It is encouraging to see private investment in marginal “Main Street” corridors and squares. Public investment and city zoning revisions have also induced this development, in response to the continually improving economy. The Rhode Island Commerce Corp.’s Main Street Improvement Fund has granted the city $75,000. The funds will be focused near the Warren Ave. intersection with Waterfront Dr. in Watchemoket Sq. The project is aimed at ensuring safe vehicular, pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access to the waterfront. The draft scope includes wayfinding and branding signs, linkages to existing arts and entertainment businesses, new dedicated pathways to the waterfront, landscaping, and aesthetic lighting. This funding opportunity allows the city to create the environment for a successful arts and entertainment district as well as a safe and inviting entrance into the waterfront.
Taunton Ave., which prior to the construction of I-195, was the main east-west thoroughfare in the city, is also seeing private investment. A developer has proposed redevelopment of a long-term vacant building to include mixed-use second floor residential units and first floor retail.
Another, on a site where a former theatre stood, is also proposing a mix of residential units and ground floor retail. Other businesses that have recently reinvested along Taunton Ave. include an enlarged and updated liquor store/cigar lounge, an established popular bakery, and a sandwich shop, all added to the existing uses including government offices and a library. Improvement of Taunton Ave. to a vibrant mixed-use street, on a transit line, with 24-hour activity has been a long-term goal of the city.
Diane Feather, AICP, is acting planning director and Pamela Sherrill, AICP, is waterfront planner and executive director of the East Providence Waterfront Commission.