Providence Considers Plan for a More Pedestrian Friendly Kennedy Plaza

City Terrain, East
Wednesday, May 22, 2013

All images courtesy / Union Studio Architecture & Community Design

Not unfamiliar with daring urban design endeavors, Providence, RI is gearing up for a $20 million transformation of Kennedy Plaza, a major transportation hub and park dating to 1848 in the city’s downtown. The overhaul designed by Providence-based Union Studio Architects was announced in late April and calls for upholding the plaza’s principal position as a public-transit terminal, preserving the 2002 intermodal station. Change in the site’s layout will relocate bus kiosks to the perimeter of the plaza so as to create supplementary space for public and private activities to enliven the space.


The new Kennedy Plaza scheme calls for building a public marketplace and new parks in area that was once dedicated to the bus transit center. By reorganizing bus access through the square, the city hopes to improve pedestrian safety and provide an easier transit experience.

The plaza will also integrate more tables and chairs for an al fresco experience to complement an elegant new cafe. A skating rink described by locals as a “fortress” will be softened with diversified uses while the park area of the plaza, known as Burnside Park, will be better integrated with the overall Kennedy Plaza site. The design calls for a site imagined as a series of nine distinct spaces (see plan below) from a market square to a formal gardens to a central square.


Details of the new Kennedy Plaza are still being finalized and additional fundraising is taking place. Already, support has been pledged from the National Endowment for the Arts and public and private groups in Providence. If all goes as planned, the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy could begin construction this year, which a phased approach that could take five years to complete. Participating stakeholders are the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), the Providence Foundation, the Biltmore Hotel and Cornish Associates.

Proposed changed to Kennedy Plaza. (Courtesy Union Studio Architecture & Community Design)

Proposed changed to Kennedy Plaza. (Courtesy Union Studio Architecture & Community Design)

Current view of Kennedy Plaza. (Courtesy Union Studio Architecture & Community Design)

Current view of Kennedy Plaza. (Courtesy Union Studio Architecture & Community Design)

Greater Kennedy Plaza plan.

Greater Kennedy Plaza plan.

4 Responses to “Providence Considers Plan for a More Pedestrian Friendly Kennedy Plaza”

  1. Maya says:

    not too bad! i really like it, reminds me of similar locations we have back home.
    though it will be a shame to have the skating area destroyed; i couldn’t find it or anything similar looking in the new sketches.

  2. Eric says:

    Maya – the skating rink will remain, but the plans call for the structures around it to be opened up and redesigned to make it a part of the overall plaza

  3. barry says:

    As a frequent bus passenger I am concerned about the apparent lack of attention to transit passengers and the vagueness of just where the buses will board. Passengers still need easy access to the convenient indoor waiting room (we have long cold winters) as well as easy transfers, access to bathrooms, shelter, schedules, information and security. We also have an interest in quick entry/exit to the Plaza and mixing bus and car traffic can slow service down considerably.
    On the other hand, existing conditions are far from ideal for passengers and there is room for improvement. Riders also would benefit from a more vibrant central square. So while the concept behind the plan may be fine, the lack of details of what transit accomdiation will be made are troublesome.

  4. andrea says:

    The visual description for the plaza appears to be friendly and inviting, lovely and yes, somewhat idealistic….
    The reality is…. that the plaza functions with a subculture of roughness, homelessness and the harsh reality of jobless folk that use public transit as their daily occupation. Meaning they hang out and ride the buses day in and day out. I know this because I live among this culture… as my view from the top floor of the peoples savings bank is my front yard. Every morning and ever evening I walk among the activity, the sounds, the smells and the current life of this existance. The 7 Eleven is a feeding frenzy for littering and loitering and is quite frankly a disgusting moment when passing through on foot, holding ones breath, eyes to the pavement and face down. It is so overwhelmingly prevelant that when I look at this plan, I can’t help but wonder where these people will go, how they will function? who are the people that will replace them in these images? and how the buses will manage there way physically around the limited amount of space they will now have.
    By keeping public transit here in the plaza…if that is the intention? where will it originate? will it cause traffic jams and dissention between the transition of this cultural shift? Does it make more sense to displace the public transit all together to another location where a new culture of pedestrian transit can begin to emerge and flourish? Perhaps the buses can originate from an area that is closer or at least between the Peter Pan station and the train station.?

    Kennedy Plaza is a indeed a diamond in the rough that anchors the city with an indisputable energy complimented by the flow of the providence river along its’ north east side.
    However the only positive energy that currently exists, eminates from one end of Westminster Street, RISD through to the other end.
    How can the spark from Westminster spread to illuminate the plaza as a core of activity?
    I am intriqued by how the roughness will be polished, who will benefit and what the state of public transportation will become when it’s conventional sense of place is being disrupted by a new sense of space.

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