Greater City Providence

CPC to review proposed drive-thru in Olneyville at January 21 28, 2014 meeting


This building in Olneyville was razed last year. Image from Google Streetview

[box style=”alert”]The City Plan Commission meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to the impending storm. It is rescheduled for January 28th.[/alert]

The block of buildings on Plainfield between Dike and Atwood Streets was razed last January. An anonymous commenter from that post wins the prize as my understanding is a McDonald’s with a drive-thru along with a dollar store is now planned for this location.

As Olneyville attempts to reviatalize itself a fast food restaurant, seperated from the street by parking, with a drive-thru is exactly what the neighborhood does not need. This parcel interrupts what is almost a complete streetwall along the south side of Plainfield Street and through the Square from the Route 6 overpass to the unfortunately placed car wash at the Westminster and Broadway intersection.

Olneyville has the lowest rate of vehicle ownership in the City, who is this drive-thru being built for? McDonald’s, if they want to be in Olneyville, should consider maybe building a walk-up window rather than a drive-thru one.

The developer will be seeking relief for building setback and a special use permit for a drive-thru from the CPC at their meeting on January 21st. See the full CPC agenda below.

featured-bikeped City Plan Commission Meeting
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 – 4:45pm
444 Westminster Street, First Floor

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of minutes from the December 17th meeting – for action
  • Election of officers for the 2014 calendar year – for action
  • Director’s Report

City Council Referral

1. City Council Referral: Petition to amend the Providence Zoning OrdinanceThe petitioner is requesting that Article 3 and appendix A of the zoning ordinance – pertaining to certain dimensional and use regulations in W-3 and M-2 zones – be amended – for action

Major Land Development Project

2. Case No. 13-039MA – 48-54 Plainfield Street and 4-14 Atwood Street (Master Plan Approval) The applicant is seeking master plan approval to construct a free standing fast food restaurant with a drive through and a free standing retail department store on a vacant commercial lot. The applicant is seeking dimensional relief for front yard setbacks and a special use permit for a drive through use. A total of 56 parking spaces are proposed for the development, which measures approximately 64,295 SF – for action (AP 105 Lots 46, 47, 66, 98, 99, 100, Olneyville)

Re: Zoning Providence

3. Update on Re: Zoning Providence Presentation detailing progress on the zoning ordinance revision process and proposed zoning changes developed by the project consultants – for discussion


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.


  • Oh great another drive thru. What really angers me is the fact that there’s a bank with a drive thru on Washington st in downtown. A drive thru will do nothing to help Olneyville. Only good urbanism will help olneyville.

  • Can we get the McDonald’s to be built in a way that it won’t be a drive-thru? I’m not a huge fan of there being a McDonald’s there in general, but perhaps just a storefront walk-in type like you see in downtowns would at least leave the space in a state that’s less car-oriented and more likely to be able to be redeveloped without reconstruction if something else comes in the future.

  • Plainfield St has a lot of through traffic into and out of the city. The traffic pattern also drives Rt 6 traffic right by the site. I would assume the drive-thru is directed toward vehicle traffic counts and not vehicle ownership. Like a lot of fast food places, McDonald’s relies on “impulse” buying. People are not necessarily looking for McDonald’s. They are looking for someplace to eat where they can get in and out in a hurry. They may not stop if it means getting out of the car.

    It’s one of the main reasons that Brewed Awakenings abandoned Hope St. Once it became clear that the drive thru was probably not going to be allowed it made the whole project economically unfeasible. McDonald’s may feel the same way but with very little residential in and around the location there will probably won’t be much of a fight. Also, Plainfield is one-way at that location so there will be no left-hand turn traffic issues.

    I foresee a compromise; They will build up to the sidewalk (they are asking for setback relief) with a “reasonably attractive” facade and put parking in the rear in exchange for a drive thru. McDonald’s probably has a prototype layout for this very type of location.

    ps. Don’t shoot the messenger. I am not a big fan of this either but I see little opposition to this and think the City will go for a deal that reinforces the street wall along Plainfield.

  • Set-back relief would be good.

    I tweeted a picture from @transportpvd of the McDonald’s I used to pass on the way to work when I lived in Philadelphia. It’s not only fronted with the sidewalk, but is part of a row that has no drive-thru service. I’d be interested to see statistics on the sales. I worked at a CVS at 19th and Chestnut that was consistently the second grossing in the country, and one of the few where the front of the store (candy, toilet paper, etc.) actually outperformed the more expensive prescription section. That also had no parking of any kind, on street or otherwise. I think that Olneyville is a perfect place to think about where we can create car-free businesses, because very few people who live in Olneyville have cars, and that intersection isn’t capable of carrying traffic well (just look at rush hour, it’s awful).

    I also think that planners in Olneyville should look to the highway as something that’s going to disappear. Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I see 6 & 10 being torn out in my lifetime, hopefully well before my not-yet-born children are out of high school. We should start to think about what will bring long-term business success to the area.

  • Set-back relief isn’t good, relief means we’re not forcing them to comply with regulations requiring them to build to the street, relief is permission to set the building back and build a parking lot in front of it or a drive-thru around it.

    See the new post with rendering and plans.

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