Eleven years after its formation, the I-195 District Redevelopment Commission continues to develop several parcels of land previously occupied by Interstate 195 through Fox Point and the Jewelry District. Several projects have since been completed, while others, such as Trader Joe’s on South Main Street and the District Park Innovation Pavilion downtown, are underway.
While community members and business owners are excited about the plans, they have also expressed concerns about the potential economic and neighborhood impacts of new developments.
District I-195 Commission Updates
As part of the Providence Innovation and Design District’s September 21 commission, Executive Director Caroline Skuncik presented a report on district activities.
Trader Joe’s will open this fall in plot 6, Skuncik said. The developers and the commission “expect the grocery store to open while the rest of the project (in plot 6) continues to be under construction,” she added.
Nakia Rohde, public relations manager at Trader Joe’s, said she could not comment on schedule and construction updates at this time.
Urbanica, the developer of a separate project in Plot 2, “continues to work on its due diligence” at Fox Point, Skuncik said. The development team will be on site over the next few weeks for technical testing, she added.
The day after the August commission meeting, the commission held an information session at the park for interested operators of the Innovation District Park Pavilion.
The commission is working closely with the Pennrose team – the developer of Parcel 9, which is also just off South Main Street – on various legal dynamics and other considerations to close the property by the end of the year. year, Skuncik said. Plot 9 will include a day care center, according to Ward 1 Councilor John Goncalves ’13 MA’15.
Planning and design for Plot 9 Phase Two has also begun, with design and content plans being prepared for review later this fall.
The pavilion is “a proposed amenity of approximately 4,000 square feet including year-round dining, public restrooms, and a small support space for park operations,” according to the Providence Innovation & Design District website. The project will also include infrastructure updates, including Wi-Fi service and electrical updates in the park.
There was “a lot of interest in operating the facility,” Skuncik said.
The commission plans to hold another information session for suppliers, as well as an additional community event on the design of the pavilion. “This will be an opportunity for the public to engage directly with Utile and with ARO,” said project architect Skuncik. The date for the community event is still being finalized and will be sent out via district newsletter distribution.
There was also a presentation by D+P Real Estate and Truth Box Inc. regarding proposed development updates for Plots 8 and 8A, as well as an urban design summary by Utile, after some residents complained. worry about the design and scale of the project. D+P Real Estate and Truth Box Inc. are also developing a “mixed-use, mixed-income development” in Parcel 6 next to Trader Joe’s.
Downtown, the Emblem 125 mixed-use building “received its certificate of temporary occupancy” late the week of Sept. 12, Skuncik said. The project, which sits on plot 28, comprises 248 rental units and commercial space on the ground floor. According to Skuncik, the developers shared a strong public interest in leasing, with some tenants having already moved into the building after the TCO was received.
Reactions in the community
Commission 195 is getting “mixed reviews depending on who you ask,” Goncalves said. Some people think the project is falling short of expectations, while others are excited about the new housing developments, grocery store and daycare, he said.
“Some developments have been more difficult for the larger community and other immediate people in the neighborhood,” Goncalves said. Due to the massive scale of the project in plot 2, the community was concerned that the development would be too high and block views.
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Also, “people are concerned that things have changed to become more residential,” which means fewer jobs will be created with the developments, Goncalves said. Some of the actual land sales were lower than projected, but with many acres still up for grabs, there is hope that development will increase economic dynamism there, he added.
In plots 8/8A and 9 there are few or no immediate residential areas, so the developments have not encountered much opposition. The next child care component in Plot 9 is also “something that has the community excited,” Goncalves said.
People are looking forward to the next Trader Joe’s in plot 6 and “to have another organic (food) option in the neighborhood,” Goncalves said. The store plans to open in late October as the team is still preparing the store and hiring staff, he added.
With Plot 2, there were more seats at the table for community members to participate in the design review process, Goncalves said. We are “moving in a better direction”, he added, encouraging a continued effort to ensure that “the interests and needs of the community are valued and listened to”, particularly for future developments.
The pavilion faced an outcry from local restaurant owners who feared their business would be undermined. According to Goncalves, the commission plans to have additional input sessions with local restaurants and the local community.
“One of the things we constantly think about is making sure that whatever is offered as equipment is mindful of not disrupting what is already positively happening” in terms of businesses operating in the area, Goncalves said. The aim is to avoid “a scenario where there is undue competition which could harm some of the existing businesses”.