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Nyuszi

PROPOSED: Richmond Square mixed-use

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I got this email today because I am part of a group that has been doing colunteer clearings in the conservation area near Hockey Pond and the NBC boat house:

The Plan:

The land, 2+ acres, is zoned for 75 units, 150 parking spaces.

He has no plans for docks or landings or public access to water.

The current project proposal is twin 9-story buildings with a large, "landscaped" court/driveway (opening to River road) between them.  And two levels of underground parking which are not included in the overall height. 

For comparison: the tallest building in Richmond Square is 6 stories.  Wayland Manor is 8 stories.

Providence ordinances allow for 6 stories.  The city is working on changing their zoning policy, as seen in the article in today's Providence Journal. Because he doesn't want to have to wait for city, Randal will be going to the city council to ask for a variance for an additional forty-five feet in height.

He had photoshop enhanced visuals of views from around Angell/Paterson; Oriole/Parkside, and a couple of others, suggesting that the buildings would not be seen from those spots.  However, the photos were taking in the summer, with full foliage.

He is having a traffic study done.

The condominiums are being marketed towards a fifty-plus, empty-nester group.

The historic gatehouse where Simple Pleasures is housed will be razed.

According to both Randal Lily and Sharon Steel, John Fenton of Essex River Ventures, who has recently acquired Richmond Square properties, has plans to further development Richmond Square as a mixed-use center (Retail, work, living).

Mr. Lily hopes to break ground in two years.

Concerns we have:

Re: Height:

Many neighbors I have spoken to expressed very serious concerns about the height.  Randy had mentioned that his first plans had 4 buildings.  Assuming these buildings would be shorter, this might be a preferred scheme. 

Re: Traffic

He is doing a traffic report.  But clearly, 150 more vehicles would have a significant impact on the neighborhood unless the street is designed and detailed for slower moving traffic with sidewalks and street trees.  This part of the street needs to be safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Re: Design.

Although he has had to make allowances for green space due to Coastal Resource Management Council requirements, this will not be public green space. 

The design showed a lack of sensitivity to its street edge.  For instance, the first two stories/20 feet look like a blank wall.  By being a "secure, gated community",  it turns its back on the neighborhood.

As it is designed now, the central courtyard with a view towards the river will always remain limited to being a parking plaza because it is a roof over the parking deck unable to support large trees.

Mr. Lily says he is open to suggestions.  We believe that some design modifications would improve its connection to the neighborhood.  There is a great opportunity here to transform this space.  The development as a whole could incorporate green building technologies that would meet LEED standards for waste water management and energy consumption.  This could be a positive marketing strategy.  We hope that Aspen Group Inc. will create an area that would, by its very nature, would be an asset to the neighborhood.

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For comparison: the tallest building in Richmond Square is 6 stories.  Wayland Manor is 8 stories.

Providence ordinances allow for 6 stories.  The city is working on changing their zoning policy, as seen in the article in today's Providence Journal. Because he doesn't want to have to wait for city, Randal will be going to the city council to ask for a variance for an additional forty-five feet in height.

I've been expecting a flood of proposals with developers trying to get approvals through variances before the new zoning laws take effect. For some developers the new zoning laws may be good, for others, the current system of zoning by variance is better.

On the height, I think everyone knows I'm all for height. I'm assuming these 9 stories will be down the slope from the rest of the East Side and not be looming over the area. However, under the proposed zoning the developer would have to give something to get those 9 floors. Something like the green design mentioned would be a good trade off for height. Also public access to the waterfront is imparitive, if there is no way to force the developer, that could be one of the trade offs for height.

The gated community scares me, the whole East Side sometimes feels like a gated community, no gated communities in the city, thank you.

More empty-nester develpment, I know the baby-boomers are aging, but how many empty nesters are there, and if we become a city of 50+ people, who's going to provide services to them?

The traffic, maybe it's just that I've lived in Boston and New York most of my adult life, but I'm not really seeing the traffic issue in Providence. You can see most of the state in 15 minutes for crying out loud. You know what would help that traffic problem? Allow full time trolley service to Wayland and Richmond Squares, allow a bike route along Blackstone Blvd. If East Siders continue to treat their neighbourhood as Little Barrington in the City then they can suffer all the problems that come with suburban life.

With the gates, and the walls facing the street, and the lack of public access to the Waterfront, why exactly does this developer want to build in Providence. Aren't there cheaper waterfront locations in other parts of the state where residents can live in a sealed off fortress. If you want to be cut off from the city, don't live in the city!

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All that being said, I'm glad to see the effort to move Richmond Square towards being a mixed use destination.

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The traffic, maybe it's just that I've lived in Boston and New York most of my adult life, but I'm not really seeing the traffic issue in Providence. You can see most of the state in 15 minutes for crying out loud. You know what would help that traffic problem? Allow full time trolley service to Wayland and Richmond Squares, allow a bike route along Blackstone Blvd. If East Siders continue to treat their neighbourhood as Little Barrington in the City then they can suffer all the problems that come with suburban life.

