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PHOTOS: Downcity

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Another beautiful day in Providence. I walked Downcity for lunch and took some photos.

Future site of Hotel Providence on Westminster Street. Hotel Providence is due to open in August.


Looking west on Westminster, I'm about to hang a right and show you some stuff down east.


The Peerless Building, former site of a department store, and most recently Lupo's Rock Club. The Peerless is currently being renovated for residential use. The building will include retail on the ground floor.


This next set of buildings are all on the south side of Westminster across from the Peerless. All are in the process of being redeveloped for residential units. In this picture you can see a new cafe on the ground floor, next to the cafe a bookstore is in the works.





Behind City Hall, looking up at The Biltmore


Row of Skyscrapers in Kennedy Plaza


My favourite, The Turks Head Building


During Waterfire this square is shut down and turned into an outdoor ballroom


Here you can see the Turks Head on the Turks Head Building


Last one, Weybosset Street. Off to get a cup of coffee and back to work.


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I really like DT providence. Much bigger than many think including me before I went there myself. Very nice architecture as well.

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How can you not love DT Providence? These photos are amazing and place Providence even higher on my list. There is lots of big city feel and small town charm... and that's a killer combination, in my opinion. Thanks for sharing these photos!!!

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Providence has good bones, the challenge now is to put some meat on those bones. The city is going to spend a lot of time this summer studying the Downcity area and trying to figure out how to direct development.

Finding Downcity's niche

A new report urges leaders to devise ways to make the city's once-thriving retail hub more appealing to tourists, university students, club-goers and people who work downtown.


Journal Staff Writer - Thursday, February 12, 2004

PROVIDENCE -- Find the urban-oriented people in and around Rhode Island who see themselves as liberal thinkers with contemporary tastes and values. And get a Downcity brochure into their hands.

A report on Downcity's retail potential, made public by the Providence and Rhode Island Foundations, says these contemporary-minded people are the district's current and future customers.

The report urges civic leaders who are brainstorming the future of Downcity to devise specific ways to make the district more appealing to the contemporary-minded. Other target groups would include office and government workers, tourists, university students, club-goers and Providence Place mall shoppers.

As part of a crusade to reinvent Downcity as a lively mixed-use neighborhood, civic leaders commissioned a report to find out how much retail Downcity is capable of hosting and how to make it a strong element.

Urban Marketing Collaborative, a Toronto consulting firm hired to do the research, concluded that retail can flourish in Downcity if it is carefully selected, clustered and nurtured.

The Providence Foundation has agreed to implement the report's recommendations, which include the cultivation of a distinct identity for Downcity and the creation of a Web site to tout it.

The foundation is an organization of 111 businesses, institutions of higher learning, hospitals and other downtown interests that works for the city's betterment.

The how-to of retail, the consulting firm suggested, is to make sure Downcity appeals to people's inclinations. In other words, giving people a way to follow their interests ensures that they will stay interested.

"Downcity will not be just an address, but an attitude or a headspace," the consultants wrote.

For example, the contemporary-minded person can be attracted by cutting-edge art or stores offering hip apparel. Urban Marketing Collaborative called for the placing of more public art and the completion of Trinity Repertory Company's Pell Chafee Performance Center, which is under development on Empire Street.

"Downcity, while part of the New England heritage, will embrace an edgier feel that recognizes its historic roots" but rather than rely on the lighthouses-and-seagulls theme of other commercial areas will "reflect more modern and contemporary thinking. Overall, Downcity will be 'cool.' "

The report trumpets Downcity's diversity as a place for social gatherings, office work, education, residential living, retail commerce, and arts and entertainment.

While that diversity of activity differentiates it from the suburbs and other cities, the arts and arts-related retail looks like its niche, the report says.

As it is, the vast majority of Providence residents do not take advantage of anything in Downcity, according to the study, so leaders should tightly focus their appeal to people who use it now or might use it in the future.

The study urges heavy use of market research to seek targets promising "the most payback."

Downcity, as it was christened during the administration of former Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr., generally is considered to be the section of downtown bound by Weybosset, Empire, Sabin and Dorrance Streets.

Working from a retailer's perspective, however, Urban Marketing Collaborative significantly expanded Downcity to include a peninsula in the Financial District and other blocks.

