Greater City Providence

State to study Garrahy Courthouse Garage. Again.


Image from Google Maps

Ian Donnis tweeted out a link to the legislation authorizing a new Downtown Garage Commission:

Back in 2005 there was a $20 million proposal to build a garage on this site. Ian Donnis wrote about a similar plan languishing back in 2008 when he was at the Providence Phoenix. And in 2009, then Mayor Cicilline put $47 million in his stimulus wish list for the garage.

The desire for a garage at this site goes back way further than that even. The Providence 1970 plan, written in the early 60’s basically called for Downtown to be ringed with garages just off the highways, then an elevated people mover system would move people around town from the garages. Though the interstate highway that originally prompted this as a location is gone, and an elevated people mover in Providence is a non-starter, the Garrahy Courthouse as a parking garage location lives on.

We do need structured parking to pull the demand away from surface lots. Also, This site remains relatively well suited as it sits between existing demand Downcity and future demand in the Jewelry District. The rebuilt streetgrid will create access to Route 95 making up for the loss of access to Route 195. And, the site sits one block from the proposed route of the Providence Streetcar.

However, structured parking is expensive and our current regulations do not do anything to make surface parking equally (or even nearly) as expensive. If the taxpayers are going to take on the burden of building parking for the private sector, the State and City should attempt to recoup those costs by instituting taxes and fees on surface lots. Building structured parking without raising the costs of operating a surface lot, and parking in a surface lot, will not drive demand from those surface lots into the structured parking.

Also… Shouldn’t one of the members of this commission be the City of Providence Director of Planning & Development or his or her designee?

Language of the Bill:

2013 — S 0993

State of Rhode Island



Introduced By: Senators Ruggerio, Goodwin, Miller, Metts, and Jabour
Date Introduced: June 06, 2013
Referred To: Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs

RESOLVED, That a special legislative commission be and the same is hereby created consisting of eleven (11) members: three (3) of whom shall be members of the Senate, not more than two (2) of whom shall be from the same political party, to be appointed by the Senate President; three (3) of whom shall be members of the House of Representative, not more than two (2) of whom shall be from the same political party, to be appointed by the Speaker of the House; one of whom shall be the Director of the Department of Administration, or his or her designee; one of whom shall be the Director of the Department of Transportation, or his or her designee; one of whom shall be the Chairperson of the I-195 Redevelopment District, or his or her designee; one of whom shall be the State Court Administrator, or his or her designee; and one of whom shall be the Honorable Mayor of Providence, or his or her designee. The purpose of said commission shall be to make a comprehensive study and issue findings about building structured parking at the Garrahy Judicial Complex.

In lieu of any appointment of a member of the legislature to a permanent advisory commission, a legislative study commission, or any commission created by a general assembly resolution, the appointing authority may appoint a member of the general public to serve in lieu of a legislator, provided that the Majority Leader or the Minority Leader of the political party which is entitled to the appointment consents to the appointment of the member of the general public.

Forthwith upon passage of this resolution, the members of the commission shall meet at the call of the Speaker of the House and Senate President, who shall select co-chairpersons. Vacancies in said commission shall be filled in like manner as the original appointment.

The membership of said commission shall receive no compensation for their services.

All departments, boards, commissions, and agencies of the state shall furnish such advice and information, documentary and otherwise, to said commission and its agents as is deemed necessary or desirable by the commission to facilitate the purposes of this resolution.

The Joint Committee on Legislative Services is here by authorized and directed to provide suitable quarters for said commission; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the commission shall report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly no later than January 7, 2014, and said commission shall expire on March 7, 2014.

This resolution would create an eleven (11) member special legislative commission whose purpose would be to make a comprehensive study and issue findings about building structured parking at the Garrahy Judicial Complex, and who would report back to the General Assembly no later than January 7, 2014, and whose life would expire March 7, 2014.

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.


  • I would like to recommend what I’ll be calling the Taveras Plan, in the hopes that this extension on some of his prior statements makes him the most likely to take this cause up.

    Every surface lot within 0.25 miles of the new Garrahy Cranston-Warwick Parking Castle shall be tax as though a Parking Castle of similar quality, parking space density, and revenue generating capacity was constructed on that lot. Then, we should not permit any state employee wokring within 0.5 miles of the Garrahy Cranston-Warwick Parking Castle to have their parking paid for as a benefit of employment. They can take a free monthly RIPTA pass or figure it out on their own.

    I kid.

    Kind of.

  • WPRI quoting Senator Ruggerio:

    The challenge of finding a parking space in downtown Providence is only going to increase as the economy grows and the 195 district is redeveloped. The redevelopment of the 195 district, while it presents tremendous economic opportunities to create thousands of jobs, also requires that we thoughtfully address parking solutions in the heart of downtown Providence.

    …deep breath…

    1. When was the last time Senator Ruggerio was in Downtown Providence?

    2. The 195 redevelopment is a 30-year project, increased demand is still a long time coming.

    3. Any increased demand driven by private sector development in the 195 area should be addressed by those private sector developers, zoning requires they address parking.

    4. Define the word “thoughfully.” It seems to me there has been zero thought put into this and we’re simply resurrecting a 50-year-old plan to build a parking garage. The legislation does not call for a study to address parking needs downtown, it calls for studying the construction of a garage on one particular parcel, not terribly thoughtful if you ask me.

    5. Trends since before the recession and into the recovery show that people are driving less, especially younger people and seniors. A thoughtful study would account for this trend.

  • Jeff, you are right that some kind of disincentive to new or existing surface lots is way overdue, but bundling those taxes/fees into a resolution to build this garage would probably kill it. On the other hand, if the cost of parking at Garrahy were as cheap as, say, Cambridge’s municipal garages, then it could easily steal a good chunk of business from nearby surface lots.

  • How about giving them free parking at the Wickford and Warwick garages and have them take the train I also kid. kind of.

Providence, RI
5:10 am8:23 pm EDT
Feels like: 75°F
Wind: 8mph SW
Humidity: 70%
Pressure: 30.32"Hg
UV index: 2
93°F / 70°F
86°F / 64°F
82°F / 66°F