Years ago, the Miami architecture and planning firm DPZ, led by Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk (his wife), came to Providence again and again to help plan the revival of its downtown. Its last charrette, or brainstorming session, was in 2005. One of the proposals was to reconfigure Emmett Square, just off Kennedy Plaza, at the end of Fountain Street, where the Providence Journal (my employer) is headquartered. The proposal for Emmett Square, which is fed by some seven streets, turned it into a real square, but was unworkable at the time because (among other reasons) two new buildings were to be erected on Journal-owned land on Fountain Street – especially the parking lot next to the Biltmore Hotel and the green, snub-nose parking garage addition to the Journal that juts into the square – much better uses for those spaces, by the way – but, hey, the land was owned by the Journal.
Perhaps the upcoming change in ownership will loosen strictures on that land. The reconfiguration of Emmett Square into something approaching greater regularity and pedestrian friendliness is already under way, but perhaps the vision of DPZ from a decade ago can be grafted upon what is under way now. But probably not. City Hall is already embarked on the destruction of Kennedy Plaza, and has even begun leveling its guns at Burnside Park. It is unlikely that
officials will want to upgrade Emmett Square as once conceived. Still, it is good to revive old plans that never materialized, even if just to look at, if they shine a clear light on the inadequacy of current planning. That is the intent here.