SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Prior to its regular meeting on Monday, the South Kingstown Town Council, along with Planning Director James Rabbitt, sat in on a presentation by Weston and Sampson Consulting Group of Village Plans that discussed an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Program-funded downtown revitalization project.
The town has approximately $6.5 million allocated toward economic development improvements in the village, Rabbitt said, adding that attaining all the aspirations of components presented would “far exceed the $6.5 million.”
Town officials have been working with Weston and Sampson over the course of the last year and anticipate that there could be up to two public workshops for the public to comment on material planned to improve the five villages, in order to make them more pedestrian friendly and create an interactive environment.
“To me, we need to either have (the workshop meetings) here or bring it to downtown, in a setting – and work really hard to bring those businesses out and let them understand what the municipality is trying to accomplish,” Rabbitt said.
The goal, the town and Weston and Sampson say, is to improve the business climate in key commercial areas. Officials are focused specifically on Wakefield, Peace Dale, West Kingston, Kingstown Road and Matunuck, and have identified existing conditions — to search and capitalize on opportunities to make recommendations for improvement.
Weston and Sampson has analyzed the town’s landscape features; specifically the fencing, street lights, street furniture, bicycle mobility areas, public green space, parks and walking paths. They are probing for spots where sidewalks can be widened, parking can be re-striped, and intersections can be realigned.
For example, Weston and Sampson looked at the train station and looped road area of West Kingston. Project Manager for Weston & Sampson, Ashley Sweet, explained that the engineer group is looking to establish a more “identifiable center.”
With parking underused in this particular spot, introducing something like a playground or dog park could “activate the area.”
With many of the spots reviewed in the presentation, suggestions involved narrowing curb cuts and adjusting landscaping. This was specifically suggested for West Kingston in the post office area.
Early objectives for the area around Kingstown Road involves adding pedestrian amenities. Currently, engineers said, there are wide curb cuts in this area and parking spots are “spilling into roadway.” There is also concern surrounding the lack of safe pedestrian crossing. Considering it is a relatively busy area with apartments and living space, the Kingstown Road area could be more walkable, Sweet said.
Possible fixes would include the creation of a series of sidewalks along the street’s edge. Shoulders could also be converted to bike lanes, engineers said.
There is some parking in the Peace Dale Rotary that impedes the use of the junction, Sweet said. Engineers believe there could be an improvement in pedestrian peace of mind when it comes to crossing the pavement of the area.
The focus presented, surrounding Wakefield, involved Ben Robinson Square. In studying how the intersection functions, engineers found that cars need to pull onto Main Street to travel down High Street — as parking could be better defined.
Officials said the next step is to finalize the basis of design report, before kicking off the workshops. Following the workshops, the Council can consider approving the plans.
“We can’t do this without the public’s participation and input,” Rabbitt said. “That is important … the old saying, ‘it takes more than one to build a village’ – and this is one of those aspects.”
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