August 26, 2022
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza and community partners will tomorrow host the One Providence Family Celebration in the heart of Downtown Providence to preview what a reclaimed, people-centered Greater Kennedy Plaza can be. In recent months, both the City and community partners have announced investments that will significantly transform Providence’s Downtown center into the “front yard” of the city.
“As our Downtown neighborhood continues to grow, the vitality of our civic hub requires investments that serve all residents and visitors,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “We have heard loud and clear from our stakeholders and constituents that they want to see an inviting environment for community members and visitors Downtown. In recent weeks and months, we’ve seen announcements from RIPTA, developers at 111 Westminster, and Marsella Development, among others, that demonstrate a broad commitment to investing in the Greater Kennedy Plaza area. At tomorrow’s event, we will join with our partners and community members to celebrate the future of Downtown: an inclusive, people-focused, healthy, and vibrant space for families and friends to be together and enjoy each other’s company.”
The One Providence Family Celebration will close portions of Washington Street and East Approach for fun with family and friends, allowing community members and visitors to stroll the streets, grab a bite to eat, and take in some live entertainment. The celebration will run from 1:00-7:00PM. Like PVDFest, the City’s annual signature arts festival, the One Providence Family Celebration will temporarily reclaim parts of the street for people now, while simultaneously demonstrating the look and feel of the permanent future of Greater Kennedy Plaza.
“Greater Kennedy Plaza, including Burnside Park and Biltmore Park, is a critical anchor in the network of parks that run through our beautiful downtown,” said Cliff Wood, Executive Director of the Providence Foundation. “We’re thrilled to see investment and energy building for these critical public spaces and are committed to activating them into the public square that Providence residents deserve.”
Last year, the City of Providence and consulting group Arup completed a community-led vision for the future of the Greater Kennedy Plaza area that connects Downtown Providence’s public space network while maintaining an easily accessible, transit-rich environment. The City is now moving forward with three ideas inspired by the vision plan to help make Greater Kennedy Plaza more accessible and vibrant for residents and visitors alike.
The first project focuses on Washington Street and East Approach and will see the creation of a pedestrian-prioritized space, designed to slow traffic and reclaim space for all who walk, roll and bike. Washington Street and East Approach will be raised up to provide a surface flush with the sidewalks and plazas on either side of the street. The second project is the construction of a small food pavilion in Kennedy Plaza, activating the area and attracting people to Downtown Providence, while providing the type of basic amenities that support daily users of the Greater Kennedy Plaza area, Kennedy Plaza programming, and surrounding residential and commercial investments. Additionally, the City was awarded $7.8 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program to fully design and engineer improvements and resiliency upgrades to the Providence Riverwalk and Waterplace Park, including a new elevated connector to linking these space to Greater Kennedy Plaza.
“We asked our community members what kind of future they imagined for Greater Kennedy Plaza and now we’re excited to get to work on making their bold and innovative ideas a reality,” said Bonnie Nickerson, Director of Providence City Planning. “These parallel investments in our Downtown center demonstrate a broadly shared commitment to create a safe, comfortable, and welcoming space that prioritizes people.”
Among other recently announced plans for the future of Greater Kennedy Plaza, Marsella Development recently announced their plans for a 30,000 square foot food hall, including indoor and outdoor space for residents and visitors to enjoy. The food hall will fill the vacancy on the ground floor of One Union Station and is set to open during the spring of 2023.
“For more than four decades, our family has been committed to the growth and success of downtown Providence, beginning with my father’s leadership role in the implementation of Capital Center and the renovation of historic Union Station,” said Christopher Marsella, President, Marsella Development. “We are proud to continue that tradition through numerous investments in the City, especially our more-than $23 million investment in the food hall, which will draw tens of thousands of residents, students, and visitors alike to the greater Kennedy Plaza area.”
Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) has begun the process of transitioning their downtown operations to a new facility on Dorrance Street. In May, an RFP was issued to move this new facility forward. The new downtown hub investment will prioritize the rider experience and improve facilities for riders. Covered bus berths, digital transit screens, new amenities including restrooms, and commercial space, will all serve as upgrades to the current hub in Kennedy Plaza. Beyond the improved transit experience, the new facility will include a mix of uses that could include space for needed affordable and workforce housing.
“At this intersection between our past, present and future, RIPTA is excited that the next evolution of Kennedy Plaza will take place in conjunction with the new Dorrance St. Transit Center,” said Scott Avedisian, Rhode Island Public Transit Authority CEO. “We’re developing a state-of-the-art transit center for our passengers, while also creating a center of activity and commerce for the community, as well. Working together, we can strengthen and transform our capital city.”
Finally, the recently announced redevelopment of 111 Westminster Street into housing will reanimate the former Industrial Trust building with mixed-income housing, infusing the Downtown center with people while stimulating local business, creating jobs, and preserving a cherished city landmark. With 285 units and approximately 500 new residents, Greater Kennedy Plaza’s future seems full of people and possibilities.
“As the Councilman for Downtown, I’m incredibly excited about the future of the heart of our city,” said Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1). “I’d like to thank the Mayor and community partners for their leadership in reimagining a safe, accessible, and vibrant Downtown public space that all walks of life can truly enjoy. These significant investments will revitalize Downtown for residents and visitors alike, all while spurring critical economic development and vitality in the Capital City.”
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WHAT: One Providence Family Celebration
WHERE: Kennedy Plaza – Washington Street and East Approach
WHEN: Saturday, August 27, 2022, 1-7 PM