2017-09-21 / Opinion

EDITORIAL

Make Sure Your Voice is Heard


With new plantings in place and the last of the renovations nearly completed, the Gateway Center will be a welcoming place and respite for visitors and residents too. With new plantings in place and the last of the renovations nearly completed, the Gateway Center will be a welcoming place and respite for visitors and residents too. What was intended to be a seven-month project looks like it might stretch to 10, but the finish line is in sight.

Renovations and upgrades to Newport's Gateway Visitors Center kicked off with great fanfare this past January, with the expectation that the project would be completed by July. Due to unforeseen soil contamination on the site, however, which required remediation, it now appears that the $6.5 million project will be completed by the end of this month. And to that we say, "Hooray!"

The center, opened in 1988, is a pivotal location for tourists and commuters, and is one of the largest public parking facilities in the city. Original plans for renovation of the property, which sits on city-owned land and is leased to the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, were made necessary by the age of the facility and damage from Hurricane Sandy. But those plans were scrapped in 2014 and a more thoughtful redesign, led by the local architectural firm of Northeast Collaborative Architects, was undertaken and completed.

The new green aluminum canopies over the bus stops are attractive and eye-catching, and we are sure that the more than one million annual visitors to Newport will agree. Another welcome design element is the incorporation of a sophisticated drainage system that will allow storm water to flow back into rain gardens that will feature native plant species and trees throughout the nearly eight-acre parcel. Thankfully, gone are the vast expanses of asphalt, which have been replaced by Portland Cement. Improvements have also been made to the taxi and car drop-off locations, while new bike racks and lanes have been added to the front of the building. For regular maintenance, the new grounds will require only mowing and sweeping.

Still, the delay in the project was painful. Evan Smith, executive director of Discover Newport, which operates the Visitors Center, said, "Traffic inside the center was probably down 10 to 15 percent, but we are also grateful for the patience shown by our neighbors, the Marriott Hotel and the residents of the Point Neighborhood, who were also inconvenienced by the project and the delays."

We applaud our federal representatives who were instrumental in securing 90 percent of the funding for the project, with the city contributing the remaining 10 percent. Hopefully, the improved facility will encourage those who commute to Providence, particularly in anticipation of the prolonged Pell Bridge repairs, to take the bus.

No one likes delays, but this might be one of those cases where it was worth the wait.

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