This summer the Boys and Girls Club of Providence invited the community to a presentation given by students of their summer youth employee program. The project for this summer was Kennedy Plaza Redesign Project: The Teenage Perspective.
The inspiration for the project’s theme was an open forum the city hosted in February 2017, about Kennedy Plaza and the redesign options being proposed. While the city invited the greater public to this forum, and many people came, teens felt unrepresented and wanted their voices to be heard.
Students met with professionals who taught them how to conduct research and gather data. Using this information, students proposed realistic solutions to the problems facing Kennedy Plaza. The experience of teens in Kennedy Plaza is unique. They travel through Kennedy Plaza daily, and while old enough to do so alone, they are still young enough to have different needs and concerns than adults.
A primary concern, especially for the young women, was safety and street harassment, particularly in the area used for buses. The teens suggested emergency call boxes placed throughout the area, such as those found on college campuses in addition to fixing broken lights and adding additional lighting in key areas they noted as too dark. Teens also need ways to find information easily and safely, and proposed digital kiosks that operate in multiple languages. The students also suggested adding free wifi so people could use apps on their phones to check RIPTA schedules and times. Despite a reputation for always being on their devices, students explained that they have limited data plans, if any at all. They mostly rely on wifi to be able to check websites or apps on their phones.
Throughout the course of the project, students learned of the many other activities happening in Greater Kennedy Plaza, and began thinking about the space as more than just a bus terminal. They began to think of Kennedy Plaza as the “Gateway to Providence” and stressed its need to make a better first impression to visitors and travelers.
Students researched the programming currently being offered, and noted that it was geared for small children and people working in the area, but not for teens. They are often passing through and waiting for buses. Students suggested adding more food options that are diverse in both ethnicity and price point, with healthy options also. They would like to see East Approach closed to vehicles (and idea that has been included in the current proposal from the Planning Department) and have bike racks and bike sharing options. They would like to see more seating, some fixed and some moveable, as well as more public art. They envisioned an art project that would be iconic and become synonymous with Providence, such as the Cloud Gate sculpture (aka: The Bean) in Chicago.
Overall, the students were enthusiastic and passionate about making this public space usable for all Providence citizens. They had an eye toward sustainability, with hopes of making additional installments solar powered. They want their city’s public spaces to be welcoming, healthy, and safe places to spend time. Their enthusiasm was infectious, as members of the community who were invited looked at our familiar space through fresh and hopeful eyes.
For more information about the work the Boys and Girls Club of Providence does, visit their website.
Thank you so much to the Boys and Girls Club of Providence for inviting the DPPC to attend this presentation.