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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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What Cheer / What Jeer 2012

It is that time of year for us to take a look back and What Cheer the good and What Jeer the bad.

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Work commences on the Washington Bridge Linear Park

It has been in the works for years, but finally RIDOT has started work on the Washington Bridge Linear Park.

Through a $22 million contract, RIDOT will rebuild the remaining section of the original Washington Bridge that carries the existing bikeway and a section of the original highway bridge. In the same footprint will be a much wider bikeway and linear park. It will feature a separate bikeway and walking path, scenic overlooks, park benches, flag poles, decorative lighting and landscaped planters. The project also calls for restoration of the historic, multi-arch granite façade of the Washington Bridge and two operator’s houses from which an original drawbridge was controlled.

When opened, the new linear park will be named the George Redman Linear Park, after the East Providence resident who was instrumental in making the East Bay Bike Path a reality 25 years ago. Redman continues to advocate for bike path development across the state.


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Wind Turbines at Fields Point

While they were installed in January, the whole City was speculating when the would finally start spinning. Turns out they wouldn’t start up until October. But now they are finally spinning and adding some environmental goodness to the Providence skyline. Hope we’ll some more.


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Overnight parking expansion

While it has been studied endlessly for years (even as the rest of the world seemed to be able to embrace it and not devolve into chaos), in April, overnight parking has finally started spreading throughout the City.


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What Cheer/What Jeer 2011

We’re taking a look back at 2011. What Cheering the good and What Jeering the bad.

whatcheer195 Demolition

You guys all know there are like a dozen cities all over the country that are insanely jealous that we tore down our downtown expressway, right?

Putting aside what happens with the 195 Commission (we’ll talk about that in a minute), it is so totally awesome that the highway is gone. Even without any development happening yet, the Jewelry District has been transformed. Suddenly, with the highway gone, people realize the Jewelry District is on the edge of Downcity. And while the sidewalks aren’t exactly jammed, it is certainly noticeable how many people now choose to walk between Downcity and the Jewelry District, who would not before.

Chestnut Street

Route 195 being torn down at Chestnut Street in the Jewelry District

whatcheerBroadway Bike Lanes / Gano Street Sharrows

Anticipated since at least 2008, bike lanes finally showed up on Broadway in 2011.

We also saw the city’s first sharrows show up on Gano and other streets, helping to connect the East Bay and Blackstone bike paths.

Let’s hope we see more bike infrastructure sprouting up on streets all over town in 2012.

whatcheer35 Weybosset Façade

It is going to mean a parking lot, but a parking lot was in the cards all along, we’ve saved the façade for future use and that is going to greatly blunt the impact of the parking lot.

Thanks to the Providence Preservation Society, the Providence Revolving Fund, and all others involved in saving the façade.

35 weybosset rendered

Image: © Chad Gowey 2010. All rights reserved.

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What Cheer/What Jeer 2010

What Cheer/What Jeer was originally supposed to be a monthly, or a quarterly thing, but you know what, it is a lot of work putting a list like this together, so it has become an annual thing. So join us as we take a look back at 2010, What Cheering the good and What Jeering the bad.

whatcheerProvidence River Pedestrian Bridge

Whether you love it or hate it, Providence will soon be getting a new pedestrian bridge over the Providence River. Design firms large and small from around the world entered the competition that led to the winning design. And the competition got people around the city interested in transportation and design.

providence-river-pedestrian-bridge

whatcheerRIPTA

Last year we declared that 2010 would be “The Year of RIPTA” and not to be too smug about it but, we were kinda right.

In December 2009 RIPTA and the City of Providence released the Metro Transit Study, which drew a lot of attention to its proposal to run a streetcar line through Providence. This year, RIPTA embarked on their Core Connector Study, the first step toward bringing streetcars back to Providence. In June, U.S. Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood visited Providence and was very excited about our future plans. RIPTA also took delivery of a new fleet of hybrid buses and trolleys in October. This year also saw RIPTA unveil a 5-year plan for the future of transit in Rhode Island. Finally, RIPTA hired a new CEO, Charles Odimgbe. It is early days yet in Mr. Odimgbe’s tenure, so it remains to be seen if he’ll be What Cheered or What Jeered next year.

