PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza today 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.
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.
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
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.