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A VISION FOR PROVIDENCE

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Consultant hired to draft updated downtown plan

Sasaki Associates will be paid $251,000 to develop the "Providence 2020 Downtown Investment Strategy," which replaces the Cianci-era "New Cities" plan.

BY GREGORY SMITH Journal Staff Writer | January 21, 2005

PROVIDENCE -- Former Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. had his much-touted "New Cities" plan for redeveloping three key areas of the city.

New Cities would have a lot to do with guiding Providence's economic fortunes, Cianci used to say.

Most of the plan was completed at a cost of many hundreds of thousands of dollars. But little, if any, of it came into play before Cianci had to leave office nearly 2 1/2 years ago.

Now Mayor David N. Cicilline is going to have his own redevelopment plan, with the more cumbersome title of "Providence 2020 Downtown Investment Strategy."

Like New Cities, it would be essentially a land-use and economic-development blueprint. And it would cover much of the same geography.

The Cicilline administration has hired the consulting firm Sasaki Associates, of Watertown, Mass., which did the harborfront portion of New Cities, to do a study and author the new work. Sasaki and three subcontractors will be paid $251,000.

Asked why Providence needs a new plan, Thomas E. Deller, city director of planning and development, said yesterday that the city had a series of plans that had been drawn up over the years that might be contradictory or outdated in some respects.

And they may not sufficiently account for the connections that need to be made between downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods, he said. One of the stated aims of New Cities, however, was to establish those physical and psychological connections.

Kathryn J. Madden, a principal of Sasaki Associates, described the goals of the new study to four City Council members at City Hall last night. The council members seemed perplexed, at least at the outset.

What is the study rationale and scope, and why does downtown, rather than the residential neighborhoods, seem to be getting attention, they wanted to know.

The administration depicts the downtown plan as one of the 25 neighborhood plans to be done under the state-mandated process of periodically updating the municipal Comprehensive Plan. Cicilline has assigned the process a name: "The Neighborhood Investment Project."

Stapled together, the 25 plans would compose the Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan, among other purposes, is the guidebook that serves as the legal basis for the city zoning ordinance.

Given the growth of downtown residential uses, downtown is now considered to be Providence's 25th neighborhood. But it is also, far and away, the most important neighborhood, because it generates so much of the property-tax revenue that pays for city services.

After some discussion at the City Hall meeting, Councilman Patrick K. Butler remarked, "There have been many plans that have been thrown around, and now we need one plan to pull it all together."

Madden nodded and said that much of the meat of the previous plans would be incorporated into the new one.

"It's not a blank slate," she said. "We don't want to start over where we don't have to start over."

New Cities was a plan for the large-scale redevelopment of what Cianci considered to be three underutilized sections of Providence: Narragansett Landing, or the harborfront; Westminster Crossing, an area south from Empire Street downtown across Route 95 and into Federal Hill and West Broadway; and Promenade, the mill district stretching west from Providence Place mall to Olneyville.

Cicilline's study area includes Narragansett Landing, the Old Harbor district, India Point, the Jewelry District, downtown, Capital Center and Promenade.

Sasaki's assignment is to analyze and make recommendations on economic development, urban design, transportation and public infrastructure. The underlying tasks would be as varied as identifying specific parcels for commercial development to laying out extensions of the street grid through the land to be opened up by the relocation of Route 195.

In discussing the need for the new plan before the council meeting, planning and development chief Deller addressed one of its precursors, the so-called Old Harbor Plan. Some of the building-height restrictions in the Old Harbor plan do not conform to current demands, according to Deller.

The administration's talk of taller buildings and more development density has stirred up some neighborhood groups and community activists who fear that the mayor and his subordinates are bent on taxable development at the expense of residential life in established neighborhoods, historical preservation and other issues.

Among those stirred up is Friends of India Point Park, which fought a master plan drawn up for the park by renowned designer William Warner on a commission from the Department of Planning and Development. Friends of India Point Park said the plan would wall off the public from the waterfront with high-rise residential development.

