Belated news has it that PawSox participation in a parking garage planned for the state nursing center at South Street Landing has been dropped from the deal being negotiated for a new PawSox stadium in Providence. That opens the way for a water taxi system for fans run from ProvPort.
But wait a sec on that.
I never thought the stadium proposal should involve itself in a garage. There is plenty of vacant surface parking in the area for fans attending ballgames to be played in the evening or on weekends. And isn’t the state going to build a garage nearby at the Garrahy Judicial Complex? Didn’t voters approve that in a bond referendum last year?
Many opponents of the ballpark idea fear losing a proposed public park. But the river is already festooned with parks, another new park is now being built right across the river as part of the 195 corridor – and the proposed park that would be lost suffers from extraordinarily poor design, both from the aesthetic and the practical standpoints. They didn’t even think of how the river walks would be extended under the proposed pedestrian bridge (also ugly, and now possibly on the chopping block).
Anyway, bagging the garage part will reduce the cost of the deal – a cost that should be borne almost entirely (if not entirely) by the team owners, not Rhode Island taxpayers. Such a deal is now being described as either revenue-neutral or revenue-positive. The latter means that the state would earn money from its participation in the deal. I think taxpayers should remain wary of that. The devil of revenue neutrality, not to mention revenue positivity, is in the details. But it certainly sounds better than having the owners “volunteer” to pay for the stadium and then have the taxpayers pay them back for it.
That deal deserved to die a quick death, as it did. But let’s get back to the water taxis.
Literally decades ago, when I began supporting in my Providence Journal newspaper column the just-begun project to reopen the Providence River and line it with elegant bridges, parks and riverwalks, I applauded Bill Warner’s idea for a boat lock in the Hurricane Barrier and added my own twist. How about a water taxi service that would let commuters park on land at the Port of Providence and take ferries or water taxis as far into downtown as Waterplace Park?
What a great idea! Never happened, of course. Nor did another waterborne idea floated by former Rhode Island architect Paul Pawlowski that would have enhanced the Route 195 corridor by digging a canal – the Ship Street Canal – on part of the land opened up by the relocation of the highway. That would have made all of the development parcels more valuable, and more alluring to the target audience of potential high-tech developers.
The state rejected that idea, unwisely in my opinion. But now that a water tunnel may need to be relocated if the stadium deal goes through, perhaps the Ship Street Canal idea could be revived.
Well, probably not. But reminding readers of these sorts of things is part of the job of an online gadfly like me. Who else is going to do it? Which brings us back to the idea of ferries and water taxis taking baseball fans between ProvPort and the new PawSox ballfield. That prospect could add to the luster of the stadium idea and put a jetpack on its potential as a tourist amenity.
Others can figure out whether and how such an idea could fit into the proposal and into the financial deal that is supposedly to come. But two new garages are not needed, and a more intelligent use of the Providence River as a city amenity is.