This year at EDRA, the Bruner Foundation presented “Healing Places and People: The Providence River Relocation Project and the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence.” The conference session included an overview of the project—which received an RBA Silver Medal in 2003—as well as a panel moderated by Robert Shibley. The panel of three representatives, all directly involved in shaping the project and the city at large, as well as our RBA team, included Simeon Bruner, Richard Wener, and me.
The 2003 RBA selection committee cited the Providence River Relocation as “a heroic project with epic proportions.” The effort, led by the late architect William Warner, dramatically changed downtown Providence. It entailed uncovering and relocating two rivers—moving the Northeast Corridor railroad tracks underground in the process—as well as the construction of new highway interchanges and a railway station. A new waterfront park with riverside walkways and pedestrian bridges served to re-connect the city’s street grid and downtown with the Rhode Island State House and College Hill. The project, which required more than 30 years of bold, cooperative planning initiatives by public and private entities including local, state, and federal agencies, re-established the city’s historic relationship with its rivers and recast its identity as a 21st century urban center, resulting in over $1 billion in private investment.