Neighborhood News

August 2022

Posted

Brown’s plans for life sciences building and notable Jewelry District anniversaries

With approval to proceed with selecting an architect, Brown University has taken a critical first step toward realizing a long-held vision for a new integrated life sciences building in Providence’s Jewelry District neighborhood. According to a Brown spokesperson, the facility would feature state-of-the-art laboratory space for researchers in a variety of health and science disciplines, and “a location in the Jewelry District would offer researchers the proximity to enable close collaboration with scientists and physicians at Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School, the School of Public Health, the School of Engineering, and the university’s affiliated hospital partners.” On June 29, Brown announced the purchase of properties from the Care New England health system located at 200 Chestnut Street, 70 Elm Street, 261 Richmond Street, and 300 Richmond Street. After Brown selects an architect for the life sciences building, an extensive programming phase will assess factors ranging from space needs and site requirements to conceptual design and projects scale and scope. As part of that process, the university will begin to consider Jewelry District site possibilities in depth. 

The Jewelry District celebrates two anniversaries: the Providence Children’s Museum and the Jewelry District Association. A gala open house in June marked 45 years of the Children’s Museum entertaining and enlightening the young and old. "This is a museum that was founded by a group of community members who really saw a need to help children in the community of Rhode Island," says executive director Caroline Payson.

This year also marks the JDA’s 26th anniversary. Since 1997, the association has been working with the businesses and residents of the Jewelry District to make it a great place to live, work, and play. JDA president Sharon Steele pointed out how the challenges have changed over the years. “Back when the JDA was formed, the district was transforming abandoned factories into educational facilities, offices, and residences,” says Steele. “These days, we’re going through an exciting period of massive development projects: South Street Landing, the Cambridge Innovation Center, a new hotel, apartment complexes, our new riverside park, and the Michael S. Van Leesten Memorial Bridge. Projects of this scale call for close monitoring on design and zoning issues to ensure they ‘fit’ and bring valuable amenities to the community. Our volunteers are really busy!” For those looking to get involved, monthly meetings take place at South Street Landing on the second Tuesday of every month.

Events and developments around the Mile of History

Mile of History Association (MoHA) recently hosted a screening of filmmaker Salvatore Mancini's Divine Providence: The Rebirth of an American City. A must-see for those seeking deeper understanding of the city’s changes over the past five decades, the feature-length film is about the infrastructural developments and feats of engineering that have made Providence the city that it is today. For music lovers, Music in the Garden continues with boot-stomping bluegrass tunes from Saddle Up the Chicken on August 24. MoHA is a proud sponsor of the summer concert series presented by Providence Preservation Society at Shakespeare’s Head. Visit PPSRI.org for tickets.

In their efforts to help shape the development of the I-195 Parcel 2, which is the land bounded by James, South Main, Dollar, and South Water streets, MoHA brings serious concerns about the height and mass of the building currently proposed for the site. Meanwhile, the four-year project to restore the street lights along Benefit Street is proceeding, albeit at a slow pace. The proposed design of the new lanterns is under review. If approved, the first shipment may happen early in November.

Fox Point neighbors fight Gano development

As some Fox Point neighbors know, local developer Bahman Jalili is planning to build four apartment buildings, with a total of 133 units, on Gano Street at the intersection of Power Street. At a November 2021 Fox Point Neighborhood Association meeting at which Jalili presented early designs, neighbors expressed concerns about a potential influx of vehicles near a heavily trafficked roadway, as well as a potential safety hazard at the proposed entrance to a ground-level parking garage. The garage driveway, according to the developer, will be located on Power Street adjacent to the entrance to Gano Park, where individuals and families travel to access the playing fields and community garden. 

Neighbors had a second chance to express their concerns in late June at a public meeting of the City Plan Commission. After hearing testimony from traffic engineer Herman Peralta claiming that the proposed development should have “a very minor impact on traffic on Gano Street,” neighbors faulted the study for collecting data during a low-volume time of year and overlooking what neighbor Scott Moran characterized as the “lived experience” of residents who actually use the space. “It is currently impossible for two vehicles to enter and exit [from Power Street] at the same time,” he said to the Commission. “There is more use of the park than you can possibly know right now,” added resident Norma Anderson. Neighbor Nina Tannenwald of the Wayland Square Neighborhood Association went one step further, characterizing Jalili’s proposal as a “sleight of hand,” since his single project is slated to include four separate structures, each of which, on its own, is small enough to skirt City requirements for adequate parking. “While [the project] is compliant with the letter of the law,” commented neighbor Thom Mitchell, “it is definitely not compliant with the spirit of the law.”

Despite these objections, the Commission voted unanimously to approve the project with the stipulation that a comprehensive follow-up traffic study must take place after the buildings are constructed and occupied. 

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