The Providence-Newport ferry, which began operating July 1st at the former Shooters site on Narragansett Bay, achieves one of the foremost goals of advocacy efforts—a maritime use for the property, according to David Riley and Arria Bilodeau, co-chairs of Head of the Bay Gateway Committee, HOBG.
“Getting this amenity operating at HOBG is an outstanding achievement for the City, State and our advocacy,” Bilodeau reports. “Keeping it afloat and building on it will be an outstanding demonstration of cooperation and working together for a key attribute in the region's ongoing development.”
HOBG also indicated that plans for a multi-use food and event space facility are being developed by Eat Drink Rhode Island, EDRI, with the assistance of Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, DEM, which owns the site. EDRI is a local media outlet that began operating in the region in 2010. The company now produces and promotes several all-local food and drink events, including an annual four-day Festival in Providence, which celebrates the best of the culinary world in Rhode Island.
Currently, the EDRI team is working directly with state and city leadership on locating a two-story structure on the existing foundation of the former Shooters nightclub parcel at 25 India Street. The concept of the for-profit facility contains multiple event spaces; an active Market Hall for local vendors, producers and chefs; independent locations for local restaurants; and a commercial and presentation kitchen for small-scale, broadcast-production purposes.
EDRI has wide-ranging public, private and industry support, including a $300,000 Innovation Fellowship Grant from the Rhode Island Foundation to establish a Rhode Island Central Market. Their conceptual plan calls for the waterfront site to capitalize on its sweeping views of Narragansett Bay, the highly visible and accessible Interstate 195 system, a nexus of bikeways from all over the state and now a ferry connection to Newport. The facility plan encompasses roughly 30,000 square feet on both floors and projects a total investment between $8 million and $10 million to establish the Central Market.
WAMA Seeks Wickenden Upgrades
The Wickenden Area Merchants Association, WAMA, met with City Councilman Seth Yurdin to continue its push for visual improvements to the shopping area, which now finds itself as an entry point for travelers on the Newport-to-Providence Ferry.
“In the short term, we would like to see inexpensive beautification improvements that would better tie the street together as a more recognizable unit,” Vincent Scorziello, WAMA president and FPNA board member says. “These visual improvements include replacement of the tree guards and trash cans and the installation of hardy perennials in the spaces that could be maintained by merchants.”
Some of the more costly ideas, which would require involvement of the City include better signage at both ends of Wickenden Street at interstate access streets; fixing the bricks at crosswalks; and sidewalk repairs and street repaving, Scorziello emphasizes.
Yurdin, who also attended FPNA’s June board meeting has been supporting these WAMA initiatives that would build a “Wickenden brand,” which also is important for the marketing of the nearby I-195 parcels. “I am working with the Planning Department to come up with a process to fully engage RIDOT and DPW (Department of Public Works) on this final stage of the I-Way Project,” Yurdin says. “I think the tree guards plan could get done either through a City effort or by applying for another grant,” he adds. “I am going to push it along and get Doug Still with the forestry department involved.
WAMA’s long-term, some say pie-in-the-sky improvements, Scorziello adds include burial of the overhead electrical wires, in favor of more quaint lighting and installation of an iconic landmark or overhead architectural arch welcoming visitors to Wickenden Street and Fox Point. “It doesn’t hurt, we can dream.”
Range of Complaints from Gano Street
Councilman Seth Yurdin also confirms that there have been enough complaints from residents and commercial business owners along Gano Street to warrant a closer evaluation by the City. “I have already reached out to DPW and the City Engineer informally, but will be sending them a formal request that they examine the issue based upon all of the complaints we have received.
FPNA member Ellen Mills, who has surveyed her neighbors, told FPNA’s board that most of the complaints are traffic related, including speeding motorists, who are not observing legitimate crosswalks or flashing lights. “It is like pedestrians have no rights, you can stand there a long time trying to cross carefully.”
Since the installation of the water main in 2014, there also are reports of increased traffic noise, especially when large trucks “hit” one of the numerous asphalt “fills,” resulting from the pipe installation. The large trucks are going at a good rate of speed when they cross the depressed area, causing vibrations to travel through the piping system and shake nearby residences, she adds. “There are some cracks on the outside and to the interior areas of some buildings, especially those fronting Gano Street,” Mills reports.
Mills points out that the street, which was formerly a tidal basin, was created by land fill in the late 19th Century. “It was never meant to support the current volume of traffic: Large trucks, especially, seem to be doing the most damage.”
FPNA has been asking for some much needed improvements to Gano and Wickenden Streets, which have become Providence's welcome mat to ferry goers and I-195 travelers. FPNA has asked RIDOT Chief Engineer Lambri Zerva to its August meeting to discuss Gano Street improvement plans that will coincide with the installation of the Blackstone Bikeway along the street and the Seekonk shoreline.
Events this Month:
FPNA Board Meeting, 7 p.m., Monday, August 8th at the Vartan Gregorian Bath House Community Room, 455 Wickenden Street. FPNA has asked RIDOT Chief Engineer Lambri Zerva to the meeting to discuss Gano Street improvement plans that will coincide with the installation of the Blackstone Bikeway. Public welcome.