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IN PROGRESS: Roger Williams Park Botanical Center

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This mornings Projo has an article about an upcoming project at Roger Williams Park.

They had a $15 million dollar expansion planned to create a "... glass-encased, seven-story, 15,000-square-foot Papua New Guinea conservatory, an outdoor amphitheater, a replica of the 12th hole of the Augusta National Golf Course and a welcome center building with a cafe and a kitchen designed to cater park events" (All of that has been cut from the project.)

The plan was originally designed to create a regonal draw that would directly compete with the New York Botanical Gardens. Due to a shortfall in funding, and the Mayors fear that the city wouldn't be able to afford to maintain the new facilities, a project smaller in scope at about half the cost has been approved. "... the idea behind the new concept is to build something we can continue to take care of in the face of a tight budget."

Even so, the gardens expansion at "Roger Williams Park plan would still create the largest public indoor display garden in New Englad." (more than double what's currently there)

The city has about $6.53 million in federal, state and city funds for the project including a grant from the Champlin Foundations. Total cost is expected to be about $7 million. "Cicilline has said that he foresees the botanical center becoming largely self-sufficient, with admission fees, concessions and money generated from rental fees for event and wedding space."

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"... the idea behind the new concept is to build something we can continue to take care of in the face of a tight budget." 

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Thanks for posting the update. While you always hate to hear of something being cut back, I have to say that the whole idea of building something that you can afford to take care of has been a Providence problem. Maintenance hasn't been our strong suit. Thankfully, the current mayor seems to realize this. It's nice to see...

- Garris

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I think the downsizing of the plans is a shame. The project initially envisioned would have drawn much more interest. Quite frankly, I'll probably never visit this new down-sized version as it is going to concentrate on regional plants which I can get a good look of out my own window or by walking around Roger Williams Park itself. Gone are all of the attractions that excited me and those with whom I shared the plans - the rain forest exhibit, the putting green from Augusta, the "wow" architecture. Apart from a few die-hards I don't see these new gardens maintaining much of an audience beyond the initial opening without a continued program of special events, etc to bring people in. Having been to NY's botanical gardens and the stunning Longwood Gardens in PA - this just looks and sounds half - a$$. I say build it right or don't build it at all. Though I know our local corporations already give generously, I find it very hard to believe they couldn't raise another $7 million from local corporations, fund raisers, etc. It seems to me that the mayor got squeamish after the Parks Dept fiasco and so settled on something banal to avoid raising any eyebrows.

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I agree. But it will beef up the zoo experience a bit. It won't draw people in and of itself, but it will add to the draw of the zoo. Now you can see the zoo and the slightly expanded gardens. May make people who were on the fence about visiting the zoo, fall off the fence.

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I'd like to see the zoo improved. Its not too cool to look at the elephants and see and hear traffic zooming by on 95 just behind the animals. Some Chimps would be cool too.

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...  It seems to me that the mayor got squeamish after the Parks Dept fiasco and so settled on something banal to avoid raising any eyebrows.

I think that's exactly what happened Megellan. The article also mentioned the Parks Dept scandel briefly.

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I agree. But it will beef up the zoo experience a bit. It won't draw people in and of itself, but it will add to the draw of the zoo. Now you can see the zoo and the slightly expanded gardens. May make people who were on the fence about visiting the zoo, fall off the fence.

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I have to disagree on this one. Judging on past attendance at the flower & garden show at the RI Convention Center I'd have to say it would be a seperate draw. People from all over New England attend this event. I remember one year the parking was so bad they had to create a sattelite parking lot in Onlyville. So why wouldn't these people come just for the Botanical Gardens and not the zoo?

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Having been to numerous flower shows and gardens around the counrty I'll tell you what lures me is the promise of seeing really unique plants or amazing garden arangements. The Philadelphia Flower Show in particular never dissappoints. If I knew I'd see the exitic flora and stunning landscapes roduced for flower shows at the new botanical gardens I'd certainly visit. I think the fact that the Providence flower show garners so much attention and attendance should have encouraged the city to move forward with the more ambitious plan. The conservatory and show would have complimented each other well. The plan that's being proposed now simply doesn't have the size and uniqueness in its attractions to warrant a specific visit by most people unless there is a special event. 6,000 square feet simply isn't a huge floorplan in the grand scheme of things- and then to have this space devoted to native plants is pretty lackluster. Longwood Gardens in PA has over four acres (over 21,000 sf) of indoor gardens - which while it may sound huge - really isn't once you get inside. A lay visitor could walk through in about an hour - so something in Providence a quarter of the size will be pretty boring - especially without the rainforest, giant african water lillies, etc. at other gardens.

However, indoor gardens alone do not attract people - the outdoor portions have to be top notch as well and I've heard zero about them in the plans for Roger William Park. In the summer people love to stroll through the gardens and right now the gardens around the park's green house are a joke. Sure the Japanese gardens are lovely and other portions of the park are worth exploring, but like it or not, the general public expects beautiful manicured gardens when visiting a botanical garden. As it stands, for better or worse, the proposed development won't be anything near the lure that the NY botanical gardens (across the street from the Bronx Zoo) are.

