Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

AriPVD

Westminster St. District

Recommended Posts

As most of you know by now, the company I work for is in the midst of a major revitalization effort of Westminster St., principallly by converting abandoned Class B and C office space to residential and retail use. I am in Pasadena right now for the CNU, and despite the fact that this town has a quarter of the character and walkability of Providence, they have a very vibrant "Main St." with lots of shopping and nightlife. How can we bring people to Westminster St at all times of day? I'm looking for all approaches, from the obvious to the obscure. Everything from parking to transit to whatever you have in mind. Let the creative ideas flow!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


Which end of Westminster are we talking about here, downcity or the western end? I think for the downcity section, once 110 opens up, the rest of the street will explode with all kinds of activity, retail, etc., cause that's a huge population increase for one street once that building goes up.

The western end I'm not too familiar with. What's it like now? (retail, residential, etc.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the biggest problem is that you still have several huge abandoned buildings so while you walk past a reconstructed building with retail and lofts you then pass something that looks one step above a homeless shelter. Granted the buildings are large and beautiful but in complete neglect . If the remaining buildings were given the same care, then the street would be a community from head to toe.

Also a market would help and more so remove the underage bar ( Ramey

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Which end of Westminster are we talking about here, downcity or the western end?  I think for the downcity section, once 110 opens up, the rest of the street will explode with all kinds of activity, retail, etc., cause that's a huge population increase for one street once that building goes up. 

The western end I'm not too familiar with.  What's it like now? (retail, residential, etc.)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree that once 110 is occupied it can be a source of driving other service related business, including small resturants and cafes leading up to the PPAC.

One thing the city can do is

1- increase the building height restrictions (to 390 feet) along the area from 110 to PPAC so large developers can "see" potential

2- encourage parking garages

3- ensure the RPTA trolley run down Westminster

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hum, that's a complicated question. Off the top of my head, I think, "What makes Newbury St. in Boston a destination?"

1 - Beautiful, consistent architecture (the Westminster revitalization is going well, but as pointed out, there are still gaping holes...)

2 - Lots of retail vitality, from used clothing to $500 handbags.

3 - Lots of restaurant activity (and street level, at that)

4 - Easy access to mass transit

Despite how much I love that area, there's very little reason for me to go to Westminster right now. Yes, I'm there when I go to the Black Rep or to Tazza, but what else draws me there? When I do go now, it's more to chart the changes than anything else...

Here's what I think is needed...

1 - Cathedral Sq has to go - Westminster is just too short a walk to be a destination. Open up the Sq, link in to the West End, now we're talking a funky walk!

2 - I think it's cystal clear that no urban core that hopes to have a bustling street life does it without lots of dining. I mean, seriously, how many bustling city centers after hours have you seen without restaurants? There needs to be many more on Westminster, and not just L'Epicureo and Graces calibur, but funky places beautiful young people (i.e. RISD students) can afford as well, and open facades or outdoor dining is needed as well. Westminster's interiors and exteriors feel too walled off right now.

3 - A little more "edge" and "funk" - Dare I say it, I think the redoing of the street is a tad conservative. I'd give establishments a bit more wiggle room to do brighter, interesting signage. I look at everything ranging from Tazza to the salons downcity, and if you blink driving past (even walking past) you can miss whole businesses. I'm not saying this should be Times Square, but the whole thing, even the newer establishments, feel a little stolid. Young people are attracted to bright lights (speaking of which, get the 50 year old "Tavern on the Green" geriatric christmas lighting crossing the street down and replace it with some interesting signage and lighting)

4 - I like the idea of a Trolley going down Westminster. In fact, there should be one trolley doing a Downcity loop all day and night that connects to all the hotels, Kennedy Plaza, RISD, and Brown...

5 - There needs to be one more regional "destination" Downcity. Yes, PPAC is nice, Trinity is nice, the Black Rep is nice, and the Pell theater should be coming online soon, but there's still not something happening every night Downcity, and little of it is on Westminster. I don't know if it should be a movie theater, or J&W moving their culinary museum Downcity (which would be a great idea in my mind), but there needs to be one more big draw... Maybe a local TV new studio could broadcast from there, a la Today? I don't know...

6 - The dead wood needs to get out of there. There are multiple streetfronts that, while occupied, do nothing for the streetscape. I'm thinking of the federal building, some of the educational institutions, etc... This won't happen, though...

