Greater City Providence

City plan for streamlining development Downtown and in the “Knowledge District”

The Mayor’s office today issues a press release outlining their plans for streamlining the redevelopment of the Route 195 land, Downtown, the Hospital District, and the Jewelry District:

Taveras Enacts Plan for Streamlining I-195 Development

Public and private sector stakeholders will work with federally funded design firm to create comprehensive, streamlined zoning and planning regulations for land made available through relocation of I-195

PROVIDENCE -Mayor Angel Taveras today announced that his administration will put into place a transparent and efficient process to create new comprehensive zoning and planning regulations for all of downtown Providence, with a special emphasis on maximizing the economic opportunities of land made available by the relocation of I-195.

Since work on the I-195 project began in earnest in 2002, City and State leadership have explored a series of ideas for fully maximizing the value of an unprecedented opportunity to reshape the Providence City skyline. Taveras’ effort will streamline the development process of the I-195 properties and reduce barriers to development of approximately 20 acres of property.

The Taveras administration has selected one of the world’s top integrated design firms, Perkins+Will, to identify a preferred development scenario for the Providence Knowledge District, including the Jewelry District, the Hospital District and the I-195 parcels.

The Perkins+Will team is conducting a study of the best zoning techniques and strategies to implement in the district. The City-led effort, which is expected to be completed in September, is funded by a federal appropriation from the U.S. Small Business Administration secured by Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation.

Taveras will convene a group of public- and private-sector leaders to guide this process, including property owners and stakeholders from the business, higher education and healthcare communities. An Advisory Committee will provide feedback on broad development goals and policy issues that may impact the study area. A Technical Committee will review the finer details of the development options, including impacts to utilities, parking and transportation networks. Each committee is expected to have 20-25 members to ensure broad representation from across the community.

At the conclusion of this process, the Taveras administration, in coordination with City Council leadership, will put in place a single, streamlined zoning and permitting process that will shorten the development cycle while ensuring properties are developed in ways that best serve Providence and the City’s residents.

Currently, building projects need the approval of as many as four independent boards in certain parts of the City, including the City Plan Commission, the Zoning Board of Review, the Downcity Design Review Committee and the Historic District Commission, all of which have overlapping oversight and often operate without sufficient coordination. The result is an approval process that requires developers to appear and reappear before the various boards numerous times and often takes months to complete.

“The relocation of I-195 is an incredible opportunity for Providence to attract new businesses, open up new revenue-generating, taxable property, and build a stronger economy in Providence,” said Taveras. “Too often, the efforts of entrepreneurs, business owners and developers get caught up in bureaucratic red tape that has a chilling effect on growth and investment in the City. This direct and streamlined zoning and permitting process will offer efficiency and predictability to those who seek to start and grow their businesses here.”

Perkins+Will has already begun an analysis of existing conditions in the district.

City Council President Michael A. Solomon expressed support for Mayor Taveras’ plan, saying: “Development of the 195 land and the Knowledge District is crucial to moving the city’s economy forward. The City Council looks forward to working with Mayor Taveras, and all our partners in the business and nonprofit communities to create a clear blueprint for growth and economic development in Providence.”

There will be several opportunities for broader public input as the Perkins+Will team conducts its study – especially from neighborhood and community groups.

“Our team brings expertise in both urban design and the specific requirements of labs, tech offices, hospitals and science classrooms, which will be the engines of innovation in the Knowledge District,” said Philip Palmgren, urban design director for the New York office of Perkins+Will. “We are excited to be working in Providence as a city with great urban fabric and great opportunity for growth.”

Shortly after taking office, Taveras defined his priorities for how the relocation of I-195 should be leveraged for economic growth in the City of Providence. Priorities for the redevelopment of the I-195 land include the following:

  • Deliver both short- and long-term value to the people of Providence and Rhode Island.
  • Create taxable properties that produce revenue for the City of Providence.
  • Accelerate the expansion of businesses and the creation of good jobs.
  • Bring properties to market that increase Providence’s competitiveness in attracting new business to Rhode Island, particularly businesses that enhance the growth of Rhode Island’s knowledge economy.
  • Support the expansion of existing knowledge-economy organizations located in the area, including the healthcare and education institutions that are, and will continue to be, powerful economic drivers for Providence and all of Rhode Island.
  • Create pedestrian-friendly areas that enhance the quality of life for all Providence residents and visitors to our State’s Capital City.
  • Reflect best practices in sustainable development, maximizing and protecting our natural resources.
  • Establish a clear, efficient and streamlined development process.

“We will conduct a thorough stakeholder review, with the guidance and expertise of a nationally respected consultant, to arrive at a comprehensive and streamlined set of planning and zoning regulations that create a predictable, well-designed path for future development in the Capital City,” said Zachary Darrow, Mayor Taveras’ special adviser on issues related to the development of the Knowledge District. “This process will create the much-needed foundation upon which the vision for the Knowledge District can be efficiently and effectively executed.”

A public kickoff meeting, as well as the first meetings of the Advisory and Technical Committees, will be announced in the coming weeks.

About Perkins+Will

Established in 1935, Perkins+Will is an integrated design firm serving clients from offices in Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Dubai, Hartford, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Research Triangle Park, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Shanghai, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington, DC. The firm practices architecture, interiors, branded environments, planning + strategies, and urban design for clients in the aviation + transit, corporate + commercial + civic, healthcare, higher education, K-12 education, and science + technology markets. Perkins+Will routinely ranks among the world’s top design firms and has received hundreds of awards, including the prestigious American Institute of Architects’ “Firm of the Year Award.”

Perkins+Will is well known for its strategic planning in urban environments as well as its healthcare and science and technology architectural designs. The firm recently completed the Reuse Master Plan for the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington DC, and is currently working on the Atlanta BeltLine Corridor Design with New York-based Field Operations. Perkins+Will is recognized as a leader in sustainable design, selected as the top sustainable design firm by Architect Magazine, and responsible for three of the 16 Founding Climate Positive urban design projects chosen by the Clinton Climate Initiative and the US Green Building Council (USGBC). Perkins+Will was the first multi-office company to commit to the 2030 Challenge, in which the firm has pledged that all of its projects be designed to carbon neutrality by the year 2030.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • At R.I. Senate hearing, no agreement on Route 195 land [The Providence Journal]

    Chafee said he learned on his recent visit to Houston’s Texas Medical Center that nonprofit organizations in the vast medical complex do not pay property taxes, but the money they generate in income and other taxes far outweighs what those property taxes would have been.

    But Taveras, who spoke next, supports the legislation as written – without a commission and with a provision requiring nonprofit organizations that buy the land to reach an agreement first with the city about payments in lieu of taxes. If they don’t reach an agreement, the legislation allows the sale to go forward, but requires the nonprofit organization to pay whatever a taxable entity would.

    “We need this land to be taxable,” Taveras said. “Providence is in the middle of a Category-5 hurricane. Our large tax-exempt institutions need to step up and share in the sacrifice.”

    Taveras said later that he’s “skeptical” about creating a commission and hasn’t seen any legislation detailing how it would be done. He said collaboration is key, though, and he expects to join Chafee on a trip to Baltimore at the end of April to get a firsthand look at the Maryland Medical Center.

    The “Providence Apartment Association” is an anti-tax group (?) of landlords.

Providence, RI
5:10 am8:23 pm EDT
Feels like: 84°F
Wind: 8mph SW
Humidity: 60%
Pressure: 30.31"Hg
UV index: 4
93°F / 70°F
88°F / 64°F
82°F / 66°F