For the purposes of the study, Downcity is the area bound by Greene, Chestnut, Friendship, part of Dorrance, and Orange Streets, those parts of Weybosset and Westminster Streets that are in the Financial District, a small part of Memorial Boulevard, Fulton Street, another part of Dorrance Street near Kennedy Plaza, Sabin Street, and the eastern end of Broadway.

The report lays out a short-term and a 10-year strategy for capitalizing on Downcity's reputation as a destination for arts and cultural activities. And it identifies city government, the Providence and Rhode Island Foundations and the Downtown Merchants Association as key players.

It recommends that civic leaders:

Maintain Downcity's diversity.

Coordinate efforts by creating a task force whose mission, in part, would be to recruit retailers compatible with the vision for Downcity. The task force would employ a retail and marketing coordinator.

Ultimately phase out the task force in favor of a Business Improvement District in which property and business owners act collectively to make improvements, usually by imposing a fee or a tax on themselves for joint advertising and to augment municipal services such as street cleaning and policing.

A BID should be more expansive than the traditional definition of Downcity, the study urges, reaching at least as far east as the Providence River, as far south as Route 195, as far west as Route 95 and as far north as Memorial Boulevard.

Take charge of addressing, among other issues, cleanliness, visitor safety, unwanted behavior, and parking, by, in part, creating a Downcity organizational structure.

Establish economic development partnerships with arts and cultural institutions and venues, education institutions and businesses such as Providence Place mall.

Guided by the report, civic leaders are beginning the next phase of their campaign to regrow Downcity. Daniel A. Baudouin, Providence Foundation executive director, said the task force should be assembled within two months.

For decades, Downcity and its immediate vicinity was Rhode Island's retail center. But it began to lose vitality in the late 1950s as city dwellers moved to the suburbs. After the closing of the withered Outlet department store in 1982, it hit bottom.

Retail finally rebounded in a huge way -- two blocks from Downcity -- with the opening of Providence Place in 1999. Many people despaired that Downcity, left in the mall's shadow, would never thrive again.

The report treats the mall as a complement to Downcity rather than a competitor.

Mall officials are willing to work with a Downcity retail and marketing coordinator, to organize special events and to pass along tips about prospective store tenants, according to the report. Monica Anderson, a consultant to the Providence Foundation, already is functioning as a liaison with the mall, Baudouin said.

"The combined marketing and leasing power of Downcity and Providence Place mall will prove that the whole is greater than the sum of two individual parts," the report declared.

The mall, however, is about to be sold to The Rouse Co. Given The Rouse Co.'s reputation as an enlightened developer of downtowns, Baudouin said last week, he anticipates the new owner will be willing to assist Downcity, too.

"The desire is not to recreate what was there [in Downcity] in the early part of the century," Baudouin said. "The department stores are never coming back. We're not going to create anything that competes with the mall."

As Baudouin sees it, with 40 to 50 retailers already in Downcity, as defined by the report, there is a respectable retail base. The foundation's goal is to embellish that with unique stores run by local entrepreneurs, such as the RISD Works store in the Financial District.

Urban Marketing Collaborative, emphasizing that clusters of like-minded uses tend to work best, sliced its Downcity study area into four pieces.

Generally speaking, the consultants said Empire Street is a good place for retailers who would cater to a more hip arts crowd; Westminster Street is a kind of main street in an urban village that lends itself to unique restaurants and retailers; Weybosset Street is a stretch best pitched to university students; and the Financial District is an area that would appeal to office workers with mainstream retail.

Empire Street, they said, would lend itself to a secondhand apparel shop featuring items such as retro sportswear, a bookstore catering to women and/or gays, an art gallery and a store selling contemporary home furnishings.

The report also suggested a music-oriented cooperative building for that block geared to independent record labels and a disc jockey remixing studio.

Using marketing industry data, the report identifies free-spending university students as a lucrative market for Downcity. There are 12,200 university students in four institutions that have a presence in Downcity and an 9,233 more in two institutions in proximity to Downcity.

Over eight months, the Downcity students potentially will spend more than $31 million and the students in proximity to Downcity $23 million -- on sales of merchandise, food and beverages. The report does not state where they spend.

Weybosset Street, where the main Providence campus of Johnson & Wales University and an outpost of the Rhode Island School of Design are located, is cited as a prime spot for student-oriented retail.

From The Providence Journal

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