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Consultants Prescribe Sidewalk Cafes, Two Way Streets, Bike Path For Downtown

Experts outline how improving amenities, access will make downtown Woonsocket more active.

 

About 25 people attended the Main Street Recommendations Workshop at Stage Right Studio, 68 South Main St. to hear how three experts would redesign downtown Woonsocket to make it more accessible and business-friendly.

First, Eunice Kim from the Cecil Group, who outlined many of the public's suggestions for the downtown/Main Street area. She said they'd focused their efforts on those suggestions, choosing changes that would make the area more attractive and safer. 

While there are good elements of Main Street, Kim said, like Stadium Theatre and Chans, more work needs to be done to connect those elements, "So people have a reason, if they go to Chan's, for example, to walk down and see the other things that are there," she said.

Kim said they studied ways to create an outdoor cafe atmosphere on Main Street, encourage more live-work units and encourage artists studios and galleries.

She also suggested using an overlay district to allow tempoarary uses on Main Street like pop-up retail shops and food trucks. Kim showed photos of a largely unused open market area in one city where food trucks were brought in during the work week, creating a busy lunchtime spot for area businesses. Under-used areas of Main Street could also be used for art installations, outdoor theatre or urban agriculture, she said.

Francisco Gomes from Fitzgerald & Halliday echoed comments made earlier in week by Economic Development Director Matt Wojcik about parking availalble to serve Main Street. "We have a lot of excess capacity in your parking," Gomes said, but people don't know where.  

The biggest change Gomes suggested was turning several streets along Main Street into two-way streets, which he said could be done with minimal loss of on-street parking in the area. High Street could be converted with the loss of just three parking spots. Arnold Street would lose eight spots. Clinton Street would lose three spots. "So all told, it's about 25 spaces that would be lost," Gomes said. But allowing two-way traffic through those areas of Main Street and around the downtown area would make getting to Main Street destinations much easier, he said, and make Main Street a more attractive destination.

Phil Goff from Alta Planning and Design said you have to be already familiar with the area to know where parking is. He suggested directing drivers to the parking with signs, which he said the city might be able to get a grant to help pay for.

Goff also pointed out how much traffic Truman Drive can handle compared to how much traffic actually passes along it - 9,000 cars per day versus 40,000. "Truman Drive is really ripe for a road diet," Goff said.

Goff suggested paring down Truman Drive to a two-lane road, freeing up about 30 feet of space for a bike path with a gradual ramp up to the Court Street Bridge, providing access to Main Street.

Councilman Christopher Beauchamp said the RIPTA bus stop on Main Street causes a lot of accidents, and ought to be moved. "I agree with you and we are looking at some locations that are more realistic," Goff said. One member of the crowd suggested space along Clinton Street, which has a lot of space to spare.

"People need to feel safe on Main Street," said Larry Poitras. He said most people who see shows at Stadium Theatre are from out of town and don't know where they're going in the dark after a performance. He suggested bringing walking beat policemen back to the city.

One member of the crowd asked Goff how to get started. "I think the idea is to tackle it one thing at a time," Goff said, doing what the city can afford slowly, taking advantage of grant money to start the changes. "We're identifying a lot of low-hanging fruits here," Goff said.

