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With its vote to approve a revised plan for the park along the west bank of the Providence River, the Interstate 195 Redevelopment Commission has taken a small but significant step in the development of the land uncovered when the highway was moved to the south.
To begin with, the approval allows final design work to begin on the pedestrian bridge that will cross the river using the pilings of the former highway bridge. While not part of the direct charge of the I-195 commission, the bridge is a key element of the plan. It not only knits the Knowledge District with the East Side but reclaims as usable public-space land that at the moment, in the words of commission Chairman Colin Kane, has “no life there now.”
In changing the plan for the park itself, the commission has made creating a vibrant urban streetscape a priority. Thus, instead of having a large amphitheater, as the original design had, there are three smaller, flexible spaces that better connect with the developable land surrounding the green space. As built spaces fill in the reconstituted street grid, the neighborhood will become an extremely desirable place to live, work and shop.
Of course, this is only a first step, with the bridge expected to be completed by late 2015 (and thanks to an increased commitment from the state, the former cost issues have been resolved) and the park on both the west and east sides of the river slated for completion in early 2016.
But with the certainty that the plan for the public land brings, a much more inviting environment for development and private investment has been created. •