By ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — In a letter sent last month to Rhode Island College, Sen. Frank A. Ciccone III urged the institution to halt a surface parking expansion in the Olney Avenue and Mount Pleasant Avenue area, and provide greater transparency to the neighborhood about its expansion plans.
In the July 28 letter sent to RIC president Frank Sánchez, the North Providence Democrat, whose district includes the college and its neighbors, raised concerns about the parking expansion being unmentioned in the college’s master plan. He also referenced the significant problems caused by the college’s recently built parking areas above Fruit Hill Avenue, which resulted in neighborhood flooding. The town of North Providence and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation corrected the flooding problems, but the college wouldn’t contribute to covering the costs, which were eventually funded through a grant from the General Assembly.
“The residents of the areas surrounding Rhode Island College and I encourage the College to thrive and expand; however, they must also co-exist and consider the surrounding neighborhoods when they undertake new construction projects, conduct community hearings that are complete and transparent about the scope of the project, allow residents to vet and offer alternative solutions, and consider and analyze the alternatives and have additional meetings to bring forth the feasibility of the alternatives,” Ciccone wrote.
He urged the college to halt construction on the project until after it is publicly vetted, and also to submit a new master plan to the city of Providence.
The Providence City Council also has requested that Rhode Island College halt all plans for expansion of its Sheffield Avenue parking lot until the college submits a new master plan.
At an Aug. 5 meeting, local officials and Rhode Island College came to an agreement on the already-underway parking-lot project on the east side of campus. The recent meeting was attended by Sánchez, Ciccone, Providence City Council member Jo-Ann Ryan, North Providence Town Council president Dino Autiello and North Providence Town Council member Steven DiLorenzo.
As part of the agreement, RIC officials have pledged to modify plans to add increased fencing and shrubbery in the buffer zone between the parking lot and the abutting neighborhood. Construction is expected to resume Aug. 8. Rhode Island College said it would post plans for the project on its website.
Sánchez also has promised an open and transparent process that includes community involvement, and Rhode Island College has agreed to seal off Sheffield Avenue from student and staff vehicular traffic.
Ciccone and Ryan are scheduling a community meeting during which Sánchez will brief neighbors and listen to their concerns about the college’s short-term and long-term construction projects.