Despite the seemingly endless rain over the past week or so, passersby found a little joy at the corner of Richmond and Clifford Streets. Aleksandra Azbel's art piece revealed the special feature installed last Autumn: brilliant circles of large-blossom red tulips emerged in a burst of color.
Just a quick update to earlier item (see article on "The Heavy Hitter" below) that reported the partial demise of the billboard atop the old Karma, Level II, etc. building. New owner Johnson & Wales University has just completed the job. The final pieces of the structure that supported a long run of promises of loving, caring legal attention to one's woes is no more.
And to make a complete job of it, all the signage on the sides of the building is gone, as well.
No more dress code and "ladies night" signs. No more wall placards for legal services — a great example of targeted marketing: who more likely to need legal advice than the drunken, brawling, gun-toting patrons and, famously, an owner of one of the clubs that infested the building.
All gone. Thanks, J&WU!
the To observe Earth Day 2016, the Association decided to get its own corner of the Earth in order. Organized by John Arzoomanian, from Cushman & Wakefield, an enthusiastic band of volunteers from companies and residential buildings around the District gathered at the Brown Police Substation on Elm Street on Friday, April 23.
Rakes, shovels, hoes, clippers, loppers, plastic trash bags, work gloves were issued at 9:00 am, a plan of attack was outlined by Brown's Nicholas Moi and within minutes a vigorous, if modest, tsunami of human energy was washing over the District. Sunny spring weather greeted them as they moved up Elm Street, clearing out tree wells, pulling trash out of hedges and along fences. In essence clearing up a year's worth of natural and man-made mess.
This year's clean-up focused on Elm Street, and parts of Chestnut, Hospital, South, Parsonage and Point Streets. A new record of 79 tree wells was cleared out and refilled with fresh mulch. Gutters were swept and what seemed like tons of road grit, asphalt bits and winter sand were hauled away.
To give credit where it's due, help pitched in from a variety of sources. Major kudos go to Cushman & Wakefield for organizing resources, providing person power, pizza wrangling and other logistics. A similar loud shout out goes to Brown University for person and vehicle power, tools and mulch by the truck-full.
Other enthusiastic boots on the ground came from LAZ Parking, the Providence Children’s Museum, the 195 Commission, the City of Providence, the Lifespan Hospital Group and residents of 150 Chestnut and 116 Chestnut Streets.
Arthur Salisbury, President of the JDA offered, "Many thanks to all the volunteers and organizations for participating in the 2016 Jewelry District Clean-Up. All those tree wells cleared and mulched in a morning is a real achievement and really enhance our neighborhood. I send special thanks, too, to John Arzoomanian who captained the clean-up so effectively.”
Not incidentally, early in May, the JDA Planning & Zoning Committee will join the Providence Forester for a tour to survey missing and damaged trees in the District.
Photos: John Arzoomanian & 116 Snaps.
Providence, April 1, 2016 — We can't find any detailed information about the latest development proposed for the District. But it is big. Huge, in fact. And, remarkably, with very little -- actually no -- fanfare whatsoever, it has moved with remarkable speed through its early stages and has been permitted by the Building Department:
39 Aluminum Buildings are going up at 3 Ship Street.
This is the latest in the exciting Ideas popping up in the District now that !-195 is out of the way. South Street Landing... the big CV-Wexford three-stage plan for Parcels 22/25... projects and development schemes rumored, proposed, presented to Design and Zoning Commissions, then often vanish before they are even announced. Some simply get lost in the bureaucratic maze.
To keep tabs on what's going on, the JDA web-site team monitors permit hearings...cozies up to developers... and assiduously reads Building Permits posted here and there. Using the last-named method we found out about the impending arrival of this new, major development.
This proposal is very, very real.
You can see for yourself. Posted on the entrance to the condos at 3 Ship Street is a permit issued by the Building Dept. that gives the go-ahead for "39 aluminum buildings" at the site. By anyone's count, 39 buildings is a major project. And since aluminum is used very little in buildings -- except to re-side triple deckers -- this sounds excitingly experimental.
As we said, precious little information is available. This one's a fascinating puzzle, since 3 Ship Street is already pretty much filled up with the building already on site.
Ever resourceful, the JDA has managed to obtain an artist's rough concept of the development and reveal it here for the very first, and perhaps, last time.
The architectural firm, which is new to us, says that the project will bring to Providence the "kraal concept" of communal living. A traditional organizational method for villages in Africa, this system knits a community together for daily living and protection, as well centering it in the surrounding agricultural and wood gathering areas so necessary to sustaining life in harsh conditions. As an added cross-cultural influence, the architects have chosen to introduce a Mongolian yurt theme to their concept.
