University News

Committee reimagines Thayer Street

The group’s ideas for improvements address parking, public transit and beautification

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, September 13, 2013

A major effort brought forth by city departments, consulting firms and the public would revamp parking, public transit and aesthetics on the city’s popular Thayer Street. Herald file photo.

The Thayer Street Planning Study committee, several Providence city departments and a collection of private consulting firms have been working with the public over recent months to envision what the future may hold for a several-block area surrounding Thayer Street.

The study is still in draft form, meaning no modifications to the area’s infrastructure are scheduled for the immediate future, said Robin Remy, executive director of the Thayer Street District Management Authority. But measures to improve security on Thayer have already been taken and may soon be accompanied by other alterations, like furthering parking accommodations, improving public transportation services and revamping the aesthetics and culture of the area.

Last spring, NBBJ — a planning and design firm collaborating with other consulting firms to create a comprehensive set of recommendations for the area — began gathering input to identify issues of particular interest to the Thayer Street community, said Alan Mountjoy, principal at NBBJ.

NBBJ held several focus group sessions over the summer to allow interested parties to voice their opinions on the recommendations, Mountjoy said. The College Hill Neighborhood Association hosted a public meeting June 26 to review a draft study prepared by the consultant team. The discussion provided an opportunity to “test the community’s comfort level” with potential changes, Mountjoy said.

“There seemed to be a fair level of comfort” with changing the area, though there also seemed to be reluctance to see its appearance completely transformed, he said. “There was surprisingly a lot of interest in changing the uses around Thayer Street” and community members expressed a willingness to explore diversifying the area’s offerings, he added.

NBBJ has worked to incorporate the comments and ideas from the June meeting into the plan over the past couple months, and Mountjoy said the new plan will include more concrete proposals.

The updated version is currently under review by the Providence Department of Planning and Development, but it will be released to the stakeholder members of the Thayer Street Planning Study committee in the near future, said Karen Jessup, interim director of the Providence Preservation Society.

The stakeholders will have about two weeks to discuss the plan individually and will generate comments by Sept. 26, Jessup said. Then representatives from those groups will meet in early October to try to reconcile their reactions before sending collective stakeholder feedback to the consultants, Jessup said. “Everybody around that table is not going to agree about the consultant report recommendations,” but discussion to reconcile differences in stakeholder visions provides an opportunity to improve the plan, she added.

The stakeholders’ collective comments will then be incorporated into the NBBJ study, Mountjoy said. From there, it will be presented to the public for reactions and comments that NBBJ will consider before releasing the finalized study, he added.

When the final version of the plan is released, “it doesn’t become law immediately,” Mountjoy said — instead, it should provide “a coordinated roadmap” for future development of the area. The study “is a way for all the players to coordinate their individual efforts” and aims to encourage collaboration among the stakeholders, Mountjoy said.


Read the articles in our spread:

Development: Construction may bring hotel, landscaping

Transportation: Thayer to receive parking improvements

Public safety: Initiatives aimed to up safety on Thayer


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