height and Massing/Recess line. At the conclusion of the hearing, DDRC will take action with respect to these items.

Adjournment

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“River View Hotel and Gallery” proposed for 195 east side parcel

Proposed ‘River View Hotel and Gallery’ on 195 District Parcel 1A

At last night’s 195 Commission Meeting, Cambridge, Mass. based GNF Associates presented plans for a 5-story, 52-room boutique hotel at 195 District Parcel 1A on the east bank of the Providence River.

The Providence Journal reports:

The proposed “River View Hotel” would be a five-story building of approximately 30,000 square feet. Fandetti said many of the rooms and suites would offer terraces with views of the water. The plans also call for an 1,800-square-foot art gallery, a 50-plus-seat restaurant with an outdoor terrace, a cafe/bar and 16 to 20 parking spaces.

[…]

The architectural concepts presented include “a strong street side presence via art gallery, cafe and restaurant; extensive use of brick to harmonize with existing buildings in the area; step back from the river to open up space at the boardwalk and river; and many hotel rooms will have open terraces to take advantage of the river view and view of downtown.”

Providence Business News reports:

In a brief presentation to the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission Monday, Gerald Fandetti said he wanted to build an arts-infused boutique hotel in Providence that would fit into the small site fronting the river. It would incorporate the public park running along the river, and be an inviting presence, he said. The proposed art gallery would include the work of Rhode Island School of Design students and faculty, he said, and draw on the artists in the region.

[…]

The schematic design includes a two-level restaurant and art gallery at streetside, with curtain walls of glass that would be inviting to pedestrians. The floors above would be tiered back from the river in levels, allowing for guest rooms and open terraces that overlook the river and Downtown Providence.

That design is so damn retro I feel like I have to like it. What it looks like from South Water Street is a very important question. I’d also like to see a rendering of it from afar, it sits all by itself right on the riverbank, feels weird.

I think this is also the thousandth proposed or under-construction hotel in the city.

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Next Stop: Making Transit Work for RI with Jarrett Walker

Last month, Grow Smart Rhode Island invited transportation expert Jarrett Walker to Providence for a transportation forum.

Jarrett Walker shares his observations about Rhode Island’s transit system, how it compares with other metros its size and offer some preliminary recommendations for shaping a system that gets more Rhode Islanders – and visitors – where they need to go when they need to get there, conveniently, quickly and affordably. We’ll hear how RIPTA and other public transit agencies are adapting to and leveraging new technologies and how some are partnering with the private sector to extend their reach or to create new transit-oriented development that helps to pay for transit improvements and operations.

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Providence Public Library Planning Renovations

Proposed LED sign panels on the Providence Public Library facade

The Providence Public Library is planning a major renovation to their Empire Street building.

Providence Public Library (PPL) is planning to undertake the state’s largest-ever library renovation beginning later this year. The project will address required life safety systems upgrades, as well as make major infrastructure improvements to PPL’s downtown buildings. The approximately 85,000-square foot project will transform the Library’s 1950s wing, auditorium, and special collection areas to provide 21st-century library services for Providence and Rhode Island residents.

Read more about the PPL planned renovations on their website.

The proposed LED screens on the Empire Street facade of the building (shown rendered at the top of this post) is causing some sturm und drang among some preservationist and others. Providence Business News reports on the controversy. Personally, I kind of like the screens. I’m all about more light and signs downtown, especially proximate to LaSalle Square.

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Downtown Design Review Committee Meeting – March 13, 2017

Downtown Design Review Committee Meeting
Notice of Regular Meeting
Monday, March 13, 2017 4:45pm
Doorley Municipal Building
444 Westminster Street, 1st Floor Conference Room Providence, RI 02903

drc-round

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Meeting Minutes of 1/9/17

New Business

View of proposed building as seen from the corner of Washington and Mathewson Streets (Cube3 Architects)

1. DRC Application No. 17.07: 66 Fountain Street and 78 Fountain Street (commercial building and parking lot) – Public Hearing – The subject of the hearing will be an application by 78 Fountain JV Owner LLC, to demolish the existing structure located at 66 Fountain Street, and to construct a new 6?story, mixed?use building on the site at 78 Fountain Street. The applicant is requesting a Downtown District Demolition Waiver (Zoning Ordinance Section 1907.2), and a waiver from Zoning Ordinance Section 606.E.1 Building Facades/Ground Floor Transparency. At the conclusion of the hearing, the DDRC will take action with respect to these items.

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Providence 2017 State of the City Address

Image from the Mayor’s Twitter feed

Mayor Jorge Elorza delivered his 2017 State of the City Address on February 1st. Below is the text of the address from the Mayor’s Office:


Changing The Narrative About Providence

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Council President Aponte, Members of the City Council, Members of the General Assembly and fellow residents.

