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India Point plan to get public hearing

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India Point plan to get one more public airing

BY KAREN A. DAVIS

Journal Staff Writer | Tuesday, July 6, 2004

City officials have agreed to meet again with residents and reconsider a master plan for development at India Point.

The purpose of the India Point master plan is to improve connections between India Point Park, the water's edge, the Wickenden Street commercial district and the Fox Point neighborhood. The plan was to be the first step toward helping create a more active and vibrant urban waterfront, city planners have said.

However, several community leaders, Fox Point neighborhood association members and elected officials have blasted the plan for failing to explore options that would maintain historic buildings and create a balance of open space versus new development.

In addition, residents have criticized the lack of community input, noting that there were no community meetings to discuss the plan from March 2003 to March 2004.

They expressed their outrage at a public meeting last month at which the plan -- drafted by William Warner & Associates -- was unveiled to an audience of 200.

Rep. Paul Moura, D-Providence, said he was "extremely frustrated" by the process under which the plan was developed and concerned about the potential conflict of interest that could arise. He said that Warner was drafting the master plan and working with a private developer in the India Point area at the same time.

Former Sen. John Roney, president of the neighborhood group, called the plan unimaginative and designed with only development in mind. He also took issue with the process that excluded community input.

In a June 24 letter to Mayor David N. Cicilline, leaders of the Friends of India Point Park noted that they urged the city to commission a master plan in 2001 after discovering a lack of coordination among city and state plans for India Point. The bid process seeking a draft of the master plan required city planners to work with the Friends of India Point Park on all phases of the project, states the letter from co-chairs David Riley and Marjorie Powning.

Riley and Powning noted that planning officials did not respond to letters and calls concerning the India Point master plan.

In an interview last week, Planning Director Thomas Deller said it was unclear to him what the criticisms of the master plan were. He said the plan came with options that called for developing or not developing certain areas.

However, Deller said it is difficult for the city to limit development on private property, unless the City Council is willing to buy the property.

Still, Deller said, he believes that there "were some problems in the way the consultant developed the plan."

And, he said planning officials have heard the criticisms and do plan to meet with residents one final time later this month before moving on to other areas of the city.

"We're going to go through the whole planning process," he said. "And, I am confident that we will be able to come up with a compromise that allows the city to grow and develop" while maintaining public spaces.

Riley said Fox Point residents are not against the building of condominiums at India Point, but they do oppose such development on the shoreline -- which would cut off public access to the waterfront.

"We support some development in the waterfront area and would like to engage in a dialogue with the Planning Department about what mix of private development and public space is best for the area and how to achieve it," Riley said. "We recognize the importance of waterfront area bringing significant economic as well as civic and environmental benefits to the city."

Critics note that the preferred plan presented by Warner would demolish warehouse buildings on property owned by Brown University and would replace them with two high-rise dormitories or apartments, which would obstruct the view of the Bay. The plan does not explore such options as a smaller housing project, a museum or a restaurant/conference center.

The Warner plan also favors demolition of the historic 1893 Fuller Iron Works machine shop and does not explore ways to attract the public to the area.

In an April 19th letter to Deller from Fox Point leaders, state legislators and City Councilman David Segal, residents suggest that Providence learn from such cities as Boston and Hartford that have benefited from creative use of public waterfront spaces. With that in mind, leaders suggest the consideration of a city-owned restaurant in the park, an open air market, a marina, a bike and boat rental shop, an amphitheater for concerts, a ferry and water taxi terminal, a visitors center, a fountain, a branch of the public library or a contemporary art center.

From The Providence Journal

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Broad development plan to encompass India Point

Residents of Fox Point had criticized a previous plan because it limited options for preservation and a balance of open space and development.

BY KAREN A. DAVIS

Journal Staff Writer | Tuesday, July 27, 2004

PROVIDENCE -- City officials are moving forward with plans to combine the plan for development of India Point with a broader plan for the downtown area.

City planning director Thomas Deller made the announcement Thursday at a meeting of the India Point master plan advisory committee.

The purpose of the plan is to improve connections between India Point Park, the water's edge, the Wickenden Street commercial district and the Fox Point neighborhood. It is to be the first step toward helping create a more active urban waterfront, according to city planners.

The meeting was held after members of the Fox Point neighborhood association and elected officials sharply criticized a master plan by William Warner & Associates that they said failed to explore development options to preserve historic buildings and to create a balance of open space versus development.

At a meeting in June, residents criticized the lack of community input, noting that no community meetings to discuss the master plan were held between March 2003 to March 2003.

Deller, who received letters criticizing the plan and the process by which it was created, conceded that he found some problems with the plan, including the failure to address new traffic patterns created by the realignment of Route 195.

And, heeding the public outcry, he said the city would fold India Point into a master plan of development for downtown. That plan will include Downcity, the Jewelry District, the waterfront, Smith Hill, the Promenade, business districts and Capital City Center.

At last week's meeting, Deller told residents that the city has completed its contract with Warner and will likely hire Sasaki Associates of Watertown, Mass.

City officials plan to give the new consultant the previous development plans drafted for those areas and allow the firm to devise a plan that will outline "a plan or some options" for downtown, said Frances Bidwell, a longtime Fox Point resident and neighborhood association executive.

Heather Florence, a leader of the Friends of India Point Park, said her group is encouraged by the new consultants' reputation for considering many options and soliciting community input.

However, she said, some residents are concerned about the prospect of having the consultant -- which was hired to design the New Cities plan under the administration of former Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. -- design economic development plans for different parts of the area.

Florence said members of the association are also concerned that the current development area does not include all of India Point, stopping at Brook Street.

"Our hope is to talk to them early on and have them consider the broad picture," Florence said.

From The Providence Journal

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