7 - A "Westminster Parking Garage," but this is coming soon...

8 - Patience - I really think more warm bodies living and walking there will do wonders. Get one or two or three more restaurants, businesses, and markets open, and it'll fly. Get the 500 RISD students downtown, get 110 open, fill the lofts, and then give those people someplace to go.

- Garris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some great ideas already. I hate to say it but parking, parking and parking. A lot of people won't go downtown because they find it too much of a hastle to park. A solution would be to have people who shop at stores in Buff Chace's buildings get free or $1 parking validation if they park in the new garage he's putting up where Travelers Aid used to be.

Also a concern that I have is that the vision for Westminster may be too upscale. Maybe the demographics support such a vision but I'm skeptical. Get some funky and affordable restaurants (with outdoor seating) as well as stuff like Vintage clothing stores. For evenings definitely try to get some jazz clubs that might complement Tazza.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm curious what percentage of Newbury Street is restraunt/cafe and what percentage is retail, and if that percentage is fairly uniform for vibrant commercial streets. (Next time Im in Boston I might do a little informal math)

There have been plenty of studies done to show that the higher density of street level retail the more attractive and used the street is (you can see this in Boston's Downtown Crossing, the closer you get to Chinatown on Washington Street the larger and sparser the stores become and the less traffic it recieves)

Besides density (and that inlcudes residential and lots of it), I'd say another plan would be to allow bars Downtown and in the Jewelry District to stay open till 4AM. This would create a lot of buzz for Providence all across New England and buzz is just as important as any renovation could be. We'd suddenly have an advantage over Boston and for all those 4 Million+ metro Bostonians we're a lot closer than Montreal or New York - And if done tastefully (throw some outdoor jazz musicians downtown during the day for the older crowd, lots of flower pots for color, art botiques) the nightlife would fuel the day life and vice versa. Theres some really nice places on Thayer that are upscale lunch by day, vibrant club by night. And for all the arguments against the 4AM cut off I think it would also make downtown safer. When Im walking home at 3Am in the morning I feel a lot safer sharing the street with 50 stumbling brownies than sharing it with absolutely no one other than the shady character lurking in the shadows.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As most of you know by now, the company I work for is in the midst of a major revitalization effort of Westminster St., principallly by converting abandoned Class B and C office space to residential and retail use.  I am in Pasadena right now for the CNU, and despite the fact that this town has a quarter of the character and walkability of Providence, they have a very vibrant "Main St." with lots of shopping and nightlife.  How can we bring people to Westminster St at all times of day?  I'm looking for all approaches, from the obvious to the obscure.  Everything from parking to transit to whatever you have in mind.  Let the creative ideas flow!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Actually I didn't realize that you worked for Cornish Assoc. But judging by your knowledge of the local retail and restaurant scence I figured that you'd either have to be a businessman or politician. I'm glad it's the former. What I'd like to see on Westminster St is a lot like what "Buddy" Cianci wanted. Artist shops where one could walk by and see artists drawing pictures/painting or blowing glass. I'm hoping Mr's Chase and Paolino can find a way to offer bargain basement rents to artists. Of course I understand that many artists are looking for affordable live/work situations. The city has to do something about the lighting situation also. Westminster St between Dorrance and Empire has to be the most dark passage anywhere downcity. This is a safety issue. As far as parking is concerned, I'm so sick and tired of hearing people complain about parking downtown. What small/mid-size/large city has an ample supply of free available parking? Rhode Islanders are just to cheap to pay for parking. Try parking in Boston or New York. They also want to park in front of where their going. Another safety issue is the fact that about 5 yrs or so ago the traffic light at the intersection of Matthewson & Westminster Sts went out and the city never fix it. I've seen many accidents at this location and I won't drive through it without stopping first. Also the city should actively seek some sort of development for the two large parking lots opposite each other at the intersections of Snow & Westminster Sts. The lot bordered by Snow/Church/Weybosset Sts is where Cianci wanted to put his performing arts high school. In closing I'd like to say that I love what Chase/Cornish is doing downcity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As most of you know by now, the company I work for is in the midst of a major revitalization effort of Westminster St., principallly by converting abandoned Class B and C office space to residential and retail use.  I am in Pasadena right now for the CNU, and despite the fact that this town has a quarter of the character and walkability of Providence, they have a very vibrant "Main St." with lots of shopping and nightlife.  How can we bring people to Westminster St at all times of day?  I'm looking for all approaches, from the obvious to the obscure.  Everything from parking to transit to whatever you have in mind.  Let the creative ideas flow!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

