Union Studio Architecture & Community Design

- Providence, RI

Background

Working with the Downtown Parks Conservancy—an initiative formed in 2008 to to preserve and revitalize Providence’s historic downtown core into a lively, cohesive and prosperous economic and cultural center through the development of exceptional public spaces—Emily Hall and Union Studio led the design team for the re-envisioning of Providence’s Greater Kennedy Plaza, a central square in the City’s downtown that serves as RIPTA’s passenger bus terminal. In addition to the bus station, the extended plaza area is home to Burnside Park and the Bank of America Skating Center. Though Kennedy Plaza visitors enjoy activities hosted by the DPPC, the physical space is largely disjointed and dominated by bus traffic. The City of Providence received a grant from the NEA to re-envision Kennedy Plaza as a vibrant urban space, and, with the help of the city and the NEA, Union Studio led the charge in bringing to live one of the most important pedestrian and automotive squares in all of Providence.

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To redesign and streamline both the pedestrian and vehicular experiences of Kennedy Plaza as a means of revitalizing this historic square in Downtown Providence.

Design Solution

There are several bold moves incorporated into the overall design proposal, the most significant of which is decentralizing the bus berths so that the heart of the plaza can be opened to other uses with increased emphasis on pedestrians. The team worked to unify the plaza by altering the traffic pattern, proposing strategic grade changes, and improving physical and visual linkages between spaces and features of the plaza. Some important changes proposed include:

- A reimagining of Burnside Park as a space for families and individuals seeking relaxation and recreation. Proposed spaces include bocce courts, improved seating and leisure spaces, a wading fountain, and an expanded play area for children.

- The inclusion of a “central square” as a space for entertainment and pedestrian activity. Active day and night, this square was imagined as a hub for art, performance and pedestrian activity, with food trucks, seating, and signage to promote growth and usage of the Plaza by the local community, both on and off the clock.

- A series of flat terraces will be created as a means to host retail, such as a beer garden, or other opportunities for restaurants at Exchange Terrace to have presence in and around the park. The terraces will also provide a setting that overlooks events at the Bank of America Center.

The project efforts have helped present a concept visualization of the overall plan, and, in turn, support our clients fundraising and grant writing efforts. The Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy has successfully secured a $395,000 grant from the Champlin Foundations for a new public walkway through Burnside Park to help connect Kennedy Plaza and the city’s train station. The DPPC also received a grant from Southwest Airlines to build a “Imagination Center” in the park, which serves as an interactive art, crafts, and event center for all ages. Fundraising efforts will remain underway for this significant investment in Downtown Providence.

Working with the Downtown Parks Conservancy—an initiative formed in 2008 to to preserve and revitalize Providence’s historic downtown core into a lively, cohesive and prosperous economic and cultural center through the development of exceptional public spaces—Emily Hall and Union Studio led the design team for the re-envisioning of Providence’s Greater Kennedy Plaza, a central square in the City’s downtown that serves as RIPTA’s passenger bus terminal. In addition to the bus station, the extended plaza area is home to Burnside Park and the Bank of America Skating Center. Though Kennedy Plaza visitors enjoy activities hosted by the DPPC, the physical space is largely disjointed and dominated by bus traffic. The City of Providence received a grant from the NEA to re-envision Kennedy Plaza as a vibrant urban space, and, with the help of the city and the NEA, Union Studio led the charge in bringing to live one of the most important pedestrian and automotive squares in all of Providence.

Connect with:

“I have worked with many consultants on civic engagement initiatives and public planning processes. Union Studio did an exemplary job on this very complex project. Their team listened carefully to differing concerns from multiple stakeholders, and led a transparent process during which concepts were clearly communicated and consensus was built.” -- Lynne McCormack Director, Department of Art, Culture & Tourism City of Providence