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AriPVD

Providence vs. Worcester

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I go to school at Clark U in Worcester, and i live near providence. Its true, there is so much more going on in Providence. Worcester is just a giant doughnut, everything is around the outside (malls, offices, sprawl, much less "culture") the downtown is a whole bunch of nothing. They are trying to change that though...

Worcester's development plan: http://www.worcestermass.org/development/

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I found some of the things in this graphic rather interesting:

PVDvsWOR.jpg

I didn't realize that we had more trains to Boston than Worcester, or that ours ran so late.

The article also went into the importance of the 25-35 age group, which apparently Worcester is hemoraging 25-35 year-olds.

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The article also went into the importance of the 25-35 age group, which apparently Worcester is hemoraging 25-35 year-olds.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Apparantly we are too, according to the Providence 2020 report, but I guess less so than Worcester.

I really can't believe Worcester is nearly the exact same size population wise as PVD. I definitly don't get that feeling when I'm there, which I guess has something to do with the veracity of the article. Huh.

Though they are doing some very cool (and I would say much more innovative) things with housing in their downtown which will probably lead to a more economically diverse population there than I'm seeing here in PVD right now.

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I'm getting more and more interested in Providence. It is interesting that the article partly credits the city's success with its resistance to urban renewal projects. Imagine a present day Scollay Square in Boston. It surely would be trendy and gentrified and maybe heavily developed.

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I find the similar populations of the two cities misleading. Yes, they both have about 175,000 people. But Worcester has nearly twice the land mass of Providence. That means Providence is nearly twice as densly populated as Worcester.

These are the land area and population density numbers from wikipedia, drawn from the 2000 US census.

Providence 20.5 mi

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Official city population comparisons really bug me - they are unfair and useless. Louisville, Kentucky (near my hometown) just consolidated its metro area to become officially the 16th Largest city in the nation. How you go from being the like 32nd largest city (I really dont know what it was) to the 16th Largest city in the country IN JUST ONE DAY either requires Fuzzy math or a very liberal immigration policy.

The Louivillians are so proud of their standing which I think is completely dishonest. Louisville is a not a small city, but does anyone REALLY think its larger than Boston, Atlanta, or Washington DC? Because thats what they're saying.

I'm relying on bad memory here, but I think the original (and honest) population for Louisville was 255,000. Then one day not too long ago the City signed the merger and suddenly there was a unrivaled historic rash of baby births or something because the population jumped to 693,000. So the point is, Louisville isn't the only city to do this, and when you compare populations you never know which cities are actually entire consolidated counties like Louisville and Indianapolis, and which are honest cities, like Providence and Boston.

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I find this quite annoying as well. Take Jacksonville, FL. It has over 700 sq. miles of land area, and is less than 1,000/sq. mile. If Providence covered 700 sq. miles, it'd be over 70% of the entire state of RI.

David Rusk talks bout this sort of in his book "Cities without Suburbs." His argument is that huge (in area) cities are better off, because they have more of an influence over their metro area in total, and their city governments are more regional in nature. The problem I have is with his comparisons. He compares city-suburb segregation of "elastic" (huge area cities that can annex new land, etc.) to "inelastic" cities (smaller area cities with no ability to annex land), and says that elastic ones are less segregated. Well of course they are stastically, because these massive cities contain within their borders tons of square miles of suburbs, whereas inelastic cities like Providence are completely urban and their suburban neighborhoods (usually white) are outside the city limits. His comparison seems somewhat invalid. Anyone else read this book?

He also lists Providence as one of the cities "beyond the point of no return", since its population growth was due to immigration only (in the 90's), and since the city is inelastic and "segregated." Any thoughts on this?

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He also lists Providence as one of the cities "beyond the point of no return", since its population growth was due to immigration only (in the 90's), and since the city is inelastic and "segregated."  Any thoughts on this?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Well maybe the 90s population increases were from immigration, but I 'immigrated' from New York in the 00s. We're obviously not seeing the unchecked internal migration that cities in the sunbelt are seeing, but that is totally a temporary situation. Cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas are seeing property value increases that far exceed ours, and unchecked growth will eventually catch up with them (especially the desert cities with their water situation). However the reality is that the population growth of the nation as a whole is from immigration, does that mean that the US is "beyond the point of no return?"

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We're obviously not seeing the unchecked internal migration that cities in the sunbelt are seeing, but that is totally a temporary situation.  Cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas are seeing property value increases that far exceed ours, and unchecked growth will eventually catch up with them (especially the desert cities with their water situation).

Absolutely true. Their growth is temporary, and they are enjoying the short term, "free ride" benefits right now that huge inflows of people and cash bring (big increases in tax revenue, lots of new businesses, more political clout, new attractions, everything feels brand spanking new, lots of good feelings about being a "hot" area with "forward momentum"). Eventually, though, growth levels out and you become modern-day California, i.e. a mature community that requires schools, increasing levels of services (more transportation, fire, police, garbage, etc. etc.) and that means bigger budgets and revenue that has to come from somewhere. The free ride ends. In general, most of the NE, even the fastest growing communities, are decidedly mature with mature problems. In Providence, we have sidewalk and infrastructure maintenance to worry about, while for Scottsdale, AZ, those issues might be 60-70 years down the line...

