Mayor Elorza unveils community led vision for Kennedy Plaza

Mayor Elorza Unveils Community Led Vision for Kennedy Plaza 

PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza Thursday joined City and State elected officials, staff from the City’s Planning and Development Department, representatives from the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), the Providence Foundation, the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy (DPPC), and the Providence Parks Department, as well as business leaders and community members to unveil a vision for Kennedy Plaza that was created through a robust public engagement planning process.

“Vibrant public spaces are a big part of Providence’s reputation as a fun and captivating destination,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza. “I’m thrilled that this vision will help transform Kennedy Plaza into a true civic heart for our city by taking into account what we have heard directly from the public.”

Over the past several months, the City held two community meetings to gather public input on the future of Kennedy Plaza. Through these meetings and additional community outreach efforts, the City heard from bus riders, surrounding property owners, and residents about their ideas for the Plaza. Among the highest priorities, community members expressed a desire to centralize bus service, improve safety and security, increase connectivity between the multiple spaces, make it easier to walk and bike through the area and enhance the Plaza as a vibrant and welcoming public space.

“We are excited for this next step in the evolution of Greater Kennedy Plaza into a vibrant destination for Rhode Island families, workers, and visitors,” said Cliff Wood, Executive Director for the Providence Foundation. “We look forward to continued progress and partnership with Mayor Elorza and our colleagues in and across the city and state as we transform this shared public space into a world class civic center.”

City planners worked closely with RIPTA officials and community members while exploring various concepts for the way buses could interact with the Plaza, ranging from circulating the outskirts of the greater plaza area on Exchange Terrace and Fulton Street, to a consolidated presence on Washington Street in the center of the Plaza.

The vision unveiled builds on the most recent reconfiguration of the Plaza completed in 2015. Due to two new projects that have emerged since then, the Downtown Transit Connector and the Providence Intermodal Transportation Center, as well as concerns regarding pedestrian safety, the City took the lead on developing a revised vision for the Plaza.

Both the Downtown Transit Connector and Intermodal Center will change how RIPTA buses move through and use the Plaza. The Intermodal Center being planned by RIDOT will provide additional space for buses and passengers closer to the Providence train station in Capital Center. The Downtown Transit Connector, being funded by a $13 million United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant awarded to the City, will realign existing RIPTA bus routes to serve an enhanced transit corridor that will run from the Hospital District to the Providence Train Station.  It will include stops at Kennedy Plaza and the I-195 redevelopment area. Construction on the Downtown Transit Connector is expected to begin in Spring 2018. Changes will begin to be made to Kennedy Plaza during construction of the Connector project.

This new vision, supported by various stakeholders, will transform Greater Kennedy Plaza into an active, vibrant, safe and attractive city center; connect Burnside Park, the skating rink, and Biltmore Park; improve pedestrian safety; create space for programming and revenue generating activities; provide more intuitive boarding areas for RIPTA passengers; and better balance the impacts of bus activity on surrounding properties and businesses-- all while maintaining a transit-rich environment in the Plaza.

Highlights include: 
?    Between the skating rink and Burnside Park, East Approach will be closed to buses and cars creating a single connected park space between Biltmore and Burnside Parks.
?    A new prominent crosswalk will be created in the center of the Plaza, improving pedestrian safety and creating a welcoming front door from Fulton Street, to the Plaza, and across Washington Street through to Burnside Park.
?    To the east of the new crosswalk location, the Plaza between Fulton and Washington Street will be transformed into a new public space with shaded seating, landscaping, and public art.
?    Fulton Street will be converted to a two-way street with parallel parking on both sides to improve vehicular circulation surrounding the Plaza. 
?    Concentrating RIPTA service and bus berth locations on Washington Street, making it two-way for buses only, rerouting car travel to Fulton Street.  
?    Longer-term improvements, such as future buildings around the Skating rink, and redesigning the Plaza in front of the skating rink, are envisioned to increase capacity for events at the rink and the visibility of the rink, while providing additional space for cafes, offices, bathrooms, and warming areas for rink patrons.

Over the next several weeks, the City will continue to work in partnership with RIPTA and RIDOT to determine project phasing and timing to ensure that changes to the Plaza are made in coordination with construction of the Downtown Transit Connector, the Exchange Street Improvement Project and the future Providence Intermodal Center. 

(release from City of Providence) 

The CW