Another Misstep From the 195 Commission – Architecture Critic Morgan – GoLocalProv

Another Misstep From the 195 Commission – Architecture Critic Morgan – GoLocalProv

Sunday, December 19, 2021


Why does almost everything that the I-195 Commission touches turn out to be architecturally second rate? How long will Providence continue to suffer from an agency that has failed to provide design leadership for a hugely significant piece of downtown development?


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Pedestrian bridge crosses the Providence River where the old interstate highway did. “Anticipated site” marks where the Food & Beverage Pavilion is to be built. I-195 Development District.



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Pedestrian bridge with site of new restrooms and restaurant just to the lower right.
PHOTO: Will Morgan

It is painfully apparent that the plans to create a spectacular innovation district were hampered by unenlightened vision. Having had the boldness to remove a scarring interstate highway from the riverfront, the city then lost courage and allowed business-as-usual piecemeal development of mostly mediocre hotels, offices, apartments, and parking garages. Furthermore, the idiocy of the proposed Fane Folly should have erased all doubt that the 195 Commission had any clue about how to inspiringly shape a city.

One exception to the clown school planning process is the pedestrian bridge over the river (although that was not without embarrassing glitches that could have been avoided by fewer political considerations). Now the commission has requested qualifications from architecture and engineering firms to build a 4,000 square feet, $2.8 million building grandly labeled the Innovation District Park Food & Beverage Pavilion. The inappropriate location of the proposed service structure is at the western approach to the pedestrian bridge.

Given the tremendous popularity of the bridge–the jewel of the jewelry district, one has to ask, what sort of fuzzy thinking would locate restrooms-cum-hot dog stand right at the entrance to the bridge?

The much-needed public restrooms were set for Parcel 14, right behind Brown’s Office of Information Technology at 220 Dyer Street. The foodservice operation was to occupy the oddly shaped of that parcel, a potentially scenic spot for dining. Mysteriously, the qualifications solicitation issued by the commission has relocated the food and beverage facility right down in the heart of the park’s open space, as well as in the middle of the sightline toward the bridge and College Hill. Do we, the citizens and taxpayers, get to know the reasons behind the change of venue? Or, perhaps it is just another instance of ineptitude?


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Properties in 195 development district. 195 Commission


Even if the food and drink structure were a beautifully designed architectural object, this scheme has it in the wrong place. The pedestrian bridge is a real asset, but this pavilion’s placement will diminish the value of the beloved signature piece of the riverside renewal. The building needs to be something special, a jewel box, something to write home about. It demands a sensitive architect to design it.


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Landscape Designers