FPNA Board Meeting, 7 p.m., Monday, March 14th at the Vartan Gregorian Bath House Community Room, 455 Wickenden Street.
To Meter, or Not to Meter?
At FPNA’s December Board Meeting, our guest, Councilman Seth Yurdin, casually mentioned that the City would be installing parking meters on Wickenden Street, sometime in 2016. The board sat rather stunned for a few minutes before asking what could be done to avoid this unexpected parking scheme. Apparently, not much, the board was informed.
“I sent an e-mail to the mayor's office requesting information about their plans,” Vincent Scorziello, president of the Wickenden Area Merchants Association, WAMA, said. “I was told that the City Parking Administrator (Leo Perrotta) felt ‘it was too early to be presenting plans since the meters wouldn't be installed until the spring.’”
FPNA plans to invite the parking administrator to its March board meeting. Scorziello, who also serves on FPNA’s board, said he received the impression that the plan was already in place, and that meeting with our organization would be a formality. “This morning I sent an email to the WAMA list to gauge opinion on meters, and not surprisingly I've gotten lots of ‘No!!!’
“Besides WAMA's (admittedly self-interested) view that meters would keep people away and hurt business, we believe they would push cars onto side streets, as people try to avoid paying for parking,” he continued.
WAMA and FPNA Says No!
When asked by e-mail, FPNA’s membership also reacted with an overwhelmingly negative response, Vice President Daisy Schnepel said. “Small neighborhood commercial areas are opposed to parking meters that adversely impact their businesses and residential neighborhoods,” she agreed. “Meters in larger commercial areas such a downtown are certainly a no brainer, but where does it stop? Will Benefit Street be metered, too?”
Once again, the City of Providence’s credit rating has been downgraded and there is talk in the news of possible bankruptcy, Schnepel noted. “If the City is on the brink, it would be a good idea to let the residents know and solicit ideas from them on how to avoid it,” she added. “In this case, you have to wonder if the potential revenue would be outweighed by declining sales tax revenues, the cost of new meters and additional personnel to monitor and ticket violations.”
“They're just plain ugly and would completely alter the look and feel of our street,” Dennis Wood, another longtime board member said. “This isn't a downtown business district!”
A resident on Armstrong Street noted that nearby residential areas are already short on parking. “We already suffer from the Wickenden Street shopping traffic overflow.” Another resident asked, “How can we encourage people to come and shop our area and spend their hard earned money, and then pay to park and probably get ticketed? Please continue to fight the mayor's plan!”
An Alternative View
However, Jonathan Harris, an Assistant Professor of Design at Johnson & Wales University, and a consultant with the design firm, Transit Matters, said meters could help build more walk able, identifiable communities. “Perhaps, an agreement can be made with the city that a certain percentage of revenue comes back to the neighborhood or merchants association for reinvestment directly in the neighborhood,” he added. “It has been done elsewhere, though I do not know if there is precedence in Rhode Island.”
Scorziello, who owns Campus Fine Wines, disagrees. “Every store on the street has built their business model with the current parking situation in mind,” he pointed out. “It's unfair to try to correct decades of unsustainable car use by taking it out on the current crop of business owners on Wickenden Street.”
“Convenience wins every time,” he added, noting that the overwhelming response from both memberships is that residents will stop shopping at Wickenden area stores. “In my particular instance, no one will ever walk more than a block carrying a case of wine.”
In 2016, FPNA and WAMA have begun exploring ways to visually improve the shopping area, in particular the lighting. Wickenden Street offers a marketing benefit to future I-195 developments in Fox Point. Solving the growing parking shortage will become more important as construction begins this year on the first six-story, mixed use residential building in Fox Point.
If you are interested in working on improving Wickenden Street, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.