Cranston Mayor Allan Fung was recently selected to attend the Northeast Session of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design. The two and a half day seminar was an opportunity for mayors to present urban development challenges to teams of city planning and design professionals. After each presentation, mayors and designers identified key issues, offered advice, and discussed potential solutions.
“It was extremely positive,” Fung reported. “It was a great opportunity for the city to get some free advice from nationally renowned architects and urban planners.”
Fung, with the help of city planning director Peter Lapolla, chose to present the Wellington Avenue transit oriented development (TOD) concept. The concept calls for a mixed-use development anchored by a commuter rail station in the vicinity of the Wellington Avenue-Elmwood Avenue industrial corridor. It’s an idea that has existed in one form or another since 2007. And passenger station has been a part of the Auburn landscape since the 1800s.
Fung said that another benefit of vetting the TOD idea to the Institute was the feedback from other mayors with similar projects. Like any big project, this one has plenty of hurdles. “The biggest might be to secure an MBTA commuter rail stop,” noted Fung. Jef Nickerson of Greater City: Providence outlined other reasons why adding stops to the MBTA commuter rail line could be problematic, and suggests that the state might have to look beyond the MBTA to meet its commuter rail needs.
With the right ingredients, a TOD can make a very positive impact on the city. A well designed, transit-oriented district can be an economic boon for a city. It can also reduce sprawl, protect existing neighborhoods, and improve the character of a city by encouraging more pedestrians and reducing traffic.
The selection of this project for the Institute makes it clear that the city can see its potential, and is serious about keeping the momentum going. As the TOD project moves ahead, I hope the process remains as transparent and as democratic as possible; open to all business interests.[where: 02910]
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