State seeks development partner for new transit hub on Dorrance Street

Updated at 11:52 a.m.

THE STATE IS seeking a private developer to help design, build and operate a new indoor transit center on Dorrance Street, with a formal request for proposals to be published Jan. 17. / RENDERING COURTESY OF UNION STUDIO ARCHITECTURE AND COMMUNITY DESIGN

PROVIDENCE – The state is inching along the long-winding road to build a new, indoor transit hub, with plans to issue a solicitation to developers next week.

Gov. Daniel J. McKee on Wednesday announced that the R.I. Public Transit Authority will issue a national request for proposals, seeking a private developer to partner on the $77 million, mixed-use project. 

The news marks the latest advancement in a years-long effort to relocate the existing bus depot in Kennedy Plaza. After an earlier plan for a multi-hub project drew widespread opposition, the state in early 2022 settled on an alternative along the edge of the I-195 Redevelopment District. The Dorrance Street hub appears to have more community support, including from local developers who already worked on an initial rendering of the project, although some transit riders still want to keep to the existing depot at Kennedy Plaza.

As proposed, the Dorrance Street project includes an indoor transit center and RIPTA administrative offices, along with retail space, residential units (including some affordable housing) and parking. RIPTA is also considering including a public meeting space as well as “other amenities to serve the community at large,” the release stated.

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The state in May 2022 issued an initial solicitation to gauge developers’ interest in partnering with RIPTA on the project. At the time, the plan was to put out a formal request for bidders in September, and choose a project partner by the end of the year.

At that time, RIPTA said it would take “no less than three years” to complete the project, based on starting construction in 2023.

That timeline has been pushed back, with a Jan. 17 bid that gives interested developers until April to respond, and a winner selected this spring, the release stated. Cristy Raposo Perry, a spokesperson for RIPTA, said in an email Wednesday that the delay was because the RFP was “more complex than usual” given that the project is a public-private partnership.

“We wanted to take the time to align the RFP with state purchasing requirements and make certain it includes all the criteria necessary to build a new world-class transit center for the community,” Raposo Perry also said.

Raposo Perry declined to share names of developers or proposals submitted from the initial request for “expressions of interest” last year, saying it was part of the “active procurement.”

McKee’s office did not immediately return inquiries for comment.

Under the public-private partnership, RIPTA would own the land and operate the transit center, with a private developer helping to design, build and finance the project and to run the non-transit portion of the facility. The expected $77 million price tag will be paid for in part through a $35 million bond approved by voters in 2014. How much of the remainder will come from private developers, or other state and federal funds, has not been determined.

Once a developer is chosen, there will be additional opportunities for public input about the design and specific amenities included in the project, the release stated. 

Several other iterations of a revamped downtown bus hub have surfaced over the last decade, though none have come to fruition.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at

(Update: Comments from RIPTA spokesperson Cristy Raposo Perry added in 7th, 8th and 9th paragraphs)

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