Part one of two of the Community Forum on Proposed I-195 Redevelopment District:
BetterProvidence & Common Cause RI hosted a Community Forum to give PVD and RI residents the opportunity to learn about and ask questions about the State’s legislative proposal for selling and redeveloping 35 acres of land in and adjacent to PVD’s Jewelry District.
- John Marion, ED, Common Cause RI
- Kelly Mahoney, Policy Dir., Dept. of Administration, State of RI
- Arthur Salisbury, President, Jewelry District Association
- Thomas Deller, Planning Director, City of Providence
- Jewelry District Association
- Fox Point Neighborhood Association
- Greater City: Providence
- American Institute of Architects Rhode Island
Forum moderator: Mike Ritz, ED, Leadership Rhode Island
Event venue: The Spot Underground, Providence
Members of the General Assembly and Governor’s office have often referred to the 195 surplus land as a new “industrial park.” This district should be about creating a new industry and jobs, but is in no way similar to Quonset or the Howard Industrial Park – it’s an urban neighborhood.
The city’s planning/zoning process is cumbersome at best and at worst has standards and board reviews that are so rigid, it’s questionable anything would be built. Even with recent 195 land studies and the current effort to streamline the approvals process, without abandoning existing rules and current popular notions of land-use regulation, its unclear if the city could devise regulations and a system of implementation that would truly encourage development. This is likely one of the reasons why the state is taking such a heavy-handed position proposing a “one stop shopping” commission.
Besides a potential for corruption and added costs, a quasi-public commission could be an effective and efficient mechanism to rapidly develop this district creating the greatest number of jobs and highest tax base for the city. The danger with this proposed commission is that any concept of urban context or good urban design/planning could be overruled by inappropriate conventional suburban ideas of monoculture land-use patterns, building massing and placements.
Rather than creating an independent quasi-public commission, a more conservative approach might be to utilize the expertise that already exists with the state’s EDC and the city’s Planning Department or alternately creating a commission that emphasizes the two agencies within its structure.
To effectively develop this neighborhood for this new industry, any commission or combination of agencies should throw out the current zoning regulations and recent studies for the 195 district and create a new set of standards that would offer the greatest flexibility for the development of the land that would foster the growth of the life sciences industry.
This Great city deserved a better forum on this, what I would consider something more than a dark room decision.First I was born, raised, and left the place. Sorry that happened by the way.Providence is and has been and urban shaker for longer than most cities in the world.
With the responsibility of being a Parisian midget in giants clothing, is poised to claim an immense piece of former Eisenhower brush stroke.Keep in mind the city actually broke ground on”RT 6 to EP” before the interstate mandate. I see this reclaimation really working, and what you are seeing here with these people who look like they want to be somewhere else? This will be a forgotten memory one day when a Florian like Mecca emerges.
I’m not quite finished here.The great urban landscape that is Providence has garnished much national attention for some time. You all (I hope) know that.
Why is it that visitors seem to be dialed in. That’s directed at Brassard!
Dialed in, I should be flattered. To whom, the Governor, the Mayor, the General Assembly, the neighborhood groups, the developers – none of them. I too was born and raised here and like the thousands every year that were either raised here or passed through the city’s colleges, left in my twenties because of the limited prospects if I stayed. San Francisco, Seattle, and New York attract large numbers of migrants from all over the country every year not just because they are nice places to live, but also because they offer high-paying jobs. The reverse has occurred in Providence and Rhode Island where there’s been a steady and continuous brain drain for the last 50 years or so.
Providence often receives good press. What’s the press regarding unemployment, thousands of foreclosed properties, the renaissance that didn’t happen in the poorest neighborhoods, gangs, or a near bankrupt city government? How about the surface parking lots that takes up 40% of downtown’s land. Does that qualify as Providence’s great urban landscape that garnishes much national attention?
With the exception of SOM’s Capital Center master plan were eight or nine projects were built, the city’s archaic zoning and Byzantine approvals process has been great at producing surface parking lots downtown and even in the neighborhoods, but has produced little development with fairly flat job creation in the last 30 years. From the previous boom cycle, the first of the new towers that was proposed was never built it part because of the city’s cumbersome process. The result is a nasty scar between the Arcade and the Turk’s Head building that could languish for a generation or more.
With Rhode Island’s heritage of corruption a standalone commission to redevelop the 195 Land may not be the best choice, but the alternative relying alone on dated city regulations and approvals process isn’t much better. This isn’t necessarily about creating an alien tower district on the 195 Land, though it could be. Examples that effects over a third of the district are 1950s era 45-foot and 75-foot height limits, which would be of no use to a biotech firm that might want to build a four-story research wet lab that required 24-foot floor-to-floor heights.
The most important aspect of redevelopment of the 195 Land should be to reinforce the health sciences industry, IT, hospitality, and education sectors, which are the basis of the city’s economy, to create new jobs. A mechanism to market, sell, and develop the land to create the maximum number of jobs in a timely fashion needs to be found. It will likely be a mix of regulatory groups. With the city’s limited area, the development of the 195 Land shouldn’t be squandered by underdevelopment or a slow process. This once in a lifetime opportunity to redevelop this land could help begin to reverse the brain drain.