Urban Environments as a Dynamic Landscape
Like any city, Pawtucket is an experience of its many systems: traffic, people, commerce, culture and environment. Unlike any city, Pawtucket expresses a unique set of these layers: a river’s edge, an historic legacy, an economic rebirth, and a complex cultural mix. While Pawtucket’s downtown suffered decline the past few decades, recent housing and small business growth are the products of incremental planning efforts fueled by a strong real estate market in the early 2000s and, even during the economic downtown, have initiated a return to a more sustainable, vibrant downtown.
Changing the physical infrastructure of a city will not alone revitalize it. Infrastructure changes must align with deeper growth already occurring, to reinforce, enhance and guide natural processes at work. Our approach to this project is to reframe Pawtucket’s infrastructure systems so that they can both accommodate the existing and evolving fabric of the city and be extended as the future reaches out to new opportunities. We believe that public space is the center of any active urban community and, thus, infrastructure must support:
- all the vehicles we use, including bicycles, buses, automobiles and future commuter rail that will open a new gateway to the city,
- life on the street, for pedestrians, events, recreation and commerce,
- responsible environmental systems, for water, energy, air quality, vegetation and wildlife and
- sustainable development, so that regulatory frameworks encourage and facilitate healthy urban growth, not impede it.
Don’t Get Lost! in Pawtucket
While the real estate market has retreated, the City continues to change and is continuing to emerge in an organic and sustainable way. Its traffic, transportation, and public space systems, however, have not yet met this challenge. For too long, downtown Pawtucket has been plagued with the reputation of limited parking and a confusing street network. Over time, the City has implemented a variety of approaches in the downtown area, including pedestrian walkways and one-way circulation loops, but these could not undo larger effects of economic changes and urban decline and, over time, became ineffective, and, in many cases, detrimental.
The Complete Street
From a traffic perspective, the project team will explore potential modifications to the vehicular circulation in the Downtown area and offer insight as to the consequential traffic operations. The team will consider the capacity of the major roadways and intersections in developing project alternatives and offer solutions to capacity constrained locations. We will employ the “complete street” concept, the idea that the road serves a variety of users and is not simply designed to accommodate vehicular traffic, when developing roadway cross-sections. Parking is most effectively approached as part of a comprehensive transportation planning effort.
Most importantly, we will work to integrate a coordinated approach to parking management in service of the Downtown Design Plan where parking is not simply a question of supply, but rather involves setting up a system that will allow all uses to seek a balance. The recommendations will be concrete, but recognize that the parking plan must be flexible and adaptable to be responsive to the changing use patterns that will emerge in Pawtucket.