Water taxis for the stadium?

Rendering of proposed Providence stadium for PawSox. (Baseball Rhode Island)

Rendering of proposed Providence stadium for PawSox. (Baseball Rhode Island)

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.

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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3 Responses to Water taxis for the stadium?

  1. Pingback: Waterfront “festooned with parks” | Architecture Here and There

  2. Lewis Dana says:

    Given the increasingly silted up condition of the Providence River, you better put wheels on those water taxis. Unless you can find the millions RIDoT says dredging would cost.
    As for the “unneeded” park… with the population surge about to begin with all the residential and office / lab project proposals on the table, the last open space in the Jeuwelry Disrict will soon be that badly “needed” parkland. The last thing we need is a ballpark barricaded and empty for 75 per cent of the year.


  3. The next big thing for Providence could be even sweeter with creativity and vision!


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