Updated March 26 at 12:25pm

Making Thayer more than college hangout

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

The foot traffic, property values and investment in Providence’s Thayer Street commercial district are the envy of many Main Street merchants groups in Rhode Island.

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Making Thayer more than college hangout


The foot traffic, property values and investment in Providence’s Thayer Street commercial district are the envy of many Main Street merchants groups in Rhode Island.

But among many local residents and business owners, the bustling watering holes, burrito joints and hookah bars now catering to Providence’s student population are often seen as a mixed blessing, bringing rowdiness as much as commerce.

Now a plan is in place to build a more refined, sophisticated Thayer Street filled with pedestrian amenities, higher-end stores, new offices, nonstudent housing and fewer problem nightlife spots.

After a yearlong community process, the city this month unveiled a preliminary Thayer Street improvement plan designed to beautify the streetscape, make it less auto-centric and attract businesses beyond the college market.

“We want to make sure that with this new development there is a balance in retail,” said Allison Spooner, president of the College Hill Neighborhood Association, which worked extensively on the plan. “That includes students, and making it safe for students, but also a mix. We are hoping that businesses targeting that [student] market don’t become the only thing on Thayer Street.” In this context, a more diverse Thayer Street means adding more boutiques and upscale shops with an older, wealthier clientele to the bars and eateries now so prominent. Marketing efforts will focus on potential new tenants in the “personal care, apparel, home furnishings and gifts and jewelry and accessory sectors,” the plan said in study findings.

“Thayer Street sucks right now – it has 50 percent restaurants and is not attracting the high-end retailers,” said Edward Bishop, a real estate agent, developer, and chairman of the Thayer Street District Management Authority. “It used to be a ‘town and gown’ neighborhood – now it is just gown, all students.”

The most visible near-term projects spelled out in the plan are a series of pocket parks, outdoor seating areas and bus stops in the corridor, some in what are now parking lanes, to make the area a more pleasant place to walk and spend time.

First among the changes will be a “parklet” in what are now two parking spaces outside the Brown University Bookstore. The parklet is slated to be installed this spring as part of “Pop-up Providence” and be paid for with $10,000 from the Providence Redevelopment Agency.

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While well meaning, unless they add ADDITIONAL parking, the are not going to get an increase in traffic to their planned high-end stores. Contrary to planner's wishes, people like their cars and the mobility it provides. It's difficult now to find parking in the area. The street has lost lots of business traffic because of this. A further reduction will make it even less desirable to shop there. Unless the plan includes additional parking, it will fail. Trees and benches are wonderful, but if the shoppers can't have easier access to the area, it is doomed.

Monday, December 23, 2013 | Report this

@Stephen234: Oh, enough with the auto-mongering. Your argument is a losing one that is based on a failed auto-centric, pro-suburban, anti-growth, anti-community, post-war mentality of the 1950's and 60's. That experiment failed. Lets get back to basics and community oriented development within our urban cores.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013 | Report this

Read between the lines. There is plenty of parking, if you happen to be associated with Brown. And who needs parking anyway if you live within walking distance?

The city has already deeded some streets over to the university. This is just phase II of creating a gated community.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 | Report this
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