PROVIDENCE – The Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy unveiled plans for the transformation of Kennedy Plaza at a meeting in Providence after close of business Thursday.
According to the Greater City Providence webpage, stakeholders in the downtown area including the city of Providence, the Parks Department and the R.I. Public Transit Authority, among others, have been working on a plan to re-imagine the plaza for the last six years.
In prepared remarks, Mayor Angel Taveras listed the Greater Kennedy Plaza Project as one of his chief economic development priorities.
“Transforming Kennedy Plaza into a vibrant and dynamic park, pedestrian mall and public space is one of my highest economic development priorities for Providence,” he said in a statement. “We are committing $1.7 million to catalyze this project to reconfigure and reduce the number of buses in Kennedy Plaza, turn the plaza into a pedestrian destination, increase property values and attract new investments in downtown Providence.”
The $1.7 million is allocated from the city’s Downtown Circulator Project. Using an “Our Town” grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, Union Studio Architects has led the process over the past 12 months to finalize that vision.
The transformation plan includes improving bus operations at the heart of the plaza. According to the GCPVD web page, RIPTA has determined that schedule improvements will allow it to reduce the number of bus berths to 10, which can be relocated to the edges of the plaza, allowing the bus-only lanes in the middle of the plaza to be re-imagined for public use.
Other improvements in the greater Kennedy Plaza area – which includes Biltmore Park, the skating center, Burnside Park and the area from City Hall to the Federal Building and U.S. Court House – include better integrating the skating center to a wider area, allowing for better off-season use, raised roadways allowing for better pedestrian connectivity and calming car traffic, and a “civic plaza,” which was described as a “front porch for City Hall.”
The Kennedy Plaza plan, which the release said with be implemented "in staged with specific tangible goals set for the present and near future," has nine major areas: Central Square; Civic Plaza; Market Square; Judicial Square; Bank of America City Center; Burnside Park; Biltmore Plaza; and, the Gateway.
The Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy outlined its plans, which included:
Create a pedestrian-friendly environment with flower and tree plantings, park benches, lighting, art pieces and activities.
Provide a more pleasant experience for RIPTA riders by ensuring a safe, accessible system, while reducing the number of buses passing directly through the plaza.
Bolster the city and state’s economic well-being by creating a beautiful, usable park in the center of the city that will attract new businesses and retain those for whom Kennedy Plaza is a front door.
Increase arts and cultural events and regular activities such as concerts, festivals and children’s programming that draw the region’s diverse communities together downtown to celebrate and engage in the city.
Encourage tourists and residents to visit the center of the city to take advantage of the active, park-like public space and to dine, shop and enjoy our downtown.
The reconfiguration of the bus stops and improvements in front of City Hall could be completed in 2014, with some of the funding coming from federal money for roadway improvements from the Circulator Project.