I-195 commission seeks approval to pave two parcels for temporary parking

The Garrahy Garage project, shown here in a rendering by architect Vision 3 Architects, is expected to break ground in early 2018. Courtesy Vision 3 Architects.
THE GARRAHY GARAGE project, shown here in a rendering by architect Vision 3 Architects, is expected to break ground in early 2018. / COURTESY VISION 3 ARCHITECTS

PROVIDENCE – Construction of the long-awaited Wexford Science & Technology innovation campus could begin before the end of the year.

At this point, it appears a seven-level parking garage to accommodate Wexford tenants and employees of the Garrahy Judicial Complex will get underway after that.

And therein lies a problem, Peter McNally, the executive director of the Interstate 195 Redevelopment District Commission, told commissioners Monday.

Wexford wants assurances that its tenants will have parking once its new complex opens in the innovation district, McNally said. The Garrahy Garage, which is expected to begin construction in early 2018, will take about two years for construction, commissioners were told.

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This could put the garage opening after the Wexford project opening.

At McNally’s recommendation, to provide a parking solution, the commission agreed to seek approval that would allow the temporary paving of two of its parcels. This will provide parking relief for employees and judges at the adjacent Garrahy courthouse, and for Wexford tenants, should the garage remain under construction when the first phase of the innovation center is finished.

To do any of this, the commission needs a zoning variance from the city of Providence, because those parcels were not intended to be used for parking. According to the language of the resolution approved by the commission Monday, the district is arguing a hardship need for parking.

The courthouse judges require security and convenient access to the court building, McNally said, while Wexford needs to know that its tenants will have access to parking.

“We have to provide 100 percent certainty that we can provide long-term parking,” McNally said.

The affected lands in the I-195 district, Parcels 27 and 28, are now undeveloped and grass-covered. They would have to be paved and potentially fenced to accommodate parking. In a statement to commissioners, McNally explained that the current plan is to resurface Parcel 27 before the garage construction begins, to allow parking for courthouse employees.

As for Parcel 28, the commission would pave the site for parking only if the garage opening is delayed and the Wexford tenants need it, he said. But the commission would secure that permission from the city in advance.

In a brief public hearing, several area residents expressed concern about the paving of what is now grassy fields, awaiting building developments.

Barrie Daneker, a resident of Chestnut Street, pointed out that the Garrahy garage is not on I-195 land, and that parking for judges during its construction is not really the concern of the I-195 commission.

As for the Wexford tenants, he told the commission he could understand their concerns, but told them the garage could surely be completed within two years, if enough pressure to meet the deadline is applied.

“This scares me immensely,” Daneker said. “I will overlook this.”

Mary MacDonald is a PBN staff writer. Contact her at macdonald@PBN.com.

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