Wednesday, November 11, 2009
In a move that will likely encourage other cities to follow its example, city leaders in Providence, Rhode Island, have decided to relocate a major highway from the heart of downtown to its outskirts. Providence is also the city which, two decades earlier, uncovered two rivers it had previously paved over--the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck Rivers--repointing their convergence for aesthetic reasons. For a full report about the highway relocation, see Elizabeth Abbot, Removing a Barrier: Relocating an Interstate Allows a New England City to Reconnect, New York Times (Nov. 11, 2009). Officials hope to entice Brown University and Johnson & Wales (the culinary college) to purchase parcels in the shadows of where the highway once stood. This area, also known as the Jewelry District, was originally connected to downtown Providence before the construction of the highway. Once built, the highway severed this connection. Following demolition of the old highway, Providence will begin work on establishing a new street grid. In addition to reconnecting the area to downtown, the new street grid will connect the District to the waterfront. Providence envisons there a new city park complete with an amphitheater and sculpture garden. Local neighborhood groups are in the process of lobbying for a new transport hub, one that would include ferries. Although completing these projects will take time in light of Providence's deteriorating economy, it is hoped that improved land use--achieved using New Urbanist principles--will yield economic benefits in the years to come.
Will Cook, Charleston School of Law