Warner's work was set aside for potential inclusion in the new "Providence 2020 Downtown Investment Strategy."

Friends of India Point Park was well-represented at a meeting of community groups with Sasaki representatives Wednesday night at the Department of Planning and Development. The administration is promising extensive public consultation before the plan's scheduled adoption this summer.

The park group is adamant that the 18-acre park be expanded by up to 5 acres in order to incorporate Fox's Point, a Colonial-era promontory used to sight ships coming into the harbor that was later leveled and is now occupied by a tugboat company and warehouse.

Fox's Point, the site, is not to be confused with Fox Point, the neighborhood.

"We think it's really important for the city to make careful and deliberate and considered choices about where to develop," said David Riley, co-chairman of Friends of India Point Park.

There will be plenty of taxable development opportunities at Narragansett Landing and elsewhere, Riley said, without the city sacrificing a dramatic setting for public use at Fox's Point.

From The Providence Journal

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Views clash on the future of the Providence waterfront

BY IAN DONNIS | January 28 - February 3, 2005

To a raft of proponents, the idea is a no-brainer: extending India Point Park to Fox

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Three comments ...

- I can't believe that some Rhode Islanders have the nerve to voice criticism over the construction of mixed use/luxury residential condos (Like those NIMBYs who killed the India Point tower a few years ago). These are likely the same general groups of people who beotch about RI's housing crisis. But by preventing new construction, they prevent supply from creating balance with demand. Hence, prices get needlessly high. Even luxury units can help make the general housing situation more affordable.

- Have you ever seen the city's master plan from the 1960's? It was on display at the Brown art gallery last year, at "unbuilt Providence." Hilarious and scary at the same time.

- David Segal is a silly child. He doesn't give a damn about Providence and is just using this as a stepping stone for a lifetime of public office. He'll resort to whatever convenient populist rhetoric will keep him in good graces with the local socialists ... nevermind what's good for the city. In fact, last time I went back to Brown, I saw him at FishCo. hitting on freshmen girls. Your city councilman, hard at work. ;)

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- Have you ever seen the city's master plan from the 1960's? It was on display at the Brown art gallery last year, at "unbuilt Providence." Hilarious and scary at the same time.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

There ain't nothing hilarious about it.

ProvPlan1979.jpg

:ph34r:

Your city councilman, hard at work. ;)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

He ain't my councilman, mine's much too busy 'taking care' of things. :P

Seriously, I agree with you on point one. Why don't we turn the whole damn city into a park and we can all empty our wallets into the bay. This isn't little Rhody on the prarie. We're a city. We need buildings and housing. India Point Park is plenty big enough, and no one ever goes there except Fox Point NIMBYs. The city has no money to take over the private parcels that they want to claim for the park. So they should just shut up about it. Instead of trying to block development, they should be focusing their energy on making the development smart. A waterfront with residence and businesses is much more attractive in an urban setting than trees and benches. I've been to India Point Park once, I've never been struck to return, there's no reason for me to go there. I don't want all that land coming off the property tax roles because people in Fox Point want a place to walk their dogs.

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"Why don't we turn the whole damn city into a park and we can all empty our wallets into the bay. This isn't little Rhody on the prarie. We're a city. We need buildings and housing. "

Pretty easy to follow your logic into absurdity too... why don't we get rid of zoning restrictions altogether, and build towers in all our parks. We'd make a pretty penny off of Roger Williams, if we developed the jogging path down Blackstone, etc. We won't do this because planning's about striking balances that make places livable -- and livable places mean higher qualitites of life, higher property values, etc.

Parks are economic generators. IPP could be one of the city's nicest and most-used parks. And think about it -- where's the public greenspace going to be post-195, post Cap Center development, etc? There won't be any significant public green spaces through downtown, the JD, Fox Point, lower portion of the East Side, etc. Providence is one of the country's densest cities, and is getting denser -- especially the area within a half-mile of India Point. It's a beautiful and dramatic spot, and we should seriously consider how to allow public access and not dismiss the idea offhand.