In effect, the tightly clustered yurt-influenced structures, executed in stylish brushed aluminum, with floor-to-dome sliding glass doors all around (an oblique nod to Philip Johnson's Glass House in Connecticut) will create an ancillary village on the roof of 3 Ship Street. David Brussat, with whom we shared the concept, decried the lack of ornament, but praised, in principle, the effort to revert to an older, more honest style of building.
In a nod to the concerns for the ecological health of the planet, the "39 commercial aluminum buildings" prescribed by the permit will be Platinum LEED certified, and therefore remarkably energy efficient.
For longer than anyone cares to remember, the JDA has spearheaded a drive to make the Board of Licenses more open, efficient and consistent in the way it does its work. And now the City Council has joined in the effort with the announcement that a former Attorney General has been retained to conduct an independent review of the Board.
Led by President Arthur Salisbury and Quality of Life Committee Chair Sharon Steele and supported by its members, the JDA has monitored Board of Licences, asked questions about procedures, testified against offending nightclub operations and campaigned for procedural reforms. At the same time, JDA member and Colosseum Nightclub proprietor Anthony Santurri has worked with the Downtown Improvement District Hospitality Resource Partnership to develop guidelines for Club Owners to help them operate successfully, safely and lawfully.
Salisbury, Steele and Santurri have met with city officials and lobbied the City Council. They have had talks with major stakeholders including Brown University, Johnson & Wales, the Federal Hill Commerce Association, the Providence Police Department and the 195 Commission seeking to encourage a thriving, law-abiding night-life scene in the Jewelry District as well as the City as a whole.
Other neighborhood associations have joined in the effort as well, in a rising tide of exasperation, frustration and — in some cases, fear — as clubs break the laws and the B. of L. has seemed incapable of applying consistent standards to maintaining order. With weekend nights erupting in brawls, near riots, stabbings and gunfire from the Jewelry District to Federal Hill, Washington Park to Olneyville, enough was enough. A meeting with Mayor Elorza, while cordial, produced no action. But, after the City Council-appointed subcommittee chaired by Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan held hearings about the B. of L. administration of the licensing process, things began to move ahead.
The launching of an independent inquiry into the operations of the Board of Licenses is the first step — an important one – in ensuring that the world-class reputation of Providence as a great place to work, live and visit is not wrecked by out of control bars and night clubs.
For more about this exciting development, read WPRI's report here.
After years of staring out the window at billboards advertising everything from tacky legal services to a mysterious substance whose purpose and character we never figured out, it was a relief to see cranes in the parking lot behind the defunct Karma/Level II/etc. site. Now owned by Johnson & Wales U., the building had lost all its former signage... except for the rooftop billboard.
It's most recent version offered the smiling face of The Heavy Hitter, a personal injury lawyer, beaming out into the night sky. Yes, it was handy to have a 12-foot high telephone number posted in plain view in case we suffered a workplace injury, were run over by a runaway bus, ambulance or lawyer's car or slipped on a spill in a supermarket.
So imagine our disappointment after all the work with the torches and cranes, we awoke to see, in the dawn's early light, that one half of the billboard was still there.
Monday, March 14, 2016 PROVIDENCE, RI - Mayor Jorge Elorza today joined Governor Gina Raimondo, the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation, representatives from the Federal Transit Administration, RIPTA, RIDOT and community stakeholders to announce plans for a 1.4-mile Enhanced Transit Corridor in Downtown Providence.
"This project is an example of the mutually beneficial outcomes that are possible when all levels of government work creatively and collaboratively," said Mayor Jorge Elorza. "Together with partners at the state and federal level, we are building a tool that will encourage economic activity and help strengthen Providence's resurgence."
"Fast, convenient public transit will help make Rhode Island a more attractive place to live and work," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "By building a new transit corridor connecting downtown, the 195 land, and our world-class universities, we'll strengthen our pitch to businesses for why Providence is a great place to relocate or grow a business. At the same time, this project will help attract talent who want a city that is easy to access and get around. I am grateful to our Congressional Delegation, the City of Providence, RIPTA, and RIDOT for working together to bring these federal dollars to Rhode Island and make this project a reality."
The project will provide peak bus service, on an average of every five minutes, connecting Rhode Island's largest employment hubs and world-class institutions to the downtown core and adjacent neighborhoods, while passing directly through the LINK District, the City's key redevelopment area made available by the recent relocation of Interstate 195.