Certainly all was not good for RIPTA this year, 2010 saw the continuation of an annual tradition wherein RIPTA’s budget falls short resulting in the agency looking to cut routes and/or increase fares. This year they went with increasing fares yet again. Here’s hoping the incoming Governor and General Assembly can work to address the issues surrounding RIPTA’s budget.

whatcheerElection 2010

What an exciting year that was. New Mayor, new Governor, new Congressman from Providence (even if he is a freshman and in the minority party, that’s good for us!), many new City Councilors, Shoveitgate, The Uncaucas, Chris Young… Let’s do that again real soon (well, not too soon).

whatcheerThe Interlink & MBTA to Warwick

October saw the opening of the long awaited Interlink. The skybridge connects T.F. Green Airport to a parking garage, rental car facilities, and a train station via a skybridge with moving sidewalks over Post Road. The Interlink opening was followed in December by the extension of MBTA Commuter Rail service from Providence to the station at the Interlink facility. Next year that service will be expanded and will go further south to a new station currently under construction at Wickford Junction.

Interlink

whatcheerThe Box Office

The Box Office was completed this year. The building, made out of shipping containers brought national attention to Providence within the construction and design communities for its innovative design. Developers from near and far want to replicate the building in their communities.

whatcheerThe Arts

We What Cheered the arts last year, and we’re What Cheering them again this year. Woonsocket’s Riverzedge and Providence’s Community Music Works each took home one of fifteen 2010 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards (after Providence’s New Urban Arts won the same award last year (go Rhody!)). AS220 celebrated their 25th Anniversary this year, commissioned RISD alum Shepard Fairy to create a mural on Aborn Street, and is wrapping up renovation on its third Downcity Building, The Mercantile Block. And basically, art in Providence just continued to be pretty damn awesome. Buy Art!

Last year, we weren’t really in the mood to What Jeer, we had jeered enough I guess. But this year, oh, here go hell come, are you ready? Let’s do it.

whatjeerRIDOT

RIDOT, seriously, you’re killing us here. While we’ve said it time and again, we really like what Director Michael Lewis has to say about not being able to build more highways to end congestion and needing to be multi-modal and what not… the Director’s words have not been matching the agency’s actions.

From the craptacular original design of the Wickenden Street intersection related to the 195 Relocation, to the ridiculous placement of signs on the sidewalk on the Friendship Street bridge, to the utter disregard for any mode other than automobiles in the planning of the new Union Avenue Bridge, and more, RIDOT has proven that they have a long way to go in understanding how to build infrastructure in an urban environment and serve a multi-modal population.

Governor-elect Chafee has decided to keep Director Lewis on at RIDOT, a decision we agree with. Let’s hope that the Director can make the agency’s actions match his own and the Governor’s visions for how our transportation system should look. We’re hoping next year we might be able to What Cheer RIDOT.

whatjeerThe Arcade/35 Weybosset

Though these are separate properties, they are linked in the public consciousness and the destiny of each may best be served by thinking of them together. The What Jeer here is pretty obvious, the Arcade still sits empty and the facade at 35 Weybosset Street remains neglected.

The neglect of the 35 Weybosset facade is the clearest example available of a developer attempting a demolition by neglect, and he is beginning to get a lot of support for that option, though we clearly think there is a better way.

As for the Arcade, we might have to agree with one of our commenters that the best course of action is eminent domain.

whatjeerGrove Street School

Seeing as the Grove Street School’s current owner, Michael Tarro won election to the General Assembly, the school’s future seems more tenuous than ever.

Grove Street School

The good news is, the new City Councilor for Ward 13, Bryan Principe is an ardent supporter of the building. Let’s hope Bryan and the new Mayor can work on an arrangement with Mr. Tarro on the building’s future.

whatjeerCVS

While in the end, CVS agreed to some minor concessions on their initial proposal for a CVS in Edgewood, they’re still basically dropping a box from the sky into the middle of a parking lot. We still don’t know why CVS hates Rhode Island.

whatjeerUnion Wadding Mill Fire

Did they ever catch the bastard who did this? There’s a $10,000 reward you know.

