What type of businesses or housing could the Riverside Square area of East Providence attract as the former Vamco buildings come down?
David Bachrach, East Providence’s community development director, is asking himself that question more these days with the birth of a group calling itself the Riverside Renaissance Committee.
The committee is in its infancy – it has only held one meeting -- and it is far from coming up with a plan for the Riverside Square area.
But one thing Bachrach knows for sure is that several buildings referred to as the Vamco jewelry manufacturing parcel just south of Riverside Square have been “eyesores for years.”
Those boarded up and chain-link fence-surrounded buildings are being torn down right now with the help of federal funds, Bachrach said. Then the contaminated soil will be stripped of solvents used by the jewelry company over many decades.
Other hazardous materials, such as caulking and asbestos, also must be removed first before a wrecking ball can smash down the buildings, he said.
When that work is done, Bachrach said, probably by the end of summer, there will be an approximate half-acre parcel of land ready for possible development in Riverside. And that has Bachrach and many members of the Riverside Renaissance Committee thinking about the possibilities for that site and the broader area.
It has sparked the birth of the renaissance group.
“Right now, it’s just a lot of visioning,” said Bachrach. “But the work there is certainly a relief to many people in that area. And that has a lot of people thinking about the adjacent buildings and properties, and the streetscaping.”
Can the completion of that project serve as a catalyst for redevelopment in Riverside?
“Why not think broader?” said Bachrach. “I see my role as facilitating this visioning process, and connecting people to other resources.”
The Riverside Square area is a bit tricky, Bachrach said. There are no large traffic counts. It really is a destination already.
“So, we need to flesh out what the neighborhood might want,” he said.
Do they want mom and pop stores? Retail with condos on the second floor? A Wickendon Street-like atmosphere? Something else?
People and developers with vision “could create some superb opportunities,” Bachrach said.
So, why not think broader than the Vamco parcel, he said. Just what would Riverside Square attract as those buildings come down?
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