The Providence Foundation and some other boosters have been championing a plan to create a multi-story parking garage behind the Garrahy Judicial Complex in downtown Providence.
To supporters, remaking the surface lot in back of the court as a garage with hundreds of spaces has a lot going for it: it would maximize the use of a valuable state asset; it could help foster reinvestment in the land being freed by the relocation of I-195; it would help replace parking used by court workers and state employees when the demolition of I-195 starts in two years; and so on.
Favorably impressed, the General Assembly offered some initial support for the garage concept last year.
Yet when it comes to building a parking garage in downtown Providence, nothing is ever easy.
During a House Finance Committee hearing earlier this year, Dan Baudouin, executive director of the Providence Foundation, and other supporters testified in support of the concept. Baudouin calls the state-owned location behind the judicial complex “the perfect site for a parking garage” that, for now, remains an underutilized asset.
While construction costs have increased in recent years, “If everyone puts our heads together . . . we can make a project happen,” Baudouin says. Among the other benefits, he says, the garage will be bordered by two one-way streets, Friendship and Clifford, which will lead directly to local highways after the I-195 relocation project is complete.
For now, however, the garage concept remains in limbo.
Larry Berman, spokesman for the House leadership, says that Steven M. Costantino, chairman of the House Finance Committee, has concerns about the financing for the envisioned garage. Costantino’s “biggest concern is that the state would have to subsidize part of the garage,” Berman says.
Creating more parking garages, instead of relying on the prevalent surface parking lots in downtown Providence, has aesthetic and practical appeal.
To new urbanists, the reliance on surface lots is an inefficient use of space and it represents a certain kind of blight.
Yet efforts to move forward similar concepts in recent years, including a parking garage-retail-residential project planned by Arnold “Buff” Chace’s Cornish Associates off of Weybosset Street, have come up empty.
While some suspect that opposition from the owners of downtown surface parking lots is a factor in the lack of forward motion on the Garrahy concept, Baudouin rejects that premise. “I suspect if it ever gets to an RFP [request for proposals] again, they will look at it and be interested,” he says.