Photo from Pawtucket Foundation Facebook Page

whatjeerParkinglotification

Last year we What Cheered the Smith-Mathewson Building proposed for where the Downcity Diner used to be. This year it is a parking lot. Sigh.

whatjeerAtwells Avenue

As if enduring 14 months of construction at the intersection with Dean Street wasn’t bad enough, at the other end of the Avenue we had a girl who works at a Salon and a City Councilor run down by errant drivers within weeks of each other. We all know which one got the most attention from the media, including us.

After years of people getting hit on Atwells, to the point where those of us who live up there see it as part of life, the hit and run of Councilman Hassett did serve to jolt us all out of our malaise on the topic. After years of inaction we now have some repainted crosswalks, more signs, and a speed bump at the western end of the Avenue (where most of the pedestrians have been struck). Much more needs to be done to improve the safety situation not just on Atwells, but on roads throughout the city.

Let us not fall back into our malaise where we accept people being struck by cars as an inevitable part of city life, it is not. Let us make sure that we follow through on the outrage that followed the Councilman’s injuries and act to do all we can to ensure that it does not happen again.


We could probably go on, but let’s wrap up the What Cheering and What Jeering there. Feel free to add you own in the comments.

Thank you to everyone who reads and contributes to Greater City: Providence. It was a great year discussing the city we all love.

Happy New Year!

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What Cheer/What Jeer 2009

We’re taking a look back at 2009. What Cheering the good and What Jeering the bad.

whatcheerArts

No doubt, 2009 has been a rough year, but the arts community in Providence has helped keep our spirits up. From SoundSession to FirstWorks, Wooly Fair to Foo Fest, not to mention all the galleries around town, the small venues, the art sales downtown and elsewhere… The arts have been there for us in 2009.

The AS220 Community Printshop

AS220 Community Printshop at Foo Fest 2009. Photo (cc) AS220

whatcheerYear-round Craftland

This fits in the Arts, but demands it’s own What Cheer. Craftland is a Providence institution and a national model for bringing artists and crafters to the public. Seeing them become a year-round presence in the city was definitely a highlight of 2009.

Craftland

Photo by Jef Nickerson

whatcheerGreater Kennedy Plaza

The quasi-governmental Greater Kennedy Plaza Working Group has transformed the plaza this year. The plaza has become home to weekly events such as the summer music and beer garden at Burnside Park, Public Square Tuesdays, fitness classes, farmers’ and flea markets, and more. Public seating has been placed in Burnside Park and the area around the Soldier & Sailors Monument, banners and landscape maintenance has improved. The changes in the plaza to a mixed use space have also resulted in a dramatic reduction in crime in the area.

Greater Kennedy Plaza has had a great 2009, here’s to an even better 2010.

Kennedy Plaza

Photo by Jef Nickerson

whatcheerIndia Point Park Accessibility

The Iway work has made the India Point Park area pretty difficult if not downright impossible to get to, and while the pedestrian bridge actually opened in late 2008, this was our first full summer of access to the park. The Community Boating Center was glad to have access returned and had a banner year. 2009 also saw the 4th of July fireworks taking place at India Point. While there were some traffic issues and some shuttle buses might have been helpful, the fireworks on the water was awesome. There’s still some accessibility issues at the western end with new roads still needing to be configured properly, but as the old 195 comes down, access to the water will get even better.

whatcheerMetro Transit Study

We’re calling it now, 2010 will be “The Year of RIPTA.” While the streetcars got all the attention when the study was introduced (and streetcars are wicked cool) there’s a lot in the study that will improve transit in the Metro area. New buses will be joining the fleet in 2010, expanded park and ride facilities to allow choice riders to use the system, the Rapid Bus service launching on Routes 11 and 99, new sub-hubs, redesign of Kennedy Plaza, more service on existing bus routes, and more. The leaders of the cities within the study area are fully on board (so to speak) and opinion is turning in the Assembly in favor of transit. Rhode Island is starting to understand that it has no room for highways and robust transit is needed to fuel our economy.

whatcheerProvidence Community Library

Not to be confused with the Providence Public Library (which is not getting a What Cheer), the Providence Community Library took over the branch locations (less the main branch on Empire Street) of the public library system in July. As we wrote in June, the library situation has been confusing and vexing for some time. The Community Library has saved the neighborhood branches (even re-opening one in Washington Park), ensuring that people in the neighborhoods have access to libraries.

