First some facts, which were prepared by Michiel Wackers. Since the 1999 adoption of the Redevelopment Plan, there have been 12 acquisitions by the City in this neighborhood, and those properties have been demolished. There are 16 pieces of private property remaining, which include about 27 housing units and there are 40 cars registered at those addresses. The only business -- Alfredo's Riverside -- is closed but could potentially be re-opened. To finish the plan, it is projected that it would cost just under $3 million buy those properties, relocate the people, and demolish the buildings.
We also discussed the option of connecting Miller Street to North Main Street, and then closing off the Route 9 entrance and leaving Portland Street alone. The challenge here is the cost -- which was estimated by the State DOT as just under $3 million (coincidentally the same cost as demolishing the whole place!) Of course, that's just a first estimate and there was lots of debate on how adding 300 ft. of road could cost that much...but it does mean acquiring an easement from Providence and Worcester Rail, and getting state legislature approval for at-grade crossings on the tracks.
And finally, we discussed the option of opening Portland Street -- the police did a count and gave an estimate of 100 trips a day, primarily between 5 and 8 pm, but personally, I am entirely unclear about what that means -- whether that is one car making two trips (which could easily be residents) or whether there are a lot of people turning in there when traffic is bad, and then making a u-turn. Also, the narrowness of Portland Street, the need to eliminate some of their on-street parking, and the potential disruption to their neighborhood were issues -- and eventually, that option took last place, only to be pursued if the other two options fail.
So, I believe the next step is to have a full, public review of this at both the Redevelopment and Public Safety meetings. Each group will be considering whether they can endorse the following request to our state legislators: For approximately $3 million in funding to pursue either option one (demolish the neighborhood) or option two (connect it to North Main). Any members of the public who care about this issue will have their chance to speak at both of those meetings.
The feeling is that giving them both options makes it easier for the legislators to find a way to get this funding. But of course, they may be unsuccessful. I should note that both Representative Serra and Senator Doyle did meet with Redevelopment last year, and they agreed to champion this cause at the legislature last year, whether for approval to open Portland St. or funding for some other plan, but that first we needed to agree on what we wanted (including approval from the Council).
So now we have a long-term plan on the table, but no short-term relief for the people on Miller & Bridge. If we can actually get funding within the next year, then this is a positive step. If not, we have to go back to the Portland Street option.
The one thing everyone agreed on -- there are no easy solutions for this situation.