I have to disagree on this one. Judging on past attendance at the flower & garden show at the RI Convention Center I'd have to say it would be a seperate draw. People from all over New England attend this event. I remember one year the parking was so bad they had to create a sattelite parking lot in Onlyville. So why wouldn't these people come just for the Botanical Gardens and not the zoo?

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The only botanical gardens I've ever been to were the ones in Montreal. I'd love to see something like that in Providence.

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As one the of the gems of Providence and the #1 tourist/visitor destinations in Rhode Island I thought it would be nice to begin a thread to discuss happenings at the park and share our thoughts and impressions and changes we'd like to see there.

http://www.providenceri.com/press/article.php?id=220

http://www.rogerwilliamsparkzoo.org/

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Clean the waterways and create recreational opportunities for residents.

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I love the park, but I think it's really weird that it is all set up for cars. They need to narrow all the roads by adding sidewalks and big bike lanes through the whole thing. You can't even take a real walk, and biking seems sketchy when people are whizzing by you at 40 mph. It's a park, fer christ's sake, not a highway! Why in the world is it set up like that?

That said, I definitely intend to spend much more time there- it's lovely.

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There's an article in Providence Business News about the zoo. It's the state's biggest tourist draw.

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What the hell is the zoon? :rofl:

I can't beleive its the state's biggest tourist attraction....Do they mean single destination?

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What the hell is the zoon?  :rofl: 

I can't beleive its the state's biggest tourist attraction....Do they mean single destination?

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Without having read the article, I wonder if this means draw within the state or including people from outside. Just by school field trips alone it's probably the single biggest attraction, but as a tourist draw?

- Garris

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What the hell is the zoon?  :rofl: 

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I'm sure I don't know what you are talking about.

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Without having read the article, I wonder if this means draw within the state or including people from outside.  Just by school field trips alone it's probably the single biggest attraction, but as a tourist draw?

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I would guess if you counted the Newport Mansions as one attraction (rather than individual attractions), they would beat out the zoo. Though you can probably fit more people into the zoo at any given time than into all the Newport Mansions. The Jack-o-lantern Festival is also a huge draw for the zoo, at a time of the year whn the Mansion traffic is starting to slow down.

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I would guess if you counted the Newport Mansions as one attraction (rather than individual attractions), they would beat out the zoo. Though you can probably fit more people into the zoo at any given time than into all the Newport Mansions. The Jack-o-lantern Festival is also a huge draw for the zoo, at a time of the year whn the Mansion traffic is starting to slow down.

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I work for the Newport Mansions, and if you count all the properties together our average is pretty darn close to the 650,000 annual visitors the article quotes for the zoo. The two institutions regularly swap the title of #1 tourist attraction.

That said, the vast majority of our visitors are from out of state, so the zoo is easily the biggest draw for locals.

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The mall has supposedly has 12 million "visitors" a year. That doesn't count?

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The mall has supposedly has 12 million "visitors" a year.  That doesn't count?

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You would consider a mall a tourist destination? Perhap I would consider the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN a tourist destination. Is anyone aware of the mall their planning up in Syracuse, NY. It will be huge, with water rides, hotels and a golf course. I'll post the web site later.

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You would consider a mall a tourist destination? Perhap I would consider the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN a tourist destination. Is anyone aware of the mall their planning up in Syracuse, NY. It will be huge, with water rides, hotels and a golf course. I'll post the web site later.

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This place will be awesome! I'm not a shopper, but I'll definately have to check this place out :thumbsup:

http://destinyusa.com/home/?page=home

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This place will be awesome! I'm not a shpper, but I'll definately have to check this place out  :thumbsup:

http://destinyusa.com/home/?page=home

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The DestinyUSA website makes it all sound like a scary 1970's orwellian scifi movie.

It's People! DestinyUSA is made out of PEOPLE!!!

Liam

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I wouldn't bet on DestinyUSA actually making it to completion. I went to school in Upstate New York and I never met a local who was supportive of the project or thought it would come to fruition. Has anyone ever been to Syracuse, NY?? I don't think the largest mall in the world is the way to start urban revitalization. That town is a wasteland with an insane crime rate. Small steps, people!

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I wouldn't bet on DestinyUSA actually making it to completion.  I went to school in Upstate New York and I never met a local who was supportive of the project or thought it would come to fruition.  Has anyone ever been to Syracuse, NY?? I don't think the largest mall in the world is the way to start urban revitalization.  That town is a wasteland with an insane crime rate.  Small steps, people!

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AriPVD, please expand on this. I've been looking to visit upstate NY, especially Syracuse, to see what's up. Are you telling me, what I may have already heard, that there is a gang probem there?

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