Providence Community Library Olneyville

Olneyville Branch of the Providence Community Library. Photo by Jef Nickerson

whatcheerOvernight Parking

The city allowed grown ups to park their cars on the street all night long (in a portion of the West Side anyway). And no one burst into flames. And it was good.

Parking Permit

Photo by jwest

whatcheerProvidence Career and Technical Academy

The new Providence Career and Technical Academy is an amazing addition to our city’s schools system. Check out our site tour from July here.

Providence Career and Technical Academy

Photo by Jef Nickerson

whatcheerSmith-Mathewson Building

Where the Downcity Diner used to be sits a vacant lot. Once upon a time the owner of said lot proposed parking cars there. Then someone suggested building a little liner building at the street. The owner said, “OK.” And the Smith-Mathewson Building was born (or is being born). Perhaps some other property owners will take note.

smith-mathewson-rendering

Smith-Mathewson Building • Weybosset Street Elevation • Rendering by Litman Architecture

whatcheerYou

Look out, cheeze alert. Our webstats are way up this year on views and comments. Knowing that people are reading makes all this posting all the more worthwhile. We’ve also had some excellent photos shared in our Flickr Group, lots of fans on our Facebook page, and many readers sending us good tips. It was also great meeting many of you at the Providence Blogosphere Holiday Spectacular earlier this month (we’re hoping to do more of that in the future, not just at the holidays). So thanks to you for making 2009 great. We’re looking forward to 2010.


whatjeerNothing

2009 was a rough year for ‘lil Rhody. No doubt pages could be filled with What Jeers, but we’re not going to go there. We all know things weren’t perfect, but let’s end the year on a high note.


Happy New Year!

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What Cheer/What Jeer: January 2009

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Washington Trust

What Cheer to Washington Trust for moving from their suburban style drive-thru ridden suburban style Washington Street location to a nice urban non-drive-thru location on Westminster.

Bonus points for a most excellent sign at the new location.

New Washington Trust Bank

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Symmes Maini & McKee Associates

What Cheer to Symmes Maini & McKee Associates for their design of the new Blue Cross Blue Shield Rhode Island headquarters building in Capital Center.

While reaction to the designs of the adjacent Waterplace Condo towers and new GTECH Headquarters has been mixed, the BCBS Tower design seems to integrate the best of both projects to seamlessly fit into Capital Center. The building features a glass curtain wall on the north and south sides of the building, with the south facade feature a very pleasing curve. The design of the glass facade borrows from the glass found on the GTECH Headquarters. On the east and west facade we see a pre-cast treatment reminiscent of the Waterplace Towers (but many would say more pleasing than the Waterplace Towers). In addition to it’s aesthetics, the BCBS building also seeks LEED Silver certification. According to an article in the New England Real Estate Journal the BCBS building will feature high-performing insulated glass curtain walls, daylight penetrating the full-height glass wall will enable sensors to dim or turn off building perimeter lighting, two “green” vegetated roofs, rainwater collection for use in the building’s cooling the equipment, and interior finishes such as furniture and finishes that are low-voc emitting, rapidly-renewable, and regionally developed.

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Moran Shipping Agencies, Inc.

What Cheer to Moran Shipping Agencies, Inc. not only for moving back to Providence from Warwick, not only for renovating an historic downtown building for it’s new HQ, but also for doing it green.


View Larger Map

Moran was founded in Providence in 1937 before moving to Warwick where it is now headquartered. Today Moran has office in 20 cities providing services in 90 ports across the United States.

Jason Kelly Moran’s Executive Vice President tells the Providence Journal that the green design elements came from wanting to maintain the historic integrity of the former Medical Society Building.

