City of Providence advances plans for transformative public infrastructure investments, announces unified vision for downtown public spaces

Jackie Wei Green Jackie Wei Green Americas Head of Communications,Los Angeles
12 November 2020

Mayor Jorge O. Elorza and the Department of Planning and Development today announced the selection of an expert consultant team to lead the City’s plans to invest in critical infrastructure and placemaking in Greater Kennedy Plaza. Arup will lead the vision for a $16M public investment project, catalyzing downtown economic development, public space activation, accessibility and connectivity.

Creating safe and accessible public spaces is salient to great placemaking. In the past decade, the public investments made in Downtown Providence have cemented Providence’s reputation as a fun and captivating destination. As we continue our work to re-envision public spaces, these investments will further accelerate Downtown’s transformations and continue to drive economic development across the City. ” Jorge Elorza Mayor of Providence

Over the years, Greater Kennedy Plaza has gone through several physical transformations. As Downtown continues to grow and the demographics of the City change, the vitality of Downtown’s Civic hub requires investments that serve all residents and visitors. By creating a unified vision for the public spaces that compliments both the existing uses and future conditions, the City will foster increased business activity, attract visitors, spur artistic and cultural expression, and ultimately create a safer and more accessible City.

Downtown Providence Downtown Providence

With this investment and through our engagement with the Arup team and community stakeholders, we have an opportunity to showcase the increasingly important role of civic, public space and emerge from 2020 ready to lead by example of how to create a place for all of our residents to enjoy more activities, and more living outdoors in our city’s heart.
Bonnie Nickerson Director of the Department of Planning and Development

The project work focuses on Waterplace Park and the Downtown RiverWalk, the BankNewport Skating Rink, Memorial Boulevard and Exchange Terrace tunnels, and the central plaza area within Kennedy Plaza. As part of the unified vision for the area, placemaking modifications include: a cohesive artistic lighting plan; shade structures and two temporary liner buildings at the Providence Rink; a utility plan for Waterplace Park, the tunnels, and Riverwalk between Francis and Steeple streets; a programming plan for the central plaza area at Kennedy Plaza; and a series of modifications to make Waterplace Park and the Riverwalk more accessible and pedestrian friendly. Overall climate resilience in Waterplace Park and along the Riverwalk will also be addressed.

In a time of redefinition of our public spaces, we are planning for the human experience to be at the center of the design process. The feedback that we hear from the community will provide the foundation for how we approach our plans and designs, There has never been a more important time for us to set a new benchmark for inclusivity, equity, respect and ownership of these shared spaces, ensuring that accessibility means access for all, not just for some. ” Alban Bassuet headshot Alban Bassuet Associate Principal, Boston Acoustics Lead

As part of the design and planning phase, the City and Arup are collaborating to create a public website portal that enables users to virtually navigate the 8.6-acre site, view photos of existing site conditions and provide direct feedback to the project team to help inform the planning, design and development process. The website will launch on a later date to be announced.  A robust public engagement process will be an integral part of the development and implementation of the project through regular consultations with all stakeholders and community members. Arup will be collaborating on the design and community engagement process with a Providence-based team that includes landscape architecture firm Stimson, architecture firm Ultramoderne, and Manuel Cordero.

These improvements will be implemented in three phases. Phase I/II are financed through Mayor Jorge Elorza FY2020-FY2024 Comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). During CY 2020 – 2023, $12.8 Million of CIP funds will help propel the plan into action. During Phase III, an additional $4 Million will be deployed through the Rhode Island State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). 

Providence has seen a historic increase in major development projects across the City. In 2019 alone, more than 70 major development projects were under construction, in plan review, or undergoing the permitting process. These developments, coupled with city-connectivity initiatives like Great Streets, are foundational elements of Downtown’s transformation into a thriving business, residential and cultural district.