Before office workers, students and researchers can fill the former Interstate 195 land and drive development of the Knowledge District, someone will have to build a large place for them to park.
That’s the conclusion I-195 Commission Chairman Colin Kane has reached after studying the parcels his board has been tasked with redeveloping and receiving estimates of a parking shortage in the former Jewelry District of 2,000 to 4,000 spaces.
“Providence is a car-centric city and we need a large parking solution,” Kane said recently about the I-195 lands. “It will probably be multiple garages over several years: parking is a municipal investment. The first question I ask if I am an office tenant is, ‘Where do I park? It drives projects.”
Since the economics of multilevel parking garages are difficult, Kane said parking development will probably require a mix of state and federal dollars to fund the kind of high-volume facility, such as those at the Capital Center, that can allow the rest of the land to be developed to its highest and best use.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean one of the 23 former highway parcels tabbed for development will have to be sacrificed for a multilevel parking garage.
With an estimated 15 acres of surface parking lots in the former Jewelry District alone, Kane figures that some parking can be consolidated into one or more larger garages, as long as the government is willing to invest in it.
And the parking doesn’t have to be adjacent to each building it is serving. Busses, shuttle busses or the proposed streetcar line that many support to bolster the city’s limited mass-transit system could all be valuable in solving the transportation needs of what is anticipated to be more than 2 million square feet of new development.
“If we can centralize that parking, then the streetcar could be part of the transport solution,” Kane said.
To figure out how to tackle the parking problem, the I-195 Commission is looking to put together a comprehensive transportation plan that will calculate in further detail what kind of traffic should be expected in the district, how it will move, what mass-transit options exist and what the best way to provide parking will be.
The consultants the commission has employed to work on permitting, environmental and engineering on the I-195 land, Fuss & O’Neill Inc., also did the preliminary parking analysis that arrived at the 2,000- to 4,000-space shortfall.