Early on it became clear that the building needed a large heating and air-conditioning system and the only place it would fit was the roof — where it would be highly visible and very ugly.

At that point, Virginia L. Branch and others at Durkee Brown Viveiros Werenfels architects guided Kelly to a geothermal system designed by Innovative Construction & Design Solutions LLC, of Guilford, Conn.

The green design techniques do not end at the geothermal heat exchanger though (believed to be the first in downtown Providence), a bioswale will collect rainwater from the building’s small surface parking lot keeping runoff from the site out of storm drains and the Woonasquatucket River, showers and bike racks will be installed for bike commuters. These among other items will allow the building to seek LEED Silver certification.

The icing on the cake here is that Moran is keeping it’s HQ here in Rhode Island and plans to add 12 new jobs once the move to Providence is complete in April.

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Benders Caffe

What Cheer to Benders Caffe for becoming the first Certified Green Restaurant in Rhode Island.

Located on Weybosset Street between Eddy and Dorrance, Benders owners Chris Mathis and Julie Pung have an on-going commitment to being green. In the initial phase of green certification the restaurant did the following:

  • Energy Efficiency and Conservation – outfitting walk-in refrigerators with energy saving strip curtains (these can reduce air infiltration by 75%)

  • Waste Reduction – replacing paper labels with non-toxic stamps and ink
  • Pollution Prevention – using biodegradable bags, cutlery, to-go cups, containers, straws and coffee stirrers, and recycled and chlorine free paper products
  • Environmental Education – in-store signage educating customers and employees on the benefits of their environmental changes
  • Sustainable Food – sourcing organic foods, coffee and tea

Benders also has a full scale recycling program wherein they compost their food scraps and send it to a local pig farm, outfit their staff with organic cotton t-shirts and hats, and use no Styrofoam in the coffee shop. To maintain their certification, Benders will be implementing 4 green steps per year.

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Granoff Associates

What Jeer to Granoff Associates for closing the 181 year old Arcade.

While Granoff and it’s parters wrap-up work on the Hampton Inn across the street, the remaining tenants of the Arcade were forced out in early December and the historic mall (the oldest in America) was shuttered. Granoff is currently seeking a single retail or corporate tenant to occupy the building, stating that the arrangement of small shops we’re all familiar with will not be coming back.

As the Providence Journal states in their December 12th editorial, “if the Granoffs do not believe that they can operate the Arcade as a collection of retail and other businesses, perhaps they could sell it to someone who does.”

Arcade

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Economic Leadership

What Jeer to our Economic Leadership, like so many other outlets have reported, it sucks, what more is there to say?

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Local Mainstream Media Meltdown

What Jeer to the sad slow demise of The Providence Journal.

As parent company Belo buys-out veteran reporters and sells the headquarters out from under ProJo, we all suffer. The Fouth Estate is vital to a healthy democracy, especially in Rhode Island, we need the media to shine a light on the goings on in government, business, academia, everywhere. While Providence Business News and The Providence Phoenix continue to do a good job within their respective niches, the grande dame of Rhode Island journalism continues to wither. There are great blogs throughout the state, but we need the trained professional journalist out on the beat uncovering the stories we do not have the time, money, experience, or connections to get to.

As Dan Kennedy points out, not all papers are hemorrhaging cash, often it is their owners who are. Though the Tribune Co. has gone into bankruptcy due to it’s $13.6 billion in debt, Tribune flagship newspapers, The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times on their own would be profitable. Could it be possible that unshackled from the bounds of Belo Corp. the ProJo could become profitable under a local owner. Perhaps at the very least the ProJo’s horrific website could thrive if removed from under the thumb of directives from Dallas.

And on the tube, Channels 6, 10, and 12 spend most of their energy showing us car wrecks in Alabama and convenience store robberies in Oklahoma. However, a cheer within a jeer to Channel 12 which allows embedding of it’s video content on other sites (such as ours). Proving that someone is understanding how the interwebs work. Here’s a little video from NewsChopper12 over Providence for you to enjoy:

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