By the way, what is the CNU, as if we all knew.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry to say Greg but I think Westminster needs to stay upscale (in my option) . The price for rent reflects what people expect from a street; with 110 coming Westminster can attract those people who are willing to spending $500,000 + on housing. I believe downtown will attract more and more of the young professionals willing to spend money on a good meal or any purchase for that matter. Also forgot not the scale of the stores in the mall. Providence has many places where you can dress down or go outside the city; but I think Westminster with Tazza and maybe another upscale spot or two for dinner would fit the bill.

I think you must be careful with so many colleges in the area because for the most part you don

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm all about what Garris said. More retail definately, with just Design Within Reach and Symposium, there's really no reason for me to be there, like Garris, I usually only head down there to look at progress, and most people aren't as interested in that as Garris and I. There needs to be things to look at, places to stroll. Some of the smaller mall stores could be poached by offering better rents, I bet Oop! pays through the nose to be in the mall for example. There's really no coffee shops down there, when I walk through after work (and I get out of work at 4:30) Urban Kitchen is usually closed already, trying to get a coffee to go at Tazza is an excerise in futility, if I want a coffee on my way home I still go to Dunkin Donuts (or Brewed Awakenings in the Union Station complex).

There's no place to linger. Unfortunately that is largely by design to keep the Travellers Aid people moving (even though Crossroads is by the highway, people still hang out down there). There's still a lot of drug dealing and prostitution on the street, even during the day, a lot of that is a result of the lack of foot traffic. If there were people there, the illegal activity would go elsewhere, but the illegal activity keeps people away.

Cathedral Square needs to be reopened (This should be Buff Chase's number one priority, he needs to be on the city's ass 24/7 about this, and if he needs to hold the city's and the Parish's hands to work out a deal, then he should do that). Shoppers from Downcity will meet residents from the West Side. The street without a reopened Cathedral Square is simply too short to be a destination. Using the Newbury model, you have Copley Square half way up the street (a block away) to be a central gethering area. People strolling the street shopping could rest in the square, buy a Dell's from a vendor, dip their feet in a fountain... Then continue their way over to Westminster Crossing on the West Side.

A new trolley route could be good once Cathedral Square is reopened. Westminster to Olneyville, could help the entire Westminster corridor. Maybe send it up through the tunnel to Hope Street to tie the two shopping districts together, the way the green line ties Atwells/Thayer/Wickenden together.

Keeping with the Newbury model... Newbury has two ends, the upscale end near the Common, and the more bohemian end near Mass. Ave. (though the bohemian end isn't what it used to be). Also Boylston Street has historically been more mainstream, with stores like Marshall's and Walgreens... Westminster could be higher end towards the Financial District, and more eclectic further west. People attracted to just the high end stuff will patronize the Financial District end, the residents and office workers down there. The RISD and J&W students will be willing to walk west to find the eclectic stuff. Washington Street might take on the Boyslton Street role. What I've wanted to see on Washington for a while is a department store like Marshall's or TJMaxx, both stores have downtown Boston locations, if they had the traffic, they could make stores work here. A full service pharmacy could also find a home on Washington.

At the parking lots on Snowe, I'd like to see more affordable residential units (with ground floor retail of course). It would be ideal if there were an area downtown where the shop workers could afford to live. With the propensity for Boston commuters to be moving downtown we also have an activity hole, where Providence office workers leave at 5pm, but residents who work in Boston aren't getting off the commuter rail until 7pm. People who work in Providence need to be living downtown to keep activity down there at all times.

It can't be all residential. There needs to be people working down there during the day to support the shops and restaurants. People won't walk more than a block or two for lunch. The lunch crowds are almost exclusively in the area around the Arcade (that's why Box Lunch opened there), because that is where all the office towers are. There's some offices down the west end of the street (notably the federal building, and the annoying ground floor offices), but obviously not as many as are in the Superman Building or Hospital Trust Tower.

