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I-195 relocation makes room for development

The original park area plans have changed to include an eight-story building by the river

Plans for a riverfront park on land previously taken up by I-195 have been modified to allow for the development of a building with up to eight stories and 3,000 square feet of available space.

The park area was originally designated to be six acres of green space, but new plans have carved out about 1.5 acres near the street edge of the park for development, said Colin Kane, chairman of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission.

The building will have “extraordinary views” and a “real iconic location,” Kane said.

The commission chose to develop a portion of the park because it was looking for a parcel to sell and felt the park was too large, said Arthur Salisbury, president of the Jewelry District Association.

The commission will not profit from the sale — it will use the proceeds to contribute to paying back the bond the state gave the commission to acquire the I-195 land, Kane said.

The original plans “didn’t really activate the water’s edge or the park’s edge,” Kane said.

Instead of the land remaining a relatively inactive six acres of green space, “the commission started to think of some ideas to get additional development out of the land,” said Bonnie Nickerson, director of long-range planning for the city of Providence.

“The statements they have made so far indicate that they have concerns about the activity in the park,” Salisbury said, and developing a building that could have restaurants and retail in the first floor would activate the area.

The commission will have strong authority over how the parcel is used and will be charged with selecting a developer and approving the design, Salisbury said.

In addition to activating the area, the Jewelry District Neighborhood Association would like to see the development used as a residential building or a hotel to allow for more “mixed use” in the neighborhood.

A residential or hotel development would energize a “24/7 active environment downtown,” Kane said, while an office building would have “more of a daytime presence.” The size of the parcel may allow for a combination of the uses, he said. “Three thousand square feet is a lot of building to be built in Providence.”

Salisbury added that residents or guests could take advantage of restaurants and cultural activities.

The development will include a walkway through the site — from the park into the Jewelry District — and possible plans for an arch opening are being drafted, Salisbury said. The pathway will allow for a connection to the “city walk,” which aims to link areas of the city through scenic parks and pedestrian routes, he added.

The pathway through the site would naturally divide the land and create two separate parcels for development if needed, Salisbury said.

The parcel may be sold as one of the last pieces of I-195 land because the commission “feels it’s going to be the most valuable parcel,” due to its views that will overlook both the park and the water, Salisbury said. It will also be in walking distance of “cultural, educational and business opportunities in the city” and will not obstruct other people’s views, Kane said.

While the parcel will be of greater value once the park has been completed around spring of 2016, it may be sold before, Kane said. “How the actual sales will sequence, we don’t know yet,” he said.

While it is too early to identify potentially interested developers, the commission expects the parcel will draw great interest, Kane said. The commission will aim to spread the word and “bring the parcel and the opportunity to the market,” Kane said.


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