Vision for Providence Bridge area raises questions on city’s capability to maintain, fund, assure public safety

In a press conference on the site of the Crook Point Bridge, the city of Providence Planing and Development Department and the Mayor of Providence, Jorge Elorza, presented the winning design for a new vision of the Crook Point Bridge. The design was chosen by a committee from one of five semi-finalists, having been culled from a group of 80 presentations from throughout the world. The five semi-finalists received $1,000 and Horsley Witten Group received $10,000.

The cost of implementing this, or any renovation/design has not been addressed. First, transfer from RIDOT needs to happen, where millions had been proposed in the budget to demolish the bridge. Then, finding new money for renovation of the entire area would need to be strategized. With so many basics in need in Providence such as road repairs, addressing those in need of housing, crime and violence, etc. critics have suggested there are other high priorities and any new funding should not take away from funding for basic city needs.

Requests to the Horsley Witten Group about maintenance and upkeep of the LED portion of the design were not answered as of publication. Questions reflected the multitude of problems in maintaining the LED lit bridge in Pawtucket which has not been fully functional much of the time, and maintenance appears to be a struggle for normal city maintenance measures.

The Crook Point Bridge, or the Seekonk River Drawbridge, has been a staple of Providence since 1908, formerly connecting the old Union Station to the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Line. It has been left in the open position since becoming defunct in 1976.

Horsley Witten Group & Jonathan Harris won the design competition. They are located in Providence with offices in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and St. Croix, Virgin Islands.

A recent Providence project was assisting the City and the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program with assessment and development of a water quality management plan for Roger Williams Park.

The firm’s design reimagines the iconic structure and surrounding area as an illuminated landmark with revitalized and inviting public spaces. The design repurposes the iconic landmark and its surrounding area, preserving a piece of the City’s historic infrastructure while reinvesting in an inviting new public space. A request to the architectural firm of

“As we continue to think about infrastructure in new and creative ways, the preservation and reimagining of the Crook Point Bridge unlocks novel ways to engage and connect with our existing environment,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza. “This remarkable vision combines our history with our future, repurposing the structure as an illuminated beacon for residents and visitors to enjoy for generations to come.”

The restoration of Crook Point Bridge, outlined in the firm’s winning proposal would create new riverfront public spaces for events and community gatherings, reestablish shorelines and ecosystems and identify opportunities for the siting of new affordable housing, among other renovations. Perhaps most strikingly, the design features glowing light bars, which would display rotating artwork installations in place of the bridge’s railroad ties.  

“The City of Providence is committed to preserving our infrastructure by creating a new life for old architecture,” said Bonnie Nickerson, Director of Planning and Development. “Where there is opportunity for structural restoration and reuse, it is our obligation to think creatively about how we can produce useful and exciting new areas that positively contribute to our City.”  

“We are honored to be chosen by the City we love for a project that is dear to our hearts,” said Horsley Witten Group & Jonathan Harris. “The three of us use and enjoy this stretch of the riverbank and we feel invested in its future. We have spent our careers planning, designing, and engineering to provide great places for people and public access for all, so the recognition here at home in this inspiring place is very special. We look forward to participating as the City’s exciting vision unfolds.” Ellen Biegert, RLA, spoke for the company. Reporters and others could then look at the drawings and asked questions of the designers.

Horsley Witten Group & Jonathan Harris’ winning design submission can be found here.