Downtown Interim Project

Hey Gardeners,

I received an email from one of our resident gardeners, John, who  – along with a few other resident gardeners – is part of the Fox Point Neighborhood Association (FPNA). While we were turning compost on the last workday, John told me about how  the area where the 95 overpass bridge used to be (over Point St. at the bottom of Wickenden) is going through a determined use process and suggestions are being made as to what to do with the space in the interim period.

One suggestion that I thought was particularly interesting was the use of sunflowers as a “cleaning” plant for the land that is currently in poor condition due to many decades of heavy pollutant exposure. Not only did this soften my heart for sunflowers, it made me want to become a part of making this idea a reality and I thought that some of you may also be interested in it, so I’m passing it along.

One concern I have (but admittedly out of sheer ignorance) is if the plants and  sunflowers that “pick up” pollution, will it harm the birds, bees and other animals that consume them? And should those plants be composted in the end, will those toxins emit into the compost? And if they would contaminate the compost, what will be done with the sunflowers? Maybe the bigger question here is what do we do with polluted land and how do we convert it safely?

I believe The South Side Community Land Trust is closed today to observe Veterans Day. At least, when I tried to call a few minutes ago, I got answering machines, so I’ll try to drop by tomorrow because I’ll be in the area at a meeting. I’ll put any updates I find in the comments section of this post.

The particular section of the proposal has been emboldened for your reading ease.

Community Workshop Explores I-195 Interim Uses

The name of a second brainstorming session, sponsored by the American Institute of Architects Rhode Island, AIAri, was called “Why Wait, the Interim Development of the I-195 Land.” Its purpose and theme was simple: A long timeline for development means we could be looking at vast parcels of nothing for several years.

The gathering in the Jewelry District of local architects, university personnel, neighborhood association representatives and other concerned citizens had plenty of ideas, but started by creating a rough timeline.

Today, the pedestrian bridge plans have been approved and environmental testing of the parcels that will continue through November. The next milestone is spring of 2013 when contracts will be issued for road and infrastructure construction that would finish at the end of 2014. It is expected that work will begin on the parks and pedestrian bridge at least by 2015.

The Providence Zoning Ordinance allows for interim use, which it defines as “temporary or transitional development, including uses that provide public amenities, cultural events, and pedestrian and street-level activities. Those uses can include food trucks, “pop up” retail markets, art and outdoor performances. Although “prohibited,” surface parking lots, can be permitted as an interim use for construction projects.

 The session, moderated by Sara Kudra, an intern architect at Ed Wojcik Architects Ltd., recounted the ideas from the first charette. Most popular with that group included phytoremediation, the planting of certain species, including sunflowers that “consume” environmental pollutants as they grow; pathways that follow City Walk, a proposed East-West greenway of connecting parks, bridges, promenades, streetscapes and sidewalks; and a giant bee hive proposed by the South Side Community Land Trust, at parcel 37, the triangular lot on Hoppin Street that borders the expressway.

One of the group’s biggest concerns is “who will cut the grass,” and maintain the properties until they are finally developed? Is it the responsibility of the I-195 Redevelopment Commission?

Because parcel 4 is close to the family court and is designated as a park, the group felt it should have priority for exploring entertainment or other activities for children and their parents, who are required to be present at the location. Other ideas for park space included a giant chess set with people-sized pieces or real people as pieces; a trailer or shipping container that could be painted by local artists and function as a viewing platform to watch the construction of the large park and adjacent pedestrian bridge; “live after 5,” an after-work event that features band performances to attract the driving public away from rush-hour traffic and focus their attention on the developing park.

Some of the many other ideas were for specific parcels to be used as a soccer field, dog park; way-finding information booth; a bike- and/or car-share hub way; kayak rentals; flea markets; a tree incubator and the scheduled use of food trucks for future event planning.

On the East Side parcels, Arria Bilodeau, Head of the Bay Gateway, pointed out that Benefit Street originally extended to the waterfront, and that the “mile of history” should be signposted and accessible from there. Furthermore, the local street pattern of Fox Point is currently broken and obstructed by the blocking off of the Pike Streetintersection. She also suggested establishing circular pedestrian routes, along both sides of the Providence River, joining the pedestrian bridges, (including Point Street Bridge), that would encourage more friendly pedestrian uses.

The City of Providence currently has a citywide way-finding signage plan in the design phase that is expected to be implemented very soon. Many in the group felt strongly that the City should begin planting trees in spaces where they are already planned, like parks so they could develop into adulthood sooner.

It also was suggested that certain lots could be paved and used for parking, thereby generating interim revenue. The interim paved space could be used for cars during the workday and then as an after-hours program space for pop-up art fairs and events.

A third, concluding AIAri forumis planned for November. The group hopes to involve the Mayor’s Office, while building off existing events on the South and East sides of the city. For more information about the charette, contact Sara Kudra at




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