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Capital Center Commission Meeting, September 14

Capital Center Commission

MEETING NOTICE
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2011 12:00 NOON
Department of Planning and Development
444 Westminster Street, 1st Floor Meeting Room Providence, RI 02903

Agenda

  1. Roll Call
  2. Minutes 2.1 Approval of Commission meeting minutes of June 15, 2011
  3. Presentation of Resolutions for Past Commissioners
  4. Parcel 14: Veterans Memorial Auditorium
    Proposal to install a new wall sign and banner signs on the building. Presenter: Michael Abbott
  5. Parcel 1: Union Station
    Proposal to replace existing signage and awnings with new signage and awnings, replace existing storefront windows with operable doors, install new tiled columns at the entryway, and install decorative fencing and planter boxes for a new restaurant in the former Ardeo space. Presenter: Maurice Molod and Don Diebler
  6. Letter to Edward F. Sanderson regarding the Enhancement Grant for Station Park
  7. Design Review Consultant Designation
  8. Auditor Designation
  9. Adjournment
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REBOOT: Providence Train Station

Schematic for a redesigned Providence Train Station area.

Click image to enlarge

REBOOT is an occasional series of posts on GC:PVD where we identify areas of the city that display poor urbanism and propose ways to improve them. Our interventions may be simple and quite easily realized, or they may at times be grand and possibly take years or decades to complete. Either way, we hope they generate interest and discussion.

Oh Providence Station… why are you such a dump?

Of course the short answer to that is that we have not taken care of it. But this post is not about the sad condition of the station, it is about the fact that the station was a mistake to begin with.

Of course we used to have the stunning Union Station which is now the home of the Rhode Island Foundation and other offices. The river and railroad relocation projects resulted in the tracks leaving Union Station behind and a new station being built.

When Providence Station was opened in 1986 we were deep in the heart of the automobile age. Gas supplies were cheap and seemingly inexhaustible, Amtrak was kind of a quaint hobby that we north-easterners insisted on keeping in service, and the MBTA did not reach Providence. This resulted in a station that is too small for our post-$4/gallon gasoline world. A station that is inconveniently located away from the city’s major employment centers (and with the removal of Route 195, the city’s employment centers are poised to move further from the train station).

Were it maintained properly, the station is certainly handsome. The clock tower nicely pierces the skyline, the low slung dome is handsome and adds a modern bent to the collection of domes we have in our fair city, the interior is attractive. However, the interior is not spacious enough for the passengers we have utilizing existing MBTA and Amtrak services, and the station will become more crowded as MBTA services expand southward and if a Blackstone Valley commuter service is ever instituted. And as the price of gas continues its generally upward trend, more and more people will turn to the trains.

Let’s not waste time blaming the planners from the 80’s for their shortsightedness on the station’s design, let’s instead consider what we can do to modify it for a world that is very different from 1986.

Bret wrote a post a couple years ago in which he cited me as referring to the station as a hundred-year mistake. He went on to highlight some of the short comings of Capital Center area as a neighborhood, and suggest some solutions. We were to write a Part II to that post and never got around to it, this is that Part II I suppose.

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