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Well, in that specific location, traffic kind of IS an issue. That whole area is supposedly a park and I certainly use it for biking and running. It's fairly narrow and (well, okay the recent Supreme Court ruling might change this) I doubt they can widen it because the park is designated a Conservation Area. It's windy and not well connected to any of the major streets in the area (except right in Richmod Sq.). It really would be a nightmare to suddenly have 150 old folks trying to navigate through through, to and from that area.

That said, I do usually think the Wayland Sq Neighborhood Association is excessively paranoid about traffic. For crying out loud, they mustered the troops to stop a proposed youth music school in the old Gibbs building because of traffic/parking concerns. Because, you know, those 12 year olds are sure to take up all the on-street parking with the nonexistent cars that they are too young to drive!

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Because, you know, those 12 year olds are sure to take up all the on-street parking with the nonexistent cars that they are too young to drive!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

:rofl:

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The gated community scares me, the whole East Side sometimes feels like a gated community, no gated communities in the city, thank you.

With the gates, and the walls facing the street, and the lack of public access to the Waterfront, why exactly does this developer want to build in Providence. Aren't there cheaper waterfront locations in other parts of the state where residents can live in a sealed off fortress. If you want to be cut off from the city, don't live in the city!

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A gated community absolutley belongs nowhere even NEAR Providence, nevermind IN Providence. Gated communities are like doormen for suburbs. That crap can stay in the south and California. How friggen anti-social and scared of everyone are we that we need to live in a within a gate? Next we'll want a moat....

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I got this email today because I am part of a group that has been doing colunteer clearings in the conservation area near Hockey Pond and the NBC boat house:

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Sounds like a really, really crappy development. My rant:

Expect a lot of people being pissed off about Simple Pleasures - arguably the best (if not the cheapest) gift shop in Providence.

I have to say I'm getting tired of all this pandering to the rich empty nesters. Are these the only people who need housing?

And a gated community has no place in our city.

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Well, in that specific location, traffic kind of IS an issue... It's windy and not well connected to any of the major streets in the area (except right in Richmod Sq.).

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I know someone who works for the music school and have heard about their search for a building. Apparently some on the board are pretty fussy and have shot down ideas that were in any way out of the box. For instance, the old Sears bldg on No Main was rejected (area too run down), Wanskuck complex on Branch Ave. (too far from the East Side and too gritty a locale), etc. These had plenty of space and parking but not the cache of the address that Gibbs apparently had despite its unsuitability as a site.

Actually, I live right in this area, and I promise you, traffic is bad here during rush hour.  The Butler Ave to the Henderson Bridge intersection is terrible.  Cars are backed up almost to Blackstone like a parking lot.  It's very poorly planned, and while I don't have to deal with it, I pity those that do...

True...

For all the criticism I lob at my Wayland Sq Neighborhood Assn, they were dead on right about the Music School.  The concern wasn't the 12 year olds, of course.  It was where all the parents of the 250+ students crammed into the tiny Katherine Gibbs Building were going to drop off and pick up their kids.  This at the intersection of Angell, Butler, and the Henderson Bridge.  You know how many parking spaces they were going to have for that place?  About 10... 

Nope, that school was a Grade A stupid idea (and those of you who have been following my posts long enough know I'm pretty much pro-development of most types and for Wayland Sq in particular).  The 4 story condos planned there now (that have essentially been given the blessing of the Wayland Sq Assn, my condo, and others...  I'll give details later) are much, much better.  Trust me, I know people who know some of the movers and shakers behind the Music School disaster...  There was typical Providence back-room insider stuff, not good stuff, going on there...  It's good that got killed (and, BTW, it was killed by the Zoning Board, not the Wayland Sq Assn...  The Zoning Board saw that it needed a zillion variances and saw how stupid it was...).

While I applaud the move towards mixed use of the Richmond Sq site (I always wondered why there wasn't residential and retail there), the gated community idea is really ridiculous, especially considering that area already feels fairly separated from the rest of the East Side at large.  I know people who live a block away from Richmond Sq who don't even know it exists...  It's pretty much gated already!

- Garris

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Maybe they should check out Barrington.

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How about the old Ames store on Tauton Ave East Providence? Do we need a crowbar to pry these people off Blackstone Blvd.? :whistling:

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I mentioned this in the bigger thread, but these are actually two different projects.

Here is a live local view of Richmond Square from the South:

Richmond Square

the parcel in question for these buildings is the wooded area just south of the Henderson Bridge.

The parcel where the mixed-use would go is located on the parking lot south of the pink building.

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So there's two 8-9 story twin tower proposals for Richmond Square built in a gated community style? That's weird and scary and exciting all at the same time. Weird that such a backwater is getting so much attention so suddenly. Scary that the development is so poorly thought out. Exciting that it could hopefully be turned around and become an entirely new and vibrant neighbourhood.

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So there's two 8-9 story twin tower proposals for Richmond Square built in a gated community style? That's weird and scary and exciting all at the same time. Weird that such a backwater is getting so much attention so suddenly. Scary that the development is so poorly thought out. Exciting that it could hopefully be turned around and become an entirely new and vibrant neighbourhood.

