River Development Meets Resistance

Well, it was nice while it lasted, but a flanking maneuver of bad design at either end of the pedestrian bridge threatens to mar one of the loveliest views in the state. If any one of the three current proposals for development along the east side of the river goes through, the view from the bridge will be a jumble of chintzy, oversized boxes.

On the east side: Two of the submissions for Parcel 2 have all the elegance of extended stay hotels by the airport, although the Urbanica structure looks more like an off-site storage facility trying to disguise itself as a normal building. They are too massive and too ugly. (Adding insult to injury, Parcel 2 has been a field of sunflowers for the past five summers.) Opposition has been swift. Steph Machado writes for WPRI:

More than a dozen people who live near the parcel along with Councilman John Goncalves, D-Ward 1, sent a letter to the I-195 Commission and Gov. Dan McKee laying out concerns about the three proposals by Boston-based firms that each want to put a residential building on Parcel 2, an acre of land on South Water Street stretching from James Street to Dollar Street.

So, how many members of the 195 Commission have a background in design or urban planning? I count one: Bonnie Nickerson, Providence’s director of Planning and Development, serves on the commission ex officio and I suspect her city job keeps her pretty busy.

The rest of the commission consists of two lawyers, a business management consultant, the former CEO of a global construction/development company, one expert in biotechnology, and the president of Twin River Casino Hotel.

And where will these new residents park their cars? The Machado piece breaks down each proposal’s parking accommodations, or lack thereof: “The letter also expresses concern about traffic and congestion in the area, since at least two of the proposals include far fewer parking spaces than potential residents.”

The Providence Journal wrote up the growing controversy in “River Sides.”

The 195 Redevelopment District Commission, which canceled its past two monthly meetings, is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday, January 19 at 5pm via Zoom.

(Seen here is the proposal by Parent and Diamond Real Estate Development. What is that facade in the lower right even made of?)

On the west side: I learned of this proposal only last December from GoLocal architecture critic Will Morgan in “Another Misstep from the 195 Commission.”

Now the commission has requested qualifications from architecture and engineering firms to build a 4,000 square feet, $2.8 million building grandly labeled the Innovation District Park Food & Beverage Pavilion. The inappropriate location of the proposed service structure is at the western approach to the pedestrian bridge.

Given the tremendous popularity of the bridge–the jewel of the jewelry district, one has to ask, what sort of fuzzy thinking would locate restrooms-cum-hot dog stand right at the entrance to the bridge?

Stay tuned.



4 thoughts on “River Development Meets Resistance”

  1. It seems that more of the same keeps happening. The people of Providence think that we deserve better but for whatever bland or nefarious reasons, the people in charge are willing to rubber stamp most proposals that come across their desks. We can do better and we need to continue to demand better. These new pieces of land are huge opportunities that will shape the City we want Providence to be. A wall in the form of an interstate highway was taken down at great expense. It would be a short-sighted and ironic mistake to put up a new wall of expensive residential apartments.

  2. David Pearson

    What makes me laugh is the view from either 10,000 Suns or this new housing complex is of three giant and ugly smokestacks. Nothing says “green” like that. And it’s generally incorporated in the Providence skyline.

  3. If one automobile and parking space parking per adult plus plenty of extra parking all about and multiple lanes of fast moving traffic are your idea of desirable surroundings, 95% percent of America has been built to suit you perfectly! Why do object to the last little 5% in cities like Providence trying other things?
    Believe it or not, there are people happy to get by without the expense, hassle and danger of a car who can not find a home where unneeded garage space is not included in the price and where they do not have to trudge past dreary parking lots everytime they walk somewhere.
    More cars and more parking are what creates more “traffic and congestion.” – People walking or biking places are the solution to traffic and congestion.

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