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Plans for bridge, parks resume

Pedestrian bridge connecting East Side, Jewelry District to feature cafe, fishing piers

A pedestrian bridge connecting the Jewelry District to the East Side is set to begin construction in summer 2016, setting in motion plans that were put on hold by a series of setbacks. Development of a 2-acre park and a 5-acre park on the east and west sides of the Providence River, respectively, is also underway.

The pedestrian bridge will be built on former highway land once designated as the potential site of a new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium. Deliberations over the stadium deal dragged on between PawSox representatives and the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission over the past year, delaying plans for the bridge.

Providence residents expressed disapproval while the deal was being negotiated. When the University priced the additional land needed by the PawSox to build the stadium at $15 million, the deal fell through, The Herald reported at the time.

Almost 90 percent of the Jewelry District Association’s 55 voting members voted in favor of the parks and the bridge rather than the PawSox ballpark.

“There was a lot of talk. There were a lot proposals floating back and forth,” said Dyana Koelsch, spokeswoman for the I-195 Commission.

“It’s not new,” Koelsch added. “We were always going to have a park.”

In June 2014, the bridge was supposed to be completed by spring 2016, and the parks were supposed to be finished by fall 2016, the Providence Journal reported. But a revised timeline from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation reported that construction on the bridge will begin summer 2016, and construction on the parks will begin 12 to 18 months afterwards.

Bridge construction was put on pause in March due to a technical issue and once again in June due to funding issues. The design of the bridge is 90 percent complete, and the design of park is 30 percent complete, Koelsch said.

In 2009, the I-195 Pedestrian Bridge Committee initiated meetings about design concepts for a pedestrian bridge, and the city settled upon the creation of a Selection Committee to generate a design contest. Specifications included that the design must incorporate the theme of the “city’s history, innovation, creativity, design excellence,” according to a brochure published by the Providence Department of Planning and Development. Later in 2010, a design by the firm inFORM Studio was selected.

“We have been planning this park and the bridge for 12 years,” said Arthur Salisbury, president of the Jewelry District Association, who served on both the committee to select the bridge designer and park designer.

The State Transportation Improvement Program currently lists the budget for the bridge at $6 million, while the current budget estimate is $5.5 million.

The bridge’s east side opens up toward James Street and Transit Street, in addition to offering access to a riverfront walk to the north and south. The west side bridge opens up to a sculpture and wildflower garden. The garden provides for several paths toward Ship Street, Dorrance Street Promenade, Peck Street and the Riverwalk.

The bridge will be made of glue-laminated timber and high strength steel tension rods to foster a “warm aesthetic,” according to a brochure published by inFORM Studio. The bridge will be 12 feet in width and 65 feet in length.

The bridge will have multiple tiers, which will include a cafe, space for vendors, bench seating, planters and access to fishing piers.

The City of Providence will own the bridge once construction is complete, and the I-195 Commission will maintain the structure.

The park will draw more business to the district, Salisbury said. Business owners want a “good place to live, good place to work and good place to recreate,” he said.

Salisbury said he is most excited about connecting residents from both sides of the river to other neighborhoods. The parks will also provide much-needed open space in the Jewelry District, he said.

Currently, the majority of the land freed by the relocation of I-195 is vacant. But once the land is developed, these parks will be “the only open space left,” Salisbury said, adding, “I can’t wait for them to get it started.” 


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