Neighborhood charette outcomes shared

The city Department of Planning and Development (DPD) issued A “Draft Action Plan” for the Summit, Mt. Hope and Blackstone neighborhoods at a public meeting this past November 14th. The plan summarizes work done at our four-day neighborhood charette held in September. It’s neither final nor official yet, so it’s a good time for neighbors, whether you participated in the charette or not, to take a look.
The plan presents six objectives, each with two to four projects. For each project, a number of actions are proposed along with those responsible and a target date. The plan reflects the strength – open dialog – and the weakness – the need to attend workday sessions – of the charette process.
Some plan highlights:
The first objective, Community Engagement, may leave charette participants scratching their heads. It comes from discussions at an earlier charette in another part of the city. City planners like it and think it applies everywhere, so it will be part of each neighborhood plan.
North Main Street, the second objective, is discussed in depth elsewhere in this issue.
Objective three, Livable Neighborhoods draws from many of the charette sessions. Projects in this section address housing, neighborhood character, infrastructure, safety, and transportation. One element aims to use new zoning to be sure new construction “blends” with existing neighborhood character. The plan says DPD will work with public works to rationalize the city’s sidewalk repair program and work with RIPTA to bring a trolley loop up Hope Street.
The Business and Jobs section calls for small business grants, formation of merchant groups for the Hope and North Main commercial districts, and improvements to the West River Industrial Park.
Recreation, Open Space and Youth sets an interesting benchmark: a walk of no more than ten minutes from any residence to a park. Ten minutes at three miles per hour is a half mile, the distance along Hope Street from Rochambeau to Lippitt Park. One idea here, the call to convert the fountain in Lippitt Park to a planter, has roused resistance in Summit, as noted elsewhere in this issue.
The final section, on Institutions, includes a project to “Heal neighborhood edges around Miriam Hospital.” Surface parking in the neighborhood is a focus, as it is generally in the citywide plan. The plan calls for city regulations to require institutions to do longer-range planning, and to require community input into those plans.
At the November 14th meeting, DPD handed out paper copies of the plan, and asked the assembled neighbors for feedback. As of now, the city has not posted the plan online, but says it will soon. Meanwhile, the citywide comprehensive plan was accepted by the City Plan Commission and approved by the City Council, and DPD is currently busy with the waterfront and other charettes.

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