Today the Mayor’s Office held a press conference announcing the designation of the intersection of Weybosset and Mathewson Streets as “PPAC Square.” This is part of the larger Downtown Circulator Project.
Speakers included the Mayor, Director of Planning and Development Thom Deller, Joe Walsh the Chairman of the PPAC Board, and Laurie White of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.
Deller noted that the Circulator Project first started as an analysis of converting traffic to two-way flow back in 1997 after being recommended by Andres Duany’s charrette. As mentioned in our previous post, Phase I was Washington Street, Phase II is Weybosset and Empire, and the city hopes to breakground on Phase III, LaSalle and Emmett Squares and adjacent roadways later this year.
Walsh thanked then Senator, now Governor Chafee for securing a $750k grant to make the project possible, PPAC made a 20% contribution to that grant.
I spoke with Deller about the comfort station to clear up the confusion of other reports. He said the tower at the front of the comfort station will be maintained in the traffic median outside PPAC (you can see this in the drawings accompanying this post). At the back of the tower will be a low wall to mimic the original station. Originally, the comfort station was simply the tower, with a low wall seperating stairs that led seperately to mens and ladies restrooms underground.
When the station was closed, in the mid-70’s the section immediately behind the tower was built to cover the stairs. Later, in the early 90’s the back structure, which until recently had been a police substation, was built. Those modern additions will be removed.
Westminster Street, Olneyville Square, and Broadway
Also announced at the press conference were streetscape improvements, including trees and decorative lighting, for Westminster Street on the West Side and Olneyville Square.
Finally, the Broadway project to repair sidewalks and install bike lanes was officially announced.
Further details on all the projects in this Press Release from the Mayor’s Office:
CORNER OF WEYBOSSET AND MATHEWSON STREETS RENAMED “PPAC SQUARE”
Three major projects will enhance downtown and portions of West End and Federal Hill
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Angel Taveras held a press conference and celebration today to rename the intersection of Weybosset Street and Mathewson Street in the heart of Downtown Providence’s Arts & Entertainment District as PPAC Square, in honor of the Providence Performing Arts Center’s contributions to the City.
Mayor Taveras also announced details of the Downtown Providence Traffic Circulation Improvements Project and two other streetscape and roadway enhancement projects currently underway. These projects will provide significant enhancements to areas of the West End, Olneyville and Federal Hill.
“I am very pleased to honor the Providence Performing Arts Center for its great contributions to our city’s cultural life. PPAC Square is the centerpiece of a major construction project that will improve Providence’s Arts & Entertainment District, enhance the streetscape and create two-way traffic on Weybosset and Empire Streets,” Mayor Taveras said. “Providence is the economic and cultural hub for our state, and it’s vitally important that we make visiting, working and living in Providence even better.”
The Mayor was joined for today’s celebration by Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce President Laurie White, Joseph W. Walsh, Esq., chairman of the PPAC Board of Trustees, Providence Planning & Development Director Thomas Deller and members of Downtown Providence’s business and arts communities.
Together, the construction projects will repave roadways and sidewalks, upgrade traffic signals and signs, and install ornamental lights, trees, planters, a bike lane, bike racks and other public amenities throughout the city.
The Downtown Providence Traffic Circulation Improvements Phase II project began on April 7 and is scheduled to continue through the end of the year. The $5.5 million project will restore two-way traffic on Weybosset Street and Empire Street for the first time since the 1970s, and significantly reconfigure and enhance the area of Weybosset Street in front of the Providence Performing Art Center.
Traffic will be reconfigured as two-way on Weybosset Street from Empire Street to Dorrance Street, and on Empire Street between Fountain Street and Weybosset Street. On Empire Street, two lanes will be created heading south toward Weybosset Street and one lane headed north toward Fountain Street. The driving lanes will be about 12 feet wide, which is the standard width for downtown driving lanes. Curbside parking will be maintained on both sides of Empire Street, with parking spaces reconfigured from diagonal to parallel on the east side of the street.
In PPAC Square, a dedicated drop-off lane will be installed in front of the landmark arts venue, and the historic tower of the comfort station will be restored and relocated to a new median island in the center of Weybosset Street. Streets and sidewalks in the square will be replaced, and 25 new trees, granite planters, bike racks, ornamental bollards, new benches, and ornamental streetlights installed.
“PPAC was pleased to collaborate with the City of Providence to bring this significant project to fruition. The enhancements to PPAC Square will improve the theater experience for our patrons and benefit the entire Providence Arts & Entertainment District,” said Joseph W. Walsh, Esq., chairman of the PPAC Board of Trustees.
The $5.5 million project includes $4.7 million in federal aid, including $700,000 in matching funds from the state and a $937,500 appropriation secured by PPAC for improvements at the intersection of Mathewson and Weybosset Streets. An additional $800,000 was procured via a Providence Public Building Authority bond.
Phase I of the Downtown Providence Traffic Circulation Improvements project, which involved reconfiguring traffic on Washington Street to two-way, was completed in 2004. Phase II was stalled for several years by funding procurement and design delays.
“We applaud the city’s commitment to making these improvements and for fostering collaboration among many to provide improved access to the high quality arts and cultural activities Providence has for resident and visitors,” said Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. “It’s through continued collaboration that we have enhanced the heritage of our Capital City while positioning Downtown Providence as a competitive arts, business and residential center of the region.”
In the West End and Olneyville, the Streetscape Enhancements to Westminster Street and Olneyville Square project will continue through December. Work will restart in spring 2012 for completion in late July 2012.
The project will include installation of new ornamental lights along Westminster Street, the planting of new trees on Manton Avenue and in Olneyville Square, sidewalk reconstruction and the installation of a new median island and traffic signal upgrades at the intersection of Westminster Street and Cranston Street.
Traffic signal replacement and coordination in Olneyville Square and at the intersection of Westminster and Barton Streets is expected to alleviate traffic congestion in those areas.
The $4.4 million project includes $3.3 million in federal stimulus funds, $560,000 of federal Community Development Block Grant funds and $590,000 in other federal aid.
In the city’s third major construction project, the Broadway Road and Traffic Signal Improvements project will upgrade and coordinate the traffic signals on Broadway and add a striped bike lane in each direction on Broadway, repave Broadway and the intersection of Pocasset Avenue and Plainfield Street, and replace existing sidewalks in poor condition on Broadway.
The $1.8 million project, which is being paid for with federal highway funds, is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2011.