A neighborhood for RI's info-tech and digital media community?
By Jack Templin
After my true love - info-tech & digital media - comes my serious crush - urban planning and architecture. This is not an unusual pairing - a lot of geeks share this combination of virtual and physical interests. In fact, my crush is no small part of why I moved to Rhode Island. Between our state's incredible stock of historic homes and buildings and its urban planning triumphs like Providence's fabled river relocation, Rhode Island is a feast for those passionate about the "built environment."
Today, another huge relocation project is well underway, and it promises to change the fabric of our capital city every bit as much as the "moving of the rivers" that led to Providence being dubbed the "Renaissance City." For years now, we've watched a new stretch of Interstate 195 rise at its intersection with I-95 just south of Providence's Jewelry District. It has been impressive to witness, and will no doubt greatly improve traffic flow in, out and around Providence.
For those interested in urban and economic development though, the much more exciting aspect of the I-195 relocation project is not what's going up, but rather what will be coming down - the old stretch of I-195. Once the new I-195 is complete (scheduled for 2012), the old elevated portion of I-195, that cracking, concrete, rusting, metal mess that obtrusively snakes through the middle of Providence, will be razed. With its demise, 19.2 acres of prime center city real estate will be freed for development. Let me write that again - 19.2 acres!
Last week, the news got even better, and especially so for us geeks. On Tuesday, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, the City of Providence, and the state's Department of Transportation announced that they would be partnering on determining how best to use the land .
[Mayor David N. Cicilline:] “What’s really exciting is that we’re moving now from the idea of moving dirt and taking down highways to how we use this opportunity to grow the knowledge-based economy. I think we’ll see, as the governor mentioned, that many years from now we’ll look back on this day and this development and see that this was really one of the most important times in our city’s history”
You’re not going to find anywhere up and down the Northeastern seaboard the kind of potential that this opens up,” [RIEDC Executive Director] Kaplan said.
Kaplan has said that the state is focusing on making the area a haven for biotechnology, health-and-science, digital media, and information technology jobs.
It is awesome to see our sector so prominent in the context of this historic undertaking. Many of us would love to see RI's info-tech and digital media have a geographic center, a physical hub. And the soon to be uncovered land seems like the perfect spot. Its strengths include:
- Easy access to both I-95 and the new I-195; within walking distance of the train station's Amtrak and MBTA lines
- Proximity to many of our institutions of higher learning including Brown, RISD, and Johnson & Wales
- A funky, walkable mixed-use neighborhood with plenty of amenities, and with plenty more to come, including a big new riverfront park
- Adjacency to the state's large and growing bio-tech and medical sectors. From computational biology to medical devices to bioinformatics, there are all sorts of opportunities for our sector and the bio-tech/medical/life science industries to collaborate and innovate
Already, there are a myriad of ITDM companies in the vicinity of the old I-195 including Dynamic Diagrams, Creative Circle, SprintOut, Andera, Providence Health Solutions, Diamond Star Media, Machine Hero and Public Display, just to name a few. (See the RI Nexus Map for more.) With the relocation project, and a strategy that has the our sector prominent in the mix, I have little doubt that we can reach the critical mass of people, companies, and activity needed to make the neighborhood the true center of our community.
Stay tuned - this could be great.
Related Items (7)
|PBN Report: I-195 plans should be mixed||09.02.09||Providence Business News|
|Governor, RIDOT, RIEDC, and City of Providence Release I-195 Surplus Land Report||09.02.09||RIEDC|
|R.I., Providence partner on redevelopment plan||04.07.08||Providence Business News|
|Route 195 project will feature a long-lost look||04.03.08||Providence Journal|
|Moving Rte. 195 might reshape city’s skyline||04.02.08||Providence Journal|
|RIEDC, City of Providence and Rhode Island Department of Transportation Partner for Redevelopment of I-195 Surplus Land||04.02.08||RIEDC|
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