Participants at FPNA’s April 18th Membership Meeting were fortunate to share in a substantive exchange of ideas with the Department of Planning & Development, who are updating a Ten Year Neighborhood Plan for Fox Point.
Guests included Providence Department of Planning & Development Director Bonnie Nickerson and Principal Planner for Fox Point Chris Ise; Councilman Seth Yurdin, Rep. Chris Blazejewski, Senator Gayle Goldin, I-195 Re-Development Commission Executive Director Peter McNally and Assistant Project Manager Amber Ilcisko.
Kicking off the event was a presentation by Olin Thompson and Sharon Steele of Building Bridges, an advocacy group for Providence's future pedestrian bridge and riverfront parks. The group’s first event, called “The Launch,” was successfully held during the Memorial Day weekend under a tent with live music and refreshments at the future west side park’s site.
FPNA’s Board of Directors compiled this list of requests and positions that emerged from a sharing of ideas all around the table. The agenda was planned to have four sections, but the first three were so filled with possibilities that the fourth topic was never reached. Below are the questions posed and resulting ideas about the three distinct elements of Fox Point—the Waterfront, Wickenden Street and the new I-195 Parcels.
The Fox Point Greenway with upcoming extension of Blackstone Bike Way, India Point Park, Providence River Walk Park and Pedestrian Bridge provide more than a view. How could this greatly beneficial setting best impact tourism, residential life and a healthy commercial area?
Support Department of Transportation’s efforts to develop an active ferry system with food service and event space at the former Shooters location, currently owned by the Department of Environment. Open existing parking lots under the I-195 interstate at South Water Street, adjacent to Hurricane barrier to support parking at the ferry location.
Remove power lines over the waterfront that mar the view, severely detracting from a waterfront possessing clear tourism development possibilities.
Commit to a lighting maintenance plan that would correct a severely under-lit India Point Park and Pedestrian Bridge. This unsafe situation should already have been addressed before the end of June, when this article will appear.
Replace traditional, 360-degree light bulbs with the down-lighting options that were promised to Friends of India Point Park. In new lighting situations, select down-lighting structures that do not interfere with nighttime views or create area light pollution.
Support the transformation of the I-195W Exit at Gano Street from an unkempt area into a more welcoming gateway into Providence. This eastern gateway is at the convergence of the interstate system, the Washington Bridge Linear Park, a pleasure boat launch, two major bikeway systems, the Providence Waterfront and now a working ferry system. Currently, we have wetlands at this location that are “protected” by an eight-foot, chain-link fence. Permanently locked, this fence mainly protects the wetlands from any maintenance. Originally planted with numerous conifers, which have reached maturity, this fence has allowed trash-trees to take over to provide an unattainable view of the numerous evergreens and wetlands. Take down the fence and provide routine maintenance.
Develop a landscaping plan for lower Gano Street, south of Gano Park, to transform it into an extension of eastern gateway. Encourage the new roadway to include plans for a safe Bike Way lane.
Encourage the construction of the proposed India Point Park parking lot, which is to be installed on each side of a new stretch of Gano Street that would run under the central span of the Washington Bridge. RIDOT presented a new traffic plan to FPNA in 2012 that also would remedy the awkwardness of that India-Gano intersection. This newly constructed roadway span would add an additional lane for turning onto the I-195 West Entranceway and run parallel with the Blackstone Bikeway.
FPNA has whole-heartedly supported the CityWalk concept at meetings and through publicity, The CityWalk plan was recently awarded a $1.8 million grant to develop twelve major initiatives along its route. FPNA promotes development of CityWalk, which begins on the east with the destinations of India Point Park, Fox Point Greenway, Wickenden Shopping Area and the Providence River Pedestrian Bridge.
Improve the connectivity of the Providence River Walk by devising some additional options for crossing Wickenden Street at the Point Street Bridge. Some waterfront advocates have suggested a “floating bridge-way walk” under the bridge to avoid the highly trafficked interstate connection.
Remove privately erected chain-link fencing that blocks the River Walk, south of the bridge. This situation forces pedestrian residents and tourists to step off of the plank walkway and then negotiate parking lots before being allowed to continue along the river on a major CityWalk route alternative.
Replace temporary fencing along the riverfront, beyond the plank walkway with safe, permanent and attractive fence barrier.
How can we improve this neighborhood asset and attraction for its commercial health and tourism, as well as for our new and existing neighborhoods?
Alleviate the currently under-lit Wickenden Street Shopping area with smaller-scale lighting, which would be more effective than traditional overhead 360-degree pole lights, currently in place. The situation is worse during warmer times of the year because of the shade from street trees.
The under-lighting of Wickenden Street is more severe on the eastern side of Fox Point near the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School and the Boys & Girls Club at Ives Street.
Smaller scale lighting options could include “gas-light” appearing fixtures similar to ones on Westminster Street or increased soffit lighting installed on storefronts. An example of a successful use of this down-lighting effect can be seen at the storefront occupied by Duck & Bunny.
Conversion of about 15 street tree guards to ones that would include bench seating. The concept, called Conversation Trees, allows for the community-building seating to be spaced periodically along the length of Wickenden Street. A proposal is being developed in order to secure necessary funding, which is in the $15,000 range. The Planning Department suggested other “small scope” amenities to consider like some seating areas in Boston that include solar energy charging stations.
I-195 Parcel Development
How do the new residential and business areas best merge into Fox Point?
Develop a user-friendlier I-195 Interstate access road system, which would better link Fox Point to the waterfront, especially restaurants and clubs on Bridge Street. FPNA vigorously fought the installation of the current Exit 20, in favor of an extension of Pike Street at South Water Street to St. Mary’s Church on Alves. The current system conflicts with Rhode Island’s Complete Streets Law that was passed in 2012, mandating equal access to all forms of transportation.
Explore the possibility of subdividing large I-195 parcels to make more marketable for diverse developments.
Support Building Bridges, an effort to heighten awareness of the I-195 Bridge and Parks through staging temporary uses for the parcels. Possible temporary uses include farmers markets, social and food truck events and possibly creation of soccer fields.
Consider new ways to join upcoming developments, like the six story, mixed-use building at Pike Street with existing Fox Point. Currently, there is only one way to Wickenden Street, down Bridge or South Water streets. Alternate routes would ease congestion.