(BTW: this applies to nations as well... China, India, Eastern Europe, and all these rapidly growing economies that we admire so much right now will have their own social and economic bills come due at some point... It may take 10 years, or 100, but eventually, you have to deal with your growth, not just enjoy it... The US's challege will be now well will we mature... We're finishing our "rapid growth" era).

However the reality is that the population growth of the nation as a whole is from immigration, does that mean that the US is "beyond the point of no return?"

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Some argue yes... You need workers to pay taxes for services and benefits, and if you have a declining working population and a rapidly expanding elderly population, then, yes, maybe we are... See General Motors as an example...

- Garris

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This book continually pisses me off as I read it. He has some good policy suggestions, but his analysis of elastic vs. inelastic seems like it can have one point and one point only: annexing-able cities are only better off because they have more control over their entire metro area. All his other comparisons and therefore conclusions about cities "beyond the point of no return" seem like crap; you cant compare city/suburbs of Providence to that of a huge sprawling sunbelt city like Albuquerque, since Albuquerque IS basically in form, a huge suburb.

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annexing-able cities are only better off because they have more control over their entire metro area.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Surely there is a benefit to having one central government for a metro area. But there are also benefits to people having more direct control over their immediate area. Would people in Warwick and Pawtucket and East Providence be better off being governed from Dorrance Street, or are they better off having local control over their own agenda?

In Rhode Island, the state government basically acts as a metropolitan city government. The city governments of New York and LA are probably bigger than the state government of RI.

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I think that unfortunately there is a noticeable divide between the urban areas of RI (Providence-Pawtucket-Central Falls-Woonsocket-Newport) and the rest of the state which are suburban or rural. As the state grows less urban, the suburban areas develop more power at the level of state government. Carcieri, for example, won big in the suburbs and rural areas but generally lost in the urban core cities.

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I think that unfortunately there is a noticeable divide between the urban areas of RI (Providence-Pawtucket-Central Falls-Woonsocket-Newport) and the rest of the state which are suburban or rural. As the state grows less urban, the suburban areas develop more power at the level of state government. Carcieri, for example, won big in the suburbs and rural areas but generally lost in the urban core cities.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That's what happens in a city like Louisville when it merges. The urban issues are lost to the suburban issues, because the suburban voters generally have deeper pockets come campaign time. In Rhode Island we have the state government to tackle regional issues, and the city/town governments to focus on urban, suburban, and rural concerns of various areas. Providence would suck if we had to put up with the interests of people in Cranston and Johnston in our city government.

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The urban issues are lost to the suburban issues, because the suburban voters generally have deeper pockets come campaign time. In Rhode Island we have the state government to tackle regional issues, and the city/town governments to focus on urban, suburban, and rural concerns of various areas. Providence would suck if we had to put up with the interests of people in Cranston and Johnston in our city government.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Completely agreed. I'm not sure merging would benefit Providence here. The urban and rural/suburban divide is pretty stark, so the two areas don't have a lot of competing interests on a state level. They would exist, however, if they were competing in the same metro municipality. Also, the state and city, on average, are both fairly lower-middle to middle class in the aggregate, so there aren't huge socioeconomic divisions tugging at the two regions that cause them to compete on a state level, so I think things are OK the way they are. In general, the state seems to do a fairly good job at regional coordination of issues.

I remember in the city I lived in previously in Minnesota, the rapidly growing suburban sprawl areas were very activist and completely dominated city politics. The relatively few people living downtown, by comparison, were completely overwhelmed (and the fact they were often younger, more often single, and more often of different ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds didn't help against the overwhelmingly White Lutheran establishment). What's that prattle about sharpening neighborhood identity downtown and improving lighting? Who needs to focus on that when there's a middle school, two churches, three new highway exits, a Super Target, a Walmart MegaCenter, 100 McMansions, 200 featureless townhouses, and a multiplex that need to be built?? Focus here, people, focus!! <Sigh>

No, Providence is best left on its own to focus on urban issues... I used to think that N. Prov and E Prov should probably be part of the city, but I've come to think they should be separate now as it is given their separate issues.

- Garris

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...Providence would suck if we had to put up with the interests of people in Cranston and Johnston in our city government.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Hmm. I think it depends on the neighborhood.

Believe me, the people where around where I live in Cranston (just South of the Providence line) share the same concerns as the people in Providence. The issues of graffiti, noise, crime, gangs, etc. And it's definitely more urban than most of the East Side! LOL.

As far as sensitivity to ugliness goes, well I have to admit that the city government of Cranston is a lost cause. Too many examples of bad planning and design to list here.

