Updated March 24 at 8:42am

Kennedy Plaza plans more modest

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

On the streets surrounding the newly construction-fenced Kennedy Plaza, familiar faces wait in new locations for buses to neighborhoods across the state.

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Kennedy Plaza plans more modest


On the streets surrounding the newly construction-fenced Kennedy Plaza, familiar faces wait in new locations for buses to neighborhoods across the state.

They’ve moved to Exchange Street and across Burnside Park as part of a $2.4 million rearrangement of the R.I. Public Transit Authority bus hub that city leaders expect will trigger the latest evolution of Providence’s historical central square.

The vision, outlined in a public presentation at the Providence Biltmore Hotel 15 months ago by the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy, would make the plaza a popular public gathering place with new amenities and a better connection to Burnside Park.

Unfortunately, the work beginning now to disperse buses in the plaza represents the bulk of currently available funding for plans that, at their most grand, would likely cost up to $25 million.

As a result, municipal officials and downtown-parks advocates face a long road from the temporary construction headaches and workarounds confronting residents now to something that actually draws people to the city center.

Already the plan is drawing fire from transit advocates concerned about the disruption to bus service and architecture critics seeing a bait-and-switch from renderings from Union Studio architects unveiled at the Biltmore.

To these concerns, proponents of changing Kennedy Plaza say the original Union Studio designs have not been abandoned, but were always more concepts than plans. And rebooting the RIPTA bus terminal is an essential platform to get to those grander designs.

“When we gave our presentation at the Biltmore, we gave our vision of things that could happen in that space similar to other places that have improved,” said Cliff Wood, executive director of the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy. “To do all those things would be cost prohibitive, and there were a series of visions that may not pass community muster.”

While it waits for the plaza to be rebuilt, the conservancy experiments with programs for Burnside Park and raises money through grants and donations for larger future plaza improvements. This fall it expects to begin work on a park walkway to Exchange Street with a $395,000 grant from the Champlin Foundations.

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"Aside from purely aesthetic issues, the primary concerns with the redesigned plaza are that it will place riders further away from their destinations". Now this is a silly and superficial statement. Of course, some people will have to walk longer to their destination, but some will have a shorter walk. Unless you have evidence that people arriving at Kennedy are ALL going to buildings fronting the Plaza, then this statement makes no sense. For example, if my destination is Providence Place or the State Capitol and state offices, then a new stop at the train station makes my walk shorter.

The plain fact is that the current plaza is both dangerous and unappealing and to non-users of buses, it is an area to be avoided. For a great public space to work it must be devoted to diverse uses and not to one narrow and specialized use and one that involves several dangers to boot. Not accepting that changes are needed in the plaza and making excuses to do nothing is simply a self serving approach and does not represent progressive thinking.

Saturday, August 2, 2014 | Report this

Writing to agree strongly with Obadiah2 that the space, if everyone agrees it is to be a public space (and really, is it not already?), needs to be devoted to diverse uses. It looks like a higher amount of money put into the project would equal a higher amount of usability for both commuters and those just hoping to enjoy some time outdoors downtown.

I'm convinced that there is a healthy amount that yields attractive and appealing results both for RIPTA and for those hanging out around Burnside Park, and that whatever that amount is would in turn result in more time spent downtown, maybe at the nearby restaurants (of which downtown has so many of the highest quality), and likely more users of RIPTA to get there. All of this equals more money pumped into the economy, and more importantly I think, a more attractive place to live, work, or play.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 | Report this
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