Dagny Taggart December 18, 2012 at 02:58 PM
These are a few of the suggestions I have been making for years, however, if you don't enhance the economic climate you won't get folks to open "cafes" or attract business. You need to attract the arts and cultural community....this is the perfect garden for that to grown. Sprinkle in incentives for artists to live and work in their studio spaces in some of the mill buildings that are currently vacant. Use some of the best practices and principals used in other successful mill cities. :-)
CB11 December 18, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Sounds like these people are touring Cambridge, Ma not Woonsocket, RI - outdoor cafes? bike paths? 2-way lanes? ... the first thing you have to do is get the crack addicts, drug dealers and prostitutes out of the area. It's become a really scummy part of town - until you clean that out, no one decent is going to consider going there to have any outdoor dining experience never mind opening a business to support it! "Hey- let's go have dinner at that cute little spot between the run-down secondhand store and the tattoo parlor where we can suck up the exhaust fumes from the traffic while we eat" .....the planners need a reality check!
David Soucy December 18, 2012 at 04:40 PM
This is all really exciting and needs to be kept on the front burner so to speak. It's vital that our city leadership, from the Mayor on down (Budget commission) take this stuff not only seriously, but commit publicly to seeing that this and other studies are acted on....Even a slow steady movement towards theses shared visions will go a long way. Woonsockets renewal and revival can't happen without our leaders taking the lead...seems simple, but true.
Lotus Lily December 18, 2012 at 05:03 PM
CB11 I am with you, this all sounds good on paper but the reality is this city has turned into the armpit of the state and till the city does something about it NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WILL WANT TO OPEN SHOP IN THE AREA!!!!! Can we please come back to reality now?????
Local Resident December 18, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Your response is hillarious!!! Yet sadly so true....
Dean Kamen Beringer December 18, 2012 at 08:37 PM
I am a new owner of a converted mill loft in Woonsocket having moved from Pawtucket where I rented in a similar mill loft .Most of my neighbors in Pawtucket were artists who moved into the area because of the incentives for artisans and they made wonderful neighbors who really cared about the neighborhood. This kind of incentive has been hugely successful in bringing in new business into that city as well as an excellent quality of educated neighbors who really care about the community they live in and strive to promote and shop in local businesses including the very successful farmers market at the Hope street building.Numerous artist festivals have also made a dynamic affect in the business traffic coming into the area from all over Rhode Island and nearby New England states. Pawtucket is on the precipice of the cafe style downtown you mention.The foundations they have laid are strong and they are only a few steps away from realizing the dream.Bringing incentives for artists is a proven method for revitalizing a sagging downtown economy and safety always follows as people begin to come together to form such a community.I invested my future here in Woonsocket in the hopes that it's citizens will realize the benefit of this idea which has brought prosperity to many many other cities.
Steve December 18, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Dean, good luck to you and your counterparts as they move Woonsocket forward. Your post is right on target. And by the way, those lofts that you talk about look very nice, welcome to Woonsocket!
Dagny Taggart December 18, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Dean, I have been trying to get the Mayor and the City government to listen to this idea and plan for many years to no avail. I am hoping that with the support of the community and voices with experience, such as yourself, that perhaps they will understand the inate value in such an approach. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience. I know it works. I lived in Portsmouth NH before it became the thriving City it is now...and it all started with "a button factory" . :-)
Mew December 18, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Mr.Beringer, I applaude you for moving to Woon. But I must agree with the above statement, we have to get the drunks, drug addicts beggars off of Main Street!! I would love to sit out and have lunch there but not if I have to worry about every undesireable on Main Steer!! I never go there now for that reason. I give you credit for trying and wish you the very best.!! I have long wished we could have side walk cafe's on Main Street. but, not at this time.!! It's just horrible walking that once great street. Im old enough to remember Main Stree at it's best and you will never see it again!! TRUST ME!!!!!
Still Hope December 18, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Vino's doesn't serve dinner.
Michael Dubois December 19, 2012 at 12:01 AM