There needs to be more scheduled activity, street fairs and such, but they need to sometimes be less esoteric. There's sort of an insider arts scene that when it tries to pull off an event, comes off as less than inviting, and often rather disorganized (or at least seemingly so). If there is a street fair, people want to understand what the purpose of it is, they really don't want to have to think too hard, save that for museums and galleries. The RISD art sales up on Benefit are hugely successful, because the art is approachable. With RISD coming Downcity, it might be worth a try to reach out to them and try to get them to schedule their art sales for Westminster instead of Benefit. Somesort of food festival would be interesting, like the Scooper Bowl in Boston, or like the ubiquitous Chowdah Fests that take place all over New England. Rhode Island has some interesting and unique summer foods, some sort of Dell's Lemonade-Coffee Milk-Clamcakes... festival...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As far as parking is concerned, I'm so sick and tired of hearing people complain about parking downtown.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

While I agree in a general sense about people having no idea what parking is like in larger cities like Boston and New York, there still is a parking problem in Providence. And it is this: they do not have a rail system to get people in and out of town. I lived in Boston for 8 years, and went all over the city using the train. So, when people complain about parking I think that is a result of there being no other options for getting around town (and I am sorry, but the bus just doesn't cut it).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

3 - A little more "edge" and "funk" - Dare I say it, I think the redoing of the street is a tad conservative.  I'd give establishments a bit more wiggle room to do brighter, interesting signage.  I look at everything ranging from Tazza to the salons downcity, and if you blink driving past (even walking past) you can miss whole businesses.  I'm not saying this should be Times Square, but the whole thing, even the newer establishments, feel a little stolid.  Young people are attracted to bright lights (speaking of which, get the 50 year old "Tavern on the Green" geriatric christmas lighting crossing the street down and replace it with some interesting signage and lighting)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Design Within Reach didn't even have any signage when it opened, on the Westminster side fo the building there are only window stencils. I think everyone know my love for signs, there just aren't any on Westminster. The signs need to be there to draw you down the street. There are probably office workers who eat lunch at the Arcade everyday who have no idea that Urban Kitchen is down the block, that's because they don't have a sign.

I agree there are interesting lighting things that can be done short of turning the area into Times Square (LaSalle Square should be Times Square B) ), and better than Christmas lights strung above the road. Send washes of coloured lights up the sides of buildings (not bright blinding light to keep the residents awake all night, but subtle light), Tazza should have more neon in the windows, not Rolling Rock neon signage, but artisic neon sculptures.

I don't know if it should be a movie theater, or J&W moving their culinary museum Downcity (which would be a great idea in my mind), but there needs to be one more big draw...  Maybe a local TV new studio could broadcast from there, a la Today?  I don't know...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Yes, the J&W culinary archives and a Downcity television studio have been two things that I've been keen on for a while. I remember when I lived in New York, during the 2000 election debacle, I worked in the GM Building, which is where CBS has it's morning show studios (and the local CBS station broadcasts from). They have a large screen outside showing the news, and the newscasters come outside (Martha used to do segments from the plaza before she went to the big house). People would line up out there after work or at lunch and watch the news. Granted, there was a big political scandal happening, but people liked seeing it. It was something to look at. I could see one of our news stations doing something (I think 12 would pull it off the best, but that would probably mean a FOXNews feed :unsure: ). It could include information kiosks, maybe a small broadcasting musuem, a gift shop, a cafe...

6 - The dead wood needs to get out of there.  There are multiple streetfronts that, while occupied, do nothing for the streetscape.  I'm thinking of the federal building, some of the educational institutions, etc...  This won't happen, though...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The Federal Building isn't going anywhere, but URI could program activity better on their ground floor. Even a student center that wasn't opened to the public (a study area and tables for lunch) would at least bring movement and activity to the ground level.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree there are interesting lighting things that can be done short of turning the area into Times Square (LaSalle Square should be Times Square  B) ), and better than Christmas lights strung above the road. Send washes of coloured lights up the sides of buildings (not bright blinding light to keep the residents awake all night, but subtle light), Tazza should have more neon in the windows, not Rolling Rock neon signage, but artisic neon sculptures.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Agreed. Walking down that street at night always feels a little too dark, and there is some fantastic architecture down there that should have some accent lighting.

The x-mas lights keep you from looking whats beyond them. They create a ceiling in what already feels like a canyon, and by having strands or bulbs that are in need of replacement, it makes me think, "what went on here? what did I miss? was there a festival that called for x-mas lights last year?"