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"Why don't we turn the whole damn city into a park and we can all empty our wallets into the bay. This isn't little Rhody on the prarie. We're a city. We need buildings and housing. "

Pretty easy to follow your logic into absurdity too... why don't we get rid of zoning restrictions altogether, and build towers in all our parks. 

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Well, you're both right. There has to be a balance.

There won't be any significant public green spaces through downtown, the JD, Fox Point, lower portion of the East Side, etc. 

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This is somewhat true... But Downcity isn't really all that big. Maybe 10X10 blocks at most. How much greenspace does it need? And frankly, what targeted greenspace that has been already attempted in Downcity (think where Hotel Providence now is) hasn't been all that compelling. It's not a sufficiently urban location that greenspace has that much of a dramatic effect. I'd like to see more trees, though, in the urban space already there without taking more dedicating more park space.

Providence is one of the country's densest cities

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Is this true statistically?

is getting denser -- especially the area within a half-mile of India Point.   

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Where is there increased density at India Point? I'm not aware of much development/construction happening there right now. And (this is my perspective as a recent Providence arrival within the last year) isn't the high density of Fox Point kind of its charm and appeal?

- Garris

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Parks are economic generators.  IPP could be one of the city's nicest and most-used parks.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

There's already a vast greenspace at India Point Park though, and it is underused because there is nothing to draw people across 195 to it. There needs to be somesort of residential and economic activity south of 195 in order to help draw people to India Point. Fox's Point (the east end of the waterfront which is confusingly not the Fox Point neighbourhood to the west) is the perfect place for that development. Now I would not like to see a row of 20 story condos along the Fox's Point waterfront, but continuing the scale and uses of Corliss Landing down to the head of the bay is exactly the kind of development that will draw people south of 195 and into India Point Park.

I'd like to see more trees, though, in the urban space already there without taking more dedicating more park space.

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From what I've seen, the area along Eddy Street north of Heritage Harbour to where 195 now crosses the river is slated to be mostly open space (Ship Street Landing). Think of the Waterplace Park Basin, it should be this type of space.

re: density

Is this true statistically?

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Yes it is, and it is something we should be proud of too.

Where is there increased density at India Point?  I'm not aware of much development/construction happening there right now.  And (this is my perspective as a recent Providence arrival within the last year) isn't the high density of Fox Point kind of its charm and appeal?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Fox Point is the neighbourhood north of the west end of India Point Park, Fox's Point is the area just south of the Hurricane Barrier where the west end of the Providence River Bridge will land. Fox's Point is proposed to be developed, some groups would like to see IIP extend all the way across the shoreline at the head of the bay.

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EXCELLENT, I've been waiting for some results for this. Press releases from the city are fine to post in full, as they aren't copyrighted but rather something the city wants people to publish, so I'm going to post the whole thing here:

Date: April 29th, 2005

For Immediate Release

Contact: Karen Southern, Press Secretary (401) 421-2489 x 752 [email protected]

MEDIA ADVISORY

WORLD RENOWNED ARCHITECTUAL & URBAN DESIGN FIRM TO PRESENT A "VISION FOR PROVIDENCE 2020" AT TWO COMMUNITY FORUMS

City commissioned Sasaki Associates to develop a framework for future economic development in Providence

Providence - Mayor David N. Cicilline announced today that the architectural and urban design firm Sasaki Associates will present an economic development strategy for Providence. Mayor Cicilline said the purpose of the forums is to share with the public the results of a four-month study in which Sasaki Associates analyzed previous and current redevelopment plans.

The Sasaki study resulted in a "Vision for Providence 2020", a draft proposal that establishes a framework and priorities for future economic development in several Providence neighborhoods including Capital Center, Downcity, Old Harbor, the Jewelry District, Promenade area, Narragansett Landing and Fox Point.

