Providence River Relocation

Providence, Rhode Island

The Providence River Relocation project in Rhode Island’s capital city redirected rivers, overhauled transit infrastructure, and created a new riverfront downtown. Thirty years in the making, the relocation of the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck rivers, construction of a new rail station, highway interchanges, and twelve bridges restored historical links among Providence’s Capital Center, College Hill, and downtown. The project improved traffic flow in and through downtown and added pedestrian-friendly spaces, including 1.5 miles of river walks, along with a new urban park including a restaurant, amphitheater, fountain, and boat landing.

Redirecting the rivers created new, marketable commercial land without demolishing existing buildings in the downtown national register, resulting in over $1 billion in development. The project re-knit adjacent neighborhoods and created public arts and cultural programming that attracts locals and tourists alike to the river’s edge. With an emphasis on small urban spaces within the large-scale redevelopment, the project uses high-quality materials, and the design of the lighting, landscaping, street furniture, tree grates, signage, and historical interpretation panels all welcome the public.

The Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence 2003 selection committee stated, "The Providence River Relocation project pays great attention to the visual, tactile, and social support aspects of each design decision as well as imparting information on history and architectural heritage."

Top photo: A look at the Providence River during the annual WaterFire Festival. Source: Rudy Bruner Award.

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