The relocation of I-195 in Providence, Rhode Island, nearing completion, opens up a waterfront neighborhood of perhaps a dozen blocks for redevelopment.
"Today planners for the Route 195 relocation project could again showcase urban planning at its nimble best," says David Brussat, in his column Architecture Here and There in The Providence Journal.
One key is to jettison modernist design that has dominated new development in the city in the last decade, he writes. "What we've had in Providence for the past decade is not creativity but creatoyvity -- as in the name of the toy store on Hope Street."
Brussat recommends resurrecting a 1999 plan for new development along a canal (see rendering). "With the ... old 195 being torn up, and no plan yet adopted for the new land, the Ship Street Canal concept remains feasible. It should be reconsidered."
A form-based code guiding development would be helpful, he says.
"The idea of imposing design standards rubs me in the wrong direction, but I have seen too many irresponsible political thumbs placed on too many design scales, resulting in too many places around here that fly in the face of public taste -- that reflect a stuffy modernist design orthodoxy masquerading as creativity.
"A form-based code inspired by the heritage of Providence's largely intact historical architecture would nudge politicians, planners and developers to take public taste into account in planning public spaces, such as the new streets of Old Harbor. Or the new mayor, Angel Taveras, could show that he doesn't need any such guidance by announcing that he has instructed Perkins+Will to create a design template that builds on the strengths of Providence. He also could reconsider the Ship Street Canal."