Sasaki Associates will present a "Vision for Providence 2020" to the public at two community forums:

Wednesday, May 4, and Thursday, May 5

6 p.m.

Bridgham Middle School cafeteria

1655 Westminster Street

Mayor Cicilline said the community meetings would begin at 6:00 p.m. with an open house, where individuals will have an opportunity to review maps/plans and speak one-on-one with the consultant team from Sasaki Associates. The open house will be followed by a presentation at 6:30 p.m. with opportunities for questions and comments afterwards.

"I'm incredibly excited about the Sasaki study and look forward to the community's input on this strategic plan designed to revitalize several neighborhoods of our city," said Mayor Cicilline. "Sasaki Associates is at the forefront of innovative urban design and this proposal promises to transform old industrial areas of our city into vibrant residential and commercial space."

Sasaki Associates is renowned for its award winning urban design and waterfront projects across America and around the world, said the Mayor.

For more information on the community forums please contact Paula Baron at the Department of Planning and Development, 351-4300 x509.

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I wonder why they are having a meeting about downtown redevelopment on the West Side? :huh:

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I wonder why they are having a meeting about downtown redevelopment on the West Side?  :huh:

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I thought the same thing. Why not the public safety complex.

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P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S. Cicilline gets alot of flack for focusing too much on downtown and not enough on neighborhoods. In reality, that was Cianci's schtick.

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P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S.  Cicilline gets alot of flack for focusing too much on downtown and not enough on neighborhoods.  In reality, that was Cianci's schtick.

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But isn't that just taunting the West Siders?

Look at what's going on Downtown, bet you wish you could afford to live there, nya nya! :P

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But isn't that just taunting the West Siders?

Look at what's going on Downtown, bet you wish you could afford to live there, nya nya!  :P

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Is Narragansett landing still a possibility or was that scraped? I recall about two weeks ago one of Cianci's old crownies trying to buy up some land along allens ave.

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Is Narragansett landing still a possibility or was that scraped? I recall about two weeks ago one of Cianci's old crownies trying to buy up some land along allens ave.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Patrick Conley seems to think that the New Cities idea is still viable, even if he has to single handedly develop it himself. See previous forum: Conley Wharf

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Are Sasaki Associates and Duany going to have a royal rumble in the parking lot, or are they on the same team?

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Are Sasaki Associates and Duany going to have a royal rumble in the parking lot, or are they on the same team?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Rumble I think, Duany will probably insist on rumbling in an on-street parking spot, rather than the parking lot though. :lol:

I'm sure Sasaki will respect Duany's proposals, they are mostly quite sound. Sasaki was hired to spread the plan slightly outside of the Downcity footprint that Duany worked in. Sasaki is looking at the Jewelry District, Promenade, "Narragansett Landing" and Fox Point as well.

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This will be my first public hearing type thing, what should i expect, Is it going to be a a presentation open type thing, or will it be like some city council meeting

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This will be my first public hearing type thing, what should i expect, Is it going to be a a presentation open type thing, or will it be like some city council meeting

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

It'll likely be a bunch of intellectuals talking at you. Sit at the back of the room, if you get bored you can bail.

Starting at 6pm you can wonder about, look at the plans, talk to the people from Sasaki... Starting at 6:30pm they will present their findings.

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It'll likely be a bunch of intellectuals talking at you. Sit at the back of the room, if you get bored you can bail.

Starting at 6pm you can wonder about, look at the plans, talk to the people from Sasaki... Starting at 6:30pm they will present their findings.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Thanks

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This will be my first public hearing type thing, what should i expect, Is it going to be a a presentation open type thing, or will it be like some city council meeting

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The journal just reported on ch.12 that they'll have a report on this in tomorrow's paper. This must be a preview of the forums that will be held over the next two days.

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