"We need to better connect neighborhoods and economic centers across the City and ensure riders can safely and conveniently get where they need to go. The project Mayor Elorza and the State have developed will have the feel and convenience of a street car, with dedicated shelters and stops, signal prioritization, and frequent service -- so if riders miss a bus across town during rush hour, they'll only have to wait a short time for the next one. This plan offers greater convenience and more flexible service, while also saving about $100 million in capital costs that would have come with laying rails in the ground for a streetcar. This is a smart and cost-effective investment in enhancing Providence's transportation system now and in the future, and I am pleased we were able to work with the U.S. Department of Transportation to make these federal TIGER funds available," said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development (THUD).
"This new transit corridor will connect neighborhoods across downtown Providence," said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. "It will help workers, students, and shoppers get to some of Rhode Island's largest employers, our world-class universities and hospitals, and the soon-to-be-redeveloped former I-195 land. By investing this federal grant money in infrastructure and modernizing our transit options, we are laying the groundwork for long-term economic growth and job creation."
The project utilizes $13 million in TIGER VI funds which had previously been awarded for the construction of a street car. The revised proposal, which has been approved by the US Department of Transportation, is better aligned with the goals of the community, City, and State and can be delivered at an estimated total capital cost for the project is $17 million with additional funds provided by the state.
"A strong system of public transportation makes for a more accessible, livable community, and this enhanced transit corridor will make it easier for Rhode Islanders to live, work and play in our capital city," said Congressman Jim Langevin. "The City of Providence is open for business, and this transit system sends that message loud and clear."
"Robust transportation systems are the key to great cities and help make them more attractive to new residents and improve quality of life for existing communities. I am proud to join with Mayor Elorza and local leaders to celebrate the new Downtown Enhanced Transit Corridor," Congressman David Cicilline added. "Using federal funding, this exciting new transpiration model will provide better bus service to key destinations downtown and I look forward to working with my colleagues as this project continues."
Service for the Downtown Enhanced Transit Corridor will run along Exchange, Dorrance, and Eddy streets, providing quick and reliable transportation between Kennedy Plaza, two new intermodal transit hubs planned for the areas around the Providence Station and the Hospital District, and key office, retail, entertainment, and institutional destinations both within, and beyond the Downtown core.
"At RIDOT, we are laser focused on the needs of our transportation system not only today, but in the future," RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said. "Projects like this one will provide a unique transit feature for the city, and will mark another step forward for more transit choices and better transit utilization for Rhode Island."
"RIPTA is excited to be part of advancing the downtown Providence transit connector project, and we thank our federal delegates for their support throughout this application process," said Raymond Studley, CEO of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA). "RIPTA is looking forward to providing the City of Providence with this enhanced service as transit is key to economic growth. Furthermore, we are confident that RIPTA's statewide network and services will provide needed connections to the LINK redevelopment district and surrounding areas."
Bus stops along the corridor will include curb extensions to accommodate waiting passengers, bus shelters, seating, real time arrival information, increased signage, ticket vending machines for off-board fare payment, branding, WiFi, and integrated bike-share amenities.
South Street Parking Garage.
Down on Eddy Street, work on the parking garage has now begun in earnest. The magnificent pile driver has just about finished pounding real stakes in the ground. And a gigantic crane has appeared that can reach far above the roof of South Street Landing. Work has been has been going on inside all "winter" behind fabric covered windows. The giant crane seems to presage high altitude work — perhaps structural steel for the additional floors slated to go up there.
A few weeks ago, the pile driver arrived on site and since then it has been planting a forest of concrete pilings. As the picture at right shows, concretejacks are on their way to clear-cutting the pilings down to ground level to support the parking garage's first floor deck.
At Tuesday's JDA Meeting, Scott Dumont, CV Properties Development Project Manager, said that the garage should be finished in the late fall. At that point, cars from the One Davol Square lot will move into the garage, and work can begin work to fill the parking lot with a pair of residential buildings.
Speaking of Lumbering Operations
A while back, designs for the National Grid switchgear building and transformer yard were presented to the Downtown Design Review Commission. It was promised that everything possible would be done to preserve the screen of trees between the site and the adjacent pedestrian bridge and park. Well, the possible lost out to storm water drainage. The (skimpy) row of trees has been lost to the conduit that channels storm water from the site into the NBC overflow canal.
Hey, we didn't say it. The New York Times did. In their round-up of 50 places to go this year, they said the 195 land is sculpture-studded. And that's good enough for us.
See No. 33 on their list HERE. (And don't be led astray by the Ocean House photo that illustrates our entry; Watch Hill is not that far from Providence, if you're from Wyoming.)
To bring you up to date, here are the latest additions that the 195 Redevelopment Commission has commissioned for the Jewelry District's already sculpture-studded area.