Yesterday, my son and I went an another urban adventure, visiting the Providence Children's Museum, heading to College Hill for a lunch of Korean bibimbap and then descending to downtown to hunt for the life sized puppets at the Big Nazo Lab on Eddy Street. Some people like to attribute a big revival of Providence's downtown to the Providence Place Mall and Waterfire. I've not been to Waterfire yet but I can say this about the mall. I have absolutely no interest in it. Please explain what is special and revivifying about a mall where all the action is inside and you have to drive and park to get there? You can see all the signs from the highway advertising the national chain tenants, making the mall into an Anytown, USA. However, in trying to find the Nazo Lab, we stumbled upon Providence's cozy art district and I felt I had gone to urban heaven. The whole area screamed out at us, "Get out of your car! Come and explore!"
Lessons for Worcester
- This downtown section has kept its historical infrastructure including its buildings and intact street layout. It is rare to see a building demolished for a parking lot here.
- The emphasis for transportation is on biking and walking, not driving here. There are bike symbols on the roads and plenty of bike racks scattered throughout the area. The streets are narrow and cozy, slowing down traffic.
- The high density neighborhood hosts a variety of mixed uses: retail, cultural, educational, residential uses.
- It is not clear if the area maintains such vitality after office hours. We did see several coop residential buildings and small hotels. If there is enough critical mass of residents, then this neighborhood will sustain this level of activity. Should we re-visit some evening?