...to preserve, protect, develop, and restore coastal resources for all Rhode Islanders
CRMC, City of Providence add UCG to Providence River Walk
September 25, 2023, Providence — The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) and the City of Providence and its partners recently opened the final section of the Providence Riverwalk, which includes an Urban Coastal Greenway through the CRMC’s program and created a scenic shoreline path from the 195 District Park to Point Street.
In August, the City, along with the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, Wexford Science & Technology, Rhode Island Energy, and BETA Group, Inc. held a ribbon cutting ceremony. The UCG was part of a four phase redevelopment project which included the South Street Landing parking garage and educational facility, Rhode Island Energy facility, and River House Residential apartment complex, all of which was permitted by the CRMC with the UCG. The greenway connects to the seven-acre park, and the greenway includes benches, native plantings, and a dock on the river to enhance shoreline access.
When the Urban Coastal Greenways Policy was adopted by the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council in fall of 2006 as part of the Metro Bay Special Area Management Plan (SAMP), the response from businesses and developers in the region was overwhelmingly positive.
In May 2007, the CRMC and American Locomotive Works developer Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, unveiled a newly designed sign and logo for the UCG, and touted the 2000 linear feet of urban public access along the Woonasquatucket River approved by the CRMC as part of the project. At the time, the UCG policy had approved a total of about 6100 linear feet of new shoreline access in the SAMP area, which includes the cities of Cranston, East Providence, Providence, and Pawtucket.
The deep recession in 2008 brought a number of projects to a standstill, but with improving economic conditions, several projects were completed in 2016 and beyond. Village on the Waterfront and Kettle Point, both on the East Providence shoreline, were completed and gave the city more than 2.5 miles of new public access (13,450 linear feet) available to the public in the Metro Bay urban area. The Tockwotton Home in East Providence has also completed construction of its 400-linear-foot UCG along the Seekonk River.
Johnson & Wales University constructed a 1,600-linear-foot UCG abutting its athletic fields at Fields Point starting at Save The Bay Drive in Providence. The CRMC and Johnson & Wales University officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in July 2011. A UCG was also created between ProvPort and Save The Bay headquarters in Providence and opened in fall of 2017. Two and a half acres of the parcel were restored for public access with plantings, stone steps for fishing access, and a walkway with areas for sitting. The Johnson & Wales greenway, combined with the ProvPort location and public access in front of Save The Bay represents more than 3,000 feet of waterfront walking and shoreline access paths at Fields Point.
The CRMC permitted the Village on the Waterfront in East Providence, a 26-acre mixed-use development that includes 2,500 linear feet of public access under the UCG policy, in the fall of 2011. The site was previously used for industrial purposes for nearly a century.
At Kettle Point Development in East Providence, 407 residential units and a planned 4,000 linear feet of public access and Urban Coastal Greenway are planned. The project, permitted in 2015, is currently under construction. The UCG will include pedestrian paths, public parking, rehabilitation of one of the area’s existing piers, and general public access.
Gotham Greens, a greenhouse complex built in Providence along with an 1,100 foot variable width UCG and 10-foot wide bike path along the Woonasquatucket River, was constructed in 2022 at the site of the former GE Baseworks.
National Grid, along with the University of Rhode Island, has redeveloped the old Narragansett Electric South Street Substation on Eddy Street in Providence, which includes the construction of 750 linear feet of public access north of the Point Street Bridge. The UCG in this location links with the two park parcels and footbridge as part of the I-195 Redevelopment Area.
“The CRMC has worked tirelessly to elevate shoreline public access throughout the state, and in the urban environment, that can be a difficult issue to approach,” said CRMC Council Chair Raymond Coia. “Seventeen years ago we adopted the Urban Coastal Greenway program, which allows developers to look at public access opportunities that can be melded with the development but also get people to the shore, and along the shore. We now have miles of shoreline access across the Metro Bay region.”
About the Metro Bay SAMP and UCG
The Metro Bay SAMP, the CRMC’s fifth, encompasses the cities of Cranston, East Providence, Providence, and Pawtucket. This region is a largely untapped natural resource and economic engine. It was the site of industrialization and progress and over the years has become outdated and underutilized. The cities are now acting to make this region of Narragansett Bay a more appealing place to live and work by improving the economic, social and environmental resources of the working waterfront; attracting major developers with more predictable and efficient permitting; and providing recreation and access to the water.
The UCG is a new regulatory approach for coastal vegetative buffers in the urbanized environment of northern Narragansett Bay, and is intended for projects bordering the Providence, Seekonk, Moshassuck and Woonasquatucket Rivers. The purpose of the UCG is to provide a mechanism to redevelop the urban waterfront of the Metro Bay region in a way that integrates economic development with expanded public access along and to the shoreline, as well as the management, protection and restoration of valuable coastal habitats.