Pawtucket, R.I., is a scenic little seaside town in Providence County. This is where tall ships rub shoulders with shore-bound artists and lobster fishermen bringing in the day’s catch. As the fourth largest city in the state, Pawtucket derives its name from the Algonquin word for “river fall.”
Big changes are afoot in the little town, according to Chief of Project Development David A. Kurowski II, P.E., who announced last August that Pawtucket had received a $400,000 grant to promote a climate sustainability project in the town’s train district. This encompasses 2 million square feet of underutilized mill space from the days of the Industrial Revolution when Slater Mill, the historic textile mill complex, was established on the Blackstone River.
For this project, green stormwater infrastructure is being used to update general living conditions while creating placemaking and multimodal access opportunities.
The grant was offered through the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management for the city of Pawtucket’s transit-oriented development near its new train station, which is currently being worked on.
“This drop-off area — called a ‘kiss-and-ride’ — is what (Rhode Island Department of Transportation) has been calling this drop-off area,” said Kurowski. “It is adjacent to the train station entrance from Barton Street, but does not have any parking, so you just kiss your S.O. (significant other) goodbye and you both ride away.”
The area includes Barton and Pine streets, both of which Kurowski and his department had discussed as a possible hub with the train station coming. The group had been aiming for a number of projects that might support that locale.
In 2018, Pawtucket received an analogous grant where work had begun on the other side of Pine Street, in which green stormwater infrastructure was incorporated. There are a lot of old, unattractive buildings that could be demolished or remodeled, said Kurowski, adding to the intersection and developing it into more of a “T” intersection with added crosswalks.
“There is only one building in the area that has been demolished,” said Kurowski. “As for the others, I have no idea, although I understand that there are developers interested in all of the buildings in the TOD.”
A similar grant was from the RIDEM 2018 Resiliency Fund.
“This grant was $575,000 and was split among the currently ongoing work on Pine Street to the south of the train station, a second GSI project that has not yet been realized and a stormwater master plan for the TOD,” said Kurowski.
“However, the project also has funding from Southeast New England Program and the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank. However, the SNEP and Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank funds were connected to the previous GSI project, which is just winding down now. We attempted to obtain SNEP funds for this upcoming GSI project, but unfortunately, we were not selected. To date we have only secured the RIDEM funding for this project on Barton and Pine.”
There will also be a pedestrian corridor, which will exist by the new public parking lot between Lily Pond Street, Conant Street and Barton Street. Parking lots in this district will be made into commuter lots. Fuss & O’Neill Inc. is the design consultant on this endeavor.
Some of the work includes curbs and sidewalks, with the goal of adding room for setting up tables and chairs, thus making the area a place where people can congregate. There will also be retention basins, tree wells and some new limited-growth trees to be used on sidewalks to provide shade and to colorfully reflect the changing seasons.
In addition to improving the livability of neighborhoods, green stormwater infrastructure components will be installed and the old underground pipes — some having been installed in the late-1800s to early-1900s — will be updated. Also, some varieties of GSI will be found in the sidewalks. Four types of sidewalk pavers will be used, allowing rainwater to be absorbed into the earth instead of traveling into the roadways; the pavers are connected but not with grout. Kurowski said his group had been looking at sidewalk pavers that can accomplish two things: be accessible to people with disabilities and be able to move stormwater into the soil before it travels into structures or overflows into waterways.
The whole venture is expected to be completed depending on the amount of funding that becomes available, according to Kurowski.
“This project is being designed so as to be phased in chunks that will be implemented as we are able to pay for them,” noted Kurowski. “Our goal here is to have as much of a ‘shovel-ready’ project waiting to go that can be scaled to available funding. Ultimately, this project will span as much of the TOD district as possible; our hope is that all future construction will share the same materials/theme so it will appear seamless throughout.”
As for this new project, Kurowski is looking for additional funding, as the city is required to match the last 25% of the grant award.
“We’ve been lucky in that some of the grant opportunities that we’ve been pursuing for this project have had deadlines extended, which has allowed us to refine our pitch a bit more,” said Kurowski. “However, we have yet to see how the pandemic works out in the spring, and how that will affect the timing of bids and the construction season.”