City and University officials announced several planned changes to the Thayer Street commercial district — including new green space, a trash compactor, re-paving and re-lining, signage and changes to curbs — at a press conference Tuesday morning.
The public announcement, led by President Christina Paxson and Mayor Angel Taveras on the corner of Waterman and Thayer streets, comes after 18 months of collaboration and planning between Providence, the University and other stakeholders from Thayer and the surrounding area. The improvements are slated to begin this summer and continue for six months with funding from the University, the city and the Thayer Street District Management Authority, Taveras said.
Providence and the District Management Authority plan to invest $10,000 to build a parklet — parking spaces converted into a public seating area — in front of the Brown Bookstore. The University will widen sidewalks in front of City Sports and Blue State Coffee, decorate the exterior with trees and outdoor furniture and donate space on Fones Alley for a trash compactor.
The District Management Authority plans to fund the parklet and contribute to cleaning and maintenance costs, among other projects, Taveras said.
The announcement comes at a time when the University has shown significant commitment to the city and community, Taveras said. “Brown has recently expanded its summer offerings so that more Providence children can have an opportunity to learn about Brown,” he added. The city announced last month that Brown would add 32 spots to its summer programs, mostly targeted at Providence high schoolers who would be first-generation college students, as part of a program involving several local colleges.
The University has also allocated funds for 20 college scholarships of $2,500 each for Providence public high school graduates, Taveras added.
The University has helped support the District Management Authority in the past with snow removal, security and infrastructure projects, Paxson said. “As part of the strategic planning that we did last year, we identified Thayer Street as a central rib for the University. Today marks a new stepped-up level of commitment to invest in this area,” she added.
“These investments are so important to the businesses and academic vitality of the area,” said Donna Personeus, executive director of the District Management Authority. The organization “operates as a business improvement district and oversees the management and maintenance of the district,” and is governed by a board of directors made up of district property owners, merchants and University representatives, Personeus said.
The collaboration of stakeholders on the Thayer Street Planning Study greatly influenced the implementation plan, said Allison Spooner, president of the College Hill Neighborhood Association.
The College Neighborhood Association will establish an operational guide for current businesses on Thayer and for new businesses considering the area. The guide — expected to be completed this fall — will include expectations of the planning study committee, details of city regulations for procedures like trash and snow removal and information on zoning regulations or other city ordinances, Spooner said. Violations and penalties will also be clearly defined, Spooner added.
The Thayer Street improvements are an opportunity to strengthen the strategic partnership between the University and Providence, said Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations and moderator of the event.
Thayer Street is not only for Brown students, Paxson said. “This street represents an intersection of people from very different backgrounds – it’s Brown and (the Rhode Island School of Design) and (the Wheeler School), and business owners and people who live in the community, sometimes for many generations."