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NEW: Providence’s Knowledge District Gets New Plaza

Saturday, January 28, 2012


A plaza grows in Providence: brand-new Ship Street Square. Photo: Warren Jagger.

Providence's Knowledge District just gained another bright spot: in this case, a striking new plaza that's part of Brown University's Alpert Medical School building project. Ship Street Square, as it's been dubbed, is a plaza on the opposite corner of Ship and Richmond that has aspirations to be a new public venue in the growing district.
"Our intent was to create a distinctly urban, yet inviting space that can be used for a wide variety of activities," said Mike McCormick, Brown’s assistant vice president for planning, design, and construction. "There is a broad flat area that can accommodate everything from dancing to yoga, and there is a relatively small raised area in the southwest corner that can be a stage or even a streetcar platform."

Distinctly urban + pedestrian

The University envisioned Ship Street Square to create and fit a distinctly urban pedestrian environment, said McCormick. "It provides a setting for vibrant urban life for everything from concerts, to juggling, to farmers markets. It will be a place to sit down with office friends after buying a bagel and coffee, a sandwich, or a burrito from nearby restaurants, cafes and food trucks," he said.

The plateau-like wooden steps that head down to Richmond Street mitigate a seven foot grade change across the site, McCormick pointed out, and offer many seating opportunities for casual sitting or potential audience space. "Imagine movie night," he said. (According to Brown, the square is a public venue where local residents are "always welcome," and local organizations with general liability insurance can rent the square for events by calling Brown.)

Latest community enhancement

Ship Street Square is the newest of several community enhancements that were part of the medical school project. Others include a community policing substation for Brown and Providence police, new trees, new sidewalks, and new street paving. In all, Brown spent $2 million on the enhancements including the square.

Arthur Salisbury, president of the Jewelry District Association said of the square: “Ship Street Square is a welcome and much needed addition to the community of businesses, restaurants and residents in the Jewelry District.  I hope this new square becomes a focal point for art, music, food and an impromptu gathering place for local residents, students and visitors.”

The New York design firm !melk designed both the streetscape improvements outside the medical school building and the square. Boston-based Shawmut, the general contractor for the project, used local Rhode Island union carpenters, laborers, and electricians to build it.

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