The first step in any process of change is identifying areas in need of improvements, or as I refer to them as, opportunities. The Main Street area of Woonsocket has some wonderful features. The northern end has The Stadium, Ciro's, Chan's & the depot. The southern portion consist of Vintage, River Falls/ Cityside, Museum of Work and Culture and River Island park. There is a huge opportunity that exist from City Hall to Vintage. Identifying where we would like to see Main Street in the future may seem unreasonable to some, but you must create a vision and coordinate all parties to strive towards a common goal. Everyone in the city needs to support moving the city toward prosperity. We need everyone to start talking about Woonsocket with pride again. Yes, the city has challenges, but what are we telling others with our actions and comments about the city. I was born and raised in Woonsocket and currently live in Bellingham. But I still call Woonsocket home. I shop and dine in Woonsocket almost exclusively. There is no one that would like to see the city improve more than me. Let's all encourage and embrace any effort for change.
Lesley McLaughlin December 19, 2012 at 04:38 AM
Dagny, RiverzEdge, next to the Museum of Work and Culture, is 'growing' artists - and the building they're in has a nice gallery. I like the idea as presented in the article. It will take a lot of political will to make it happen!
Dean Kamen Beringer December 19, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Pawtucket had the very same situation with drunks,drug addicts and the like as did downtown Denver CO. and Portland OR, all cities where I have been a resident over the years.The process takes time and a willingness of a community to not only identify the problem,but offer tangible solutions.We can whine all we want about how bad things are and accomplish nothing or we can set goals to aspire to and take advantage of the assets in front of us.People have to start caring about the community again.Woonsocket has some great long standing business here with a wealth of history and some of the friendliest people I have met anywhere in these United States ! I'm consistently impressed with the service I have received at local businesses. Asthetics always play an important role in how people view their city. Cleaning up streets of decay and is just as important as cleaning up the"undesirables".The process goes hand in hand.Give people a beautiful city to live in makes them want to protect it and stay.Bringing art and artists into the city is a key as is repairing and finding new uses for the great old buildings and architecture that exists here as is keeping city parks and monuments clean,repaired and safe.I've seen it happen.It can be done. "Whatever contributes to the sustaining of vision,beauty,imagination in a people is of prime importance in national life.Let beauty fade, and in some mysterious way public spirit, sacrifice and enthusiasm also vanish from society." -W.B.Yeats
Dagny Taggart December 19, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Yes Dean, I could not agree more. My husband and I were on board with the restoration of The Stadium Theater and would love to take the Veterans Park (where the Autumnfest is held) and make an outdoor performance space with an open market that can be used 3 or even 4 seasons if people want to do a Christmastime market. There are so many wonderful ideas if people want to get involved and volunteer their time. The possibilities are endless! I hope more folks decide that they want to make a contribution in the restoration of this City.
MainStreetWoon January 18, 2013 at 07:03 PM
I'm really encouraged by the many positive, knowledgeable comments accompanying this article. I was, of course, at the meeting the article speaks of and the plans really do allow one to see how worthwhile investment in Woonsocket really is. We already have a lot of really great stuff, and with just a little work (which you have to keep up with anyway..it's just part of being a city) we could really capitalize on our district in ways we've been a little slow to do in recent years. Several people here have mentioned that many of the negatives of the district will fade away as a natural result of revitalization, and I'd like to echo that point. I don't want to speak of these unfortunate circumstances as mere "inconveniences" for the rest of us, but the points made ring true in the framework of this conversation. The main point being that we don't have to "wait" for those changes to occur before making efforts. They will come as a result of our efforts. I also noticed that commenters are aware that these goals will require efforts from both our leaders and from us citizens. This is also encouraging to see. If any of you are interested getting involved in these things, please reach out to me. Community enthusiasm is always a big part of these things. Thanks for being so great everyone. We have a great little city here and if we choose to care for it, it'll stay that way.
jason February 25, 2013 at 03:01 PM
all this sounds very nice how much are the property taxes going to go up for this proj. listen talking about cafes and other businesses is great but until this city can get thier financial problems in order nobody in thier right mind is gonna bring a new business to this city and if they do that person needs to jump thru hoops to get the ok from the clown (city) council thier giving a new business a hard time right now (pawn shop) i know its not the best kind of business but beggars cant be chooses!!!
MainStreetWoon March 15, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Hi everyone - just wanted to follow up and let you know the final presentation for this plan is coming up: Please Attend: Woonsocket Main Street Livability Plan Presentation Wednesday, April 3, 2013 6 PM to 8:30 PM at Ciro's Tavern on Cherry, Hampton Room, 42 Cherry Street, Woonsocket, RI 02895 We will be discussing the final Woonsocket Main Street Livability Plan, which recommends changes to streetscape, zoning and transportation patterns to revitalize the Main Street area. Light refreshments will be available. Please RSVP by Monday, April 1, 2013 to Jennifer Siciliano at 401-767-1418 or jsiciliano@woonsocketri.org

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