Hope for Emmett Square

Proposal for Emmett Square, in Providence. (DPZ)

Proposal for Emmett Square, in Providence. Biltmore Hotel (l.) and R.I. Convention Center (r.) are visible. (DPZ)

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.

DPZ plan for Emmett Square. (DPZ)

DPZ plan for Emmett Square. (DPZ)

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

Emmitt Square today, with, clockwise from lower left, Eddy, Fountain, Sabin, West Exchange, Francis, Exchange Terrace and Dorrance streets entering or leaving the "square."

Emmett Square today, with, clockwise from lower left, Eddy, Fountain, Sabin, West Exchange, Francis, Exchange Terrace and Dorrance streets entering or leaving the “square.”

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.

 

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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