It’s been two years since I took office and it’s been the privilege of a lifetime to represent the residents of this city as Mayor. I’ve had a chance to meet with residents from every corner of the city and from every walk of life. I’ve scheduled community conversations in every neighborhood and coffee hours in every ward. I’ve visited every school in the city and just about every park, field and court in Providence. I’ve visited scores of businesses and have attended as many events as can fit on a person’s schedule.

At every point, I’ve tried to interact, listen and learn from our friends and neighbors. And what I’ve learned throughout the past couple of years is what makes me more optimistic than ever about the potential we have here in Providence. I’ve learned that our residents’ commitment to Providence is second to none. The connection that we have to our individual neighborhoods is unlike anything you’ll see throughout the state. The kindness that I’ve seen towards others, convinces me that you won’t find a more compassionate group of residents anywhere else. And, the amazing work that’s done in our neighborhoods convinces me that when we’re working together, we’re capable of accomplishing anything.

Now, we’ve had challenges in the past and while it is important to understand the root of those challenges, it is far more important to find solutions. After all, we are elected and placed in these positions to move the city forward. Fellow residents, every decision that I have made has been with my eye towards 5 and 10 years into the future and I’ve focused not only on where we want to be and how to get there, but also on how we’re going to sustain it by doing it together.

Providence is a special city with no shortage of strengths that we have to build off of. But it is also fair to say, that we still have not fully unlocked the potential of our people and our institutions. You see, there are four key challenges (each decades in the making) that we must address to create the strong and sustainable future that our city deserves; and it is these four areas (Finances, Infrastructure, Schools, and City Services) that I’ve been focused on these past 2 years and that I need your continued help to address.

When I took office, we got to work to ensure that the city’s finances were healthy. And just as a doctor would treat a patient, we made sure that we stopped the bleeding first. At the end of fiscal year 15, the city faced a $13M cumulative deficit. Effectively, this is money that we owed on the city’s credit card. But with the support of the City Council, and by reforming the way we put the budget together, eliminating almost every one-time, short-term solution, renegotiating contracts, and keeping track of every cent that comes in and out, we ended the following fiscal year with the largest operating surplus in the city’s records. And, this means that we’ll be paying off the cumulative deficit three years sooner than anyone expected.

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2017 Providence Preservation Society Most Endangered Properties list

Humboldt Fire Station – Photo by Yvette Brunet for PPS

The Providence Preservation Society announced thier annual list of the city’s Most Endangered Properties this week.

  • Atlantic Mills, 100 Manton Avenue, Olneyville (1863)
  • Barstow Stove Company (known as Tops Electric Company), 120 Point Street, Jewelry District (c. 1849)
  • Bomes Theatre, 1017 Broad Street, Elmwood (1921)
  • Broad Street Synagogue, 688 Broad Street (1910-1911)
  • Cranston Street Armory, 310 Cranston Street, West End (1907)
  • Humboldt Fire Station, 155 Humboldt Avenue, Wayland (1906)
  • Industrial Trust Building, 111 Westminster Street, Downtown (1928)
  • Rhodes Street National Register District, Rhodes/Alphonso/Janes Streets, Upper South Providence, (1850s-1890s)
  • Sheffield Smith House, 334 Smith Street, Smith Hill (1855)
  • Former Sixth Precinct Police Station, 36 Chaffee Street, Olneyville (1890)
  • Welcome Arnold House, 21 Planet Street, College Hill (1785-1798)

For further information on each property, visit the Providence Preservation Society’s website.

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Providence Capital Improvement Plan

Dean Street sidewalk work in 2009

You may remember the Mayor and City Council could not come to an agreement on a bond issue for this last year. So here’s this.

Press Release from the Mayor’s Office:


Mayor Elorza Announces Comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)

CIP submitted as part of the agenda for the next City Planning Commission Meeting

PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Elorza today announced a comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan to be submitted and vetted as part of the budget process in Providence.

“The presentation of this Capital Improvement Plan is part of my continuing commitment to long-term planning throughout the city,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza. “By outlining a 5-year plan, we can be proactive about repairs and maintenance, instead of waiting until things break to fix them. This plan achieves that goal and outlines the projects we need to invest in to keep our city strong from the ground up.”

The City’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan is a five-year program of planned improvements to Providence’s public infrastructure. The goal of the CIP is to facilitate and coordinate future capital improvements within the City’s current and future financial framework while creating a predictable and appropriate list of planned investments.

“We commend Mayor Elorza and his administration for taking an important step in planning for the city’s capital improvement needs,” said Council President Luis Aponte. “Our hope is for a plan that understands and addresses the infrastructure needs of each neighborhood equitably, and we look forward to reviewing this plan at length in once it’s presented to the City Council.”

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