I didn't realize the mixed-use one was still going for towers. I was thinking it was going to be more of a new urbanism style project, which I think would actually work in that location.

Hopefully they won't both be gated. That would be somewhat tragic. I think instead of fussing about height, neighbors should be focusing on making sure that the riverfront is developed nicely and that they will have continued access to it.

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The people that live in this city are really starting to get to me. It's become so homogenized with pseudo-yuppie NIMBY's that it's pathetic. One can make the argument about intelligent building designs and neighborhood output, but this is ridiculous. This city is losing its funky culture and becoming more like Jamaica Plain. Yawn! The 2 proposed buildings are at the bottom of a hill. Are they even visible from the outer residential streets that are located above River Road? People say that the business climate sucks in R.I. What about the people? I'm beginning to agree with the Craigslist list R&R posters. Tragic! No designs made public and people are already crying foul! :(

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Oops on me. Just to clarify. There are two projects.

The one in the projo is the one in the opening of this thread. The way the projo reported sounded as if this was a new deal. The other is in the parking lot and is being proposed by Essex. It will not have towers.

Again, I say to hell with the stupid height concerns and absolutely no to a gated community. Something that flows with the neighborhood should be welcomed without a concern for height.

If they want a gated community on the Seekonk River i'm sure they can fine their way into Butler! :shades:

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This was a big topic of conversation last evening at the Wayland Sq meeting. One individual there was particularly emotional about it, being a very strong opponent and was very upset at my "smart urbanism" development stand. My feeling is as follows:

- Richmond Sq is very bizarre. It is indeed quite cut off from the rest of the East Side (even Wayland Sq) so sightlines, views, etc aren't a big deal, and the current building there is actually quite tall.

- However, the current tall building is actually quite beautiful, and this building in the render is quite undistinguished. Whether they want to admit it or not, a building of this height (plus the 8-9 story buildings just proposed across the river for the East Providence waterfront) will give that area a "skyline" as seen from 195 and the shoreline, and it's not a particularly flattering one...

- While I'm not particularly opposed to height on this sight, I think it needs to be far better done and fit in contextually with what is there, which this building doesn't do. It's the residential version of Sierra Suites, just on the East Side. It could be anywhere in the US...

- I would like to use their desire for height as leverage to get them to build a truly mixed use, retail, commercial, residential neighborhood that everyone in the area would visit. Kind of a Wayland Square East because, as it is now, unless you're driving your car up to go to the Gatehouse, the area is currently cut off, isolated, and more than a bit scary.

- While I've vocally have felt much of the luxury condo development downtown (and even on the East Side) has a market, I really believe that something of this scale, in that location (as scruffy and scary as the surrounding park is) is really pushing things. Frankly, the view across the Seekonk River isn't that great. This isn't the Hudson Highlands or the Columbia River Valley here... You're looking at the bridge and East Providence self storage units and fuel tanks (and soon, maybe other 9 story buildings). I'd be scared to invest in this one...

Build us a real neighborhood, though, and I might feel differently.

- Garris

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The people that live in this city are really starting to get to me. It's become so homogenized with pseudo-yuppie NIMBY's that it's pathetic. One can make the argument about intelligent building designs and neighborhood output, but this is ridiculous. This city is losing its funky culture and becoming more like Jamaica Plain. Yawn! The 2 proposed buildings are at the bottom of a hill. Are they even visible from the outer residential streets that are located above River Road? People say that the business climate sucks in R.I. What about the people? I'm beginning to agree with the Craigslist list R&R posters. Tragic! No designs made public and people are already crying foul! :(

I have to agree. I used to work at the Donley Center on Blackstone Blvd and I used to commute via the Henderson Bridge daily. I would drive down River Road and you would not see the pink building until you were almost on top of it. It's at the bottom of a hill, it should not be a problem view wise. If the developer can lay off the Dryvit and use more texture in the design, this should be a no-brainer.

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I saw the drawing in the Projo. No problem with the height. The design definitely needs improvement. One pet peeve I have with this design (which also applies to various residential developments I've seen around the area) is that the main entrances does not appear to face the street. This may seem like a small, insignificant detail, but this does not encourage pedestrian interaction with the surrounding neighborhood. They need to move the main entrances to the face East River Street and formulate a plan for other commercial and retail developments nearby. The building design and location, as is, just seems so isolated and will not be a sustainable, attractive development if it proceeds as is.

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Hi quick question on this property. It was mentioned that the "historic gatehouse" was going to be razed? Is that referring to the Gatehouse Restaurant? Also, where is Richmond Square. I don't drive around a lot of Providence, but what is this located near? Which of the structures in this pic remain intact and which are going to be razed for this project.

RichmondSquare2.jpg

RichmondSquare3.jpg

RichmondSquare4.jpg

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I could be completely wrong but I seem to remember that the "historic gatehouse" is slightly up river a few hundred yards and off screen in those pictures. The Gatehouse restaurant just looks at the gatehouse.

If you know where Eastside Market is -sort of south of Wayland Square - you would just keep going East on Pitman past the Salvation Army to get to Richmond Square.

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