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Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls are consistently urban municipalities and I could imagine them being merged. While the eastern part of Cranston is pretty dense, the western half is rural and so it would be hard to imagine the city as a whole being brought into Providence.

Hmm. I think it depends on the neighborhood.

Believe me, the people where around where I live in Cranston (just South of the Providence line) share the same concerns as the people in Providence. The issues of graffiti, noise, crime, gangs, etc. And it's definitely more urban than most of the East Side! LOL.

As far as sensitivity to ugliness goes, well I have to admit that the city government of Cranston is a lost cause. Too many examples of bad planning and design to list here.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

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Cranston (my hometown) ;)... definately isn't the best city at all.. but the mayor came into office a few yrs ago with cranston having the 2nd lowest bond rating in the country

(right above a suburb outside chicago i believe) and since then.. he has done excellent work and gotten it to be raised by multiple groups annually. Even though taxes suck here in c-town, i like it ;)

"As far as sensitivity to ugliness goes, well I have to admit that the city government of Cranston is a lost cause. Too many examples of bad planning and design to list here"

:thumbsup: i am dumb.. what does that quote mean?

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"As far as sensitivity to ugliness goes, well I have to admit that the city government of Cranston is a lost cause. Too many examples of bad planning and design to list here"

:thumbsup:  i am dumb.. what does that quote mean?

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I mean there's no concerted effort to keep sprawl in check. And a lack of vision.

Developments are planned in piece-meal fashion, and aren't looked at for how they fit into the greater whole of the city plan. Or is there a city plan? What kind of zoning laws allowed for the building of two gas stations on a residential street? Who allowed a Walgreens and a Brooks to completely dominate and ruin what was a beautiful square at the intersection of Norwood and Broad streets? Why aren't chain stores held responsible for putting in windows on otherwise blank brick walls that face the street? How can stores be allowed to build without accounting for sidewalks?

How could anyone have let Lamar put in so many billlboards in and around residential areas?

Council reps from the west side lobby to get supermarkets built on former farmland out there, for the sake of convenience for their constituents. If you wanted a supermarket nearby, why did you go and build your white brick/lion statue mcmansion on what was once beautiful pastureland in the first place?

What happened to Reservoir Avenue? What about that ugly brown-roofed smear of a plaza that squats along what seems like a 1/2 mile on Oaklawn Avenue? Who let that one through? Hasn't anyone in Cranston City Hall ever heard of trees? Why was an unused right-of-way that was perfectly suited for a bike path paved over and a portion used for parking instead?

Apologies for the hijacking. Maybe this should be shifted to the "Things That Piss People Off About Cranston" thread.

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Well unfortunately those Cranston complaints are the norm in a lot of American communities. So many projects are concieved and designed and planned in isolation... they never take in the context of the whole area or how it will enhance or hurt the fabric of the community. A lot of times the only interest that are taken into account are the short term interest of the developer. Sometimes its the grandiouse vision of the archictect who already knows what he or she wants to build and then goes looking for a place to build it, instead of having a place to build and then designing what would best fit there.

That ties back into the notion of metro governments... I believe regional planning is very important... so that towns dont themselves plan and grow in isolation and without regard to the larger picture... in a perfect world I could imagine towns that plan greenbelts along their borders so we'd actually have identifiable and contained communities.

however metro governments that swallow the idenity of the whole area are no good either. There needs to be a strong local identity which brings with it a pride and a desire to keep the streets clean, safe, and beautiful. One thing I love about Providence (and even more about Boston) is the unique design and community that comes with having so many identifiable neighborhoods.

The Louisville merger didnt really swallow any place of consequence which is rather sad when you think about it.. it just merged a sprawling expanse of subdivisions and strip malls where the residents considered themselves to be Louisville residents anyway. (years ago these subdivisions had cleverly zoned themselves as individual towns so that they could share in all the amenties of the city but not actually have their taxes contribute to it or its schools)

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And some how we've gotten off topic here.. Worcester is bland. The true travesty though is Springfield, Mass. I used to live downtown and the place is an utter dump... but you can tell that before they tore half of it down for parking lots and concrete 50's renewal buildings and built a highway that cut it off from the river that it had been one of the most beautiful cities in New England. The story of the American city, I guess. Providence somehow escaped all that. Maybe it was such a dump (from what I hear) that even the urban renewalist didnt want to touch it. But if they had would we all be here?

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And some how we've gotten off topic here.. Worcester is bland. The true travesty though is Springfield, Mass.  I used to live downtown and the place is an utter dump... but you can tell that before they tore half of it down for parking lots and concrete 50's renewal buildings and built a highway that cut it off from the river that it had been one of the most beautiful cities in New England.  The story of the American city, I guess.  Providence somehow escaped all that.  Maybe it was such a dump (from what I hear) that even the urban renewalist didnt want to touch it.  But if they had would we all be here?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I kind of liked downtown Springfield. I've never been in a New England city with such wide streets in the downtown area.

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