Taveras envisions revamped Kennedy Plaza

When Mayor Angel Taveras unveiled his plans this week to jumpstart Providence's economy, one of his featured initiatives was revamping Kennedy Plaza.

Cliff Wood, the director of the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy, said Thursday it's the kind of project that can bring the downtown to life.

"We've been working on it for several years," Wood said.

One element is to take back some of the pavement dedicated to buses.

"We don't need all this. It's a matter of proportion. So instead of being a transit center that is so focused on that, that it's hard to use it for other reasons, you connect the spaces so it's one large space that works with many different uses, and transit is one of them," Wood said.

The transformation Wood envisions will require partnerships with private entities.

"We're working with other organizations in the city so they can do programming. We're working with some large institutions so we can share the different space for different uses. Again, it's about having a multiplicity of uses all happening at the same time in the same space that aren't necessarily working together," Wood said.

By coordinating different interest groups, Wood said he believes there will be something in the park for everybody.

"We have passive and active programs in the spaces. So right now, in the warm weather we have food trucks and we have celebrations and we have a beer garden. We have children's programming," Wood said.

It's much more than just construction, Wood said. It will take ongoing attention to keep the area an attraction.

"This is about design, certainly. This is about the physical way we design the space. But it's much more about managing the space. You can't just put something pretty in the space and walk away and have it work well. That doesn't create the kind of vibrancy that makes this space an active and economically viable kind of space," Wood said.

And ultimately, it is about the economy.

Taveras said he believes that a vibrant and inviting downtown center will encourage residents to come downtown and, in turn, businesses to serve those residents, creating a self-fulfilling cycle of investment and activity.