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Johnson & Wales seeks Route 195 land

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J & W seeks I-195 land

The four blocks involved would not become available until the demolition of the highway is complete, which could be in 2012.

BY BRUCE LANDIS

Journal Staff Writer | December 14, 2004

PROVIDENCE -- Johnson & Wales University officials said yesterday they want some of the property that will be made available when Route 195 is moved farther south, but they didn't say much about what they want to put there.

The four blocks involved, now partly under the interstate highway, are bounded by Chestnut, Pine, Foster and Clifford streets, on the boundary between downtown and the jewelry district.

The land is only a fraction of what will eventually be made available by the massive highway relocation project.

The university officials made a presentation yesterday afternoon to the I-195 Redevelopment Board, created by the General Assembly in 2002. They said the project might include a wide variety of educational functions, among them:

Providing a central location for the university to work with the state's hospitality and tourism industry in planning, holding conferences, workshops and seminars.

Supporting high school hospitality curricula.

Help train Rhode Island workers in business practices and technologies.

Teach immigrants "the necessary tools to function" in the United States.

Support the public schools, by training substitute teachers, providing tutoring for students and by designing afterschool activities for students.

The Johnson & Wales group was headed by Senior Vice President and Counsel Christopher T. DelSesto, and included Robert Goldberg, a prominent State House lobbyist, and Christopher W. McMahan, a vice president and architect with Robinson, Green Beretta Corp., a local architectural, engineering and design company.

The Johnson & Wales group, however, didn't describe how many buildings the university wants to build, what they would look like or how much they might cost. They did say that the project would include retail space on the first floor, but Thomas E. Deller, the city's director of planning and development, said that's required anyway.

McMahan, the university's architect, said that when streets, sidewalks and existing private property are subtracted, there would be about 1 3/4 acres to build on.

He said the university intends "a campus-like group of buildings," but he said he had neither details nor a budget figure. The university filed a written proposal for the project, but much of the description -- including the sale or lease terms for the land, the schedule and a description of the project -- said only "to be determined" or "will be provided."

McMahan asked for one change in existing plans, moving Friendship Street to the north when it is rebuilt after the highway is gone. Deller said, though, that the city has already signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior to restore the streets as they were before the highway was built for historic preservation reasons.

"There are lots of issues that need to be discussed," Deller said.

It will also be years before the details become relevant. Edmund T. Parker, the state Department of Transportation's chief engineer, said demolition of the existing Route 195 won't begin until 2009 and may not be complete until 2012.

The DOT is in the midst of moving the intersection of Route 195 with Route 95 south, and is also building a new section of Route 195 from the new Route 95 intersection east across the Providence River just below the Providence Hurricane Barrier. The cost of moving the highway and replacing the existing bridge across the river has been estimated at $446 million.

The project will make available an estimated 35 to 45 acres on both sides of the river, where the highway and its ramps are now. It will also involve rebuilding city streets that were buried when the highway and its embankments was built.

The board has nine members, four of them appointed by the legislative majority leadership, two by the governor, two by the mayor of Providence, and one by the Providence Foundation.

Aside from the shape of Johnson & Wales' plan, Deller said there are a number of other questions about the redevelopment of the land now under the intersttate, particularly who -- the city and its existing plans, or the legislative committee -- will actually control what happens.

The board took no action.

From The Providence Journal

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