The street feels dead even when there are cool things going on. A restaurant with indoor-outdoor seating would bring some of the indoor energy out onto the street, but no one will want to sit on the street if it feels dark and unsafe.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A restaurant with indoor-outdoor seating would bring some of the indoor energy out onto the street, but no one will want to sit on the street if it feels dark and unsafe.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

L'Epicureo is supposed to start outdoor dining and outdoor bar service soon (they may have started already).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One thing I think could improve Westiminster is a great breakfast place; the type of place that is a true destination, like a Julians or Modern Diner. What makes places like this so good is that they introduce the area to people when they have the time to interact with it. Saturday and Sunday mornings are when most people, especially the 22-35 age folks, have some time to kill. By locating a place like this on Westminster, the street becomes more of a destination- even more so once we have more college kids in the neighborhood. While I realize not much can be said for the areas right around either Julians or Modern Diner, I think all it would take would be some good stores that offer impulse buys or necessities in the local vacinity to pick up the whole area. At worst people learn what is available by window shopping and might come back later or tell other people what shops are there. - I mean, with all the time I've had to wait for a table at either Julian's or Modern Diner, if there were cool shops near by and I had 20 min to kill I'd explore the nearby shops and and probably buy stuff.

Just an idea...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the Grant Building will provide alot more retail pull than what we can find in the current spots and may help fill in the current open space.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry to say Greg but I think Westminster needs to stay upscale (in my option)...

I must say that I also do not agree with bright lights etc I mean it’s simply not providence nor what Westminster reflects as a street...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One thing I think could improve Westiminster is a great breakfast place; the type of place that is a true destination, like a Julians or Modern Diner. What makes places like this so good is that they introduce the area to people when they have the time to interact with it. Saturday and Sunday mornings are when most people, especially the 22-35 age folks, have some time to kill. By locating a place like this on Westminster, the street becomes more of a destination- even more so once we have more college kids in the neighborhood. While I realize not much can be said for the areas right around either Julians or Modern Diner, I think all it would take would be some good stores that offer impulse buys or necessities in the local vacinity to pick up the whole area. At worst people learn what is available by window shopping and might come back later or tell other people what shops are there. - I mean, with all the time I've had to wait for a table at either Julian's or Modern Diner, if there were cool shops near by and I had 20 min to kill I'd explore the nearby shops and and probably buy stuff.

Just an idea...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Does anyone who has actually lived here for most of their lives remember the Waldorf restaurant on Westminster St.? That was the place to go for breakfast.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't forget downcity has breakfast.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I actually didn't know that. When you look at the names of the legendary "Great Breakfast Destinations of Providence," I've never seen Downcity mentioned. Julians, Rue, Gatehouse, Brickway seem to be the biggies, and even the new Oak is getting mentioned a lot. From my Downcity meals, it's small, narrow, kinda dark ambiance seems perfect for dinner... I don't know how well it places for Brunch...

- Garris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

- Did I mention Cathedral Square needs to go?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Yes, let's mention that again. ;)

I'm glad Garris picked up on my inclusion of Washington Street into the Westminster mix. People who choose to live on Westminster shouldn't be put off by walking one block over to rent a video, or go to the pharmacy, we'll also have a lot of residents over on the Power Block who will be served by more residential geared establishments on Washington. Westminster doesn't have to be all things to all people, it's got plenty of other real estate around it to fill in the gaps that may exist on the street itself.

- I knew Downcity did brunch, but I think the breakfast place we need is more of a greasy spoon deal, there are great breakfast places in Boston, esp. Allston and Somerville, that have lines around the block and people coming from miles around to go to. That's the kind of breakfast place the city needs. Downcity is a bit too upscale to fit that bill. We need a place where one can roll out of bed on a Sunday morning, and get a bottomless cup of coffee, and giant omlette.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, let's mention that again.  ;)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I despise Cathedral Square so much that Im about ready to head down there and start pulling up bricks myself. It's at the top of my list of things I want to see happen.

Liam

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Downcity has a good breakfast that rans rather late. They also get a good amount of people during the morning. Its really the only spot downtown; I've been five or six times I would say.

I agree Liamlunchtray its a big waste. I loved the concepts in the city planning booklet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.