Officials display vision, gather ideas for future of Watchemocket Square in East Providence

Several interested parties attend public meeting held at Tockwotton Home

By Mike Rego
Posted 1/17/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — Well over 50 residents and interested parties were in attendance at a meeting about the future of the Watchmoket Square district and the nearby waterfront hosted by the …

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Officials display vision, gather ideas for future of Watchemocket Square in East Providence

Several interested parties attend public meeting held at Tockwotton Home

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — Well over 50 residents and interested parties were in attendance at a meeting about the future of the Watchmoket Square district and the nearby waterfront hosted by the city’s administration Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 15, at the Tockwotton Home.

City Planning Director and Waterfront Commission Chairman Bill Fazioli said he was pleased with the numbers at the gathering, pegging it at around 65 people who came to Tockwotton over a period of about two hours. He added, there was a “general enthusiasm about the possibilities at the site.”

Attendees heard from among others Mayor Bob DaSilva, Mr. Fazioli and representatives of the firm consulting on the matter, the BETA Group. Mr. Fazioli said the meeting was about “getting feedback from residents, business owners and people in the area…We asked them to tell us about what they wanted to see happen, tell us about any issues or concerns they may have.”

Among the ideas brought to the floor for the area were creating more space for public Art displays, adding more restaurants to the area, upgrading public safety and traffic patterns, improving its walkability and potentially connecting Watchemoket Square with Bold Point Park for pedestrian travel.

“I think people are generally upbeat, generally enthusiastic about the district,” Mr. Fazioli said, who is also the Chairman of the East Providence Waterfront Commission.

The director was also impressed by some other interested parties who took part in the meeting, specifically those from the Pokanoket Native American tribe. He said their review of the history of the area, which they call “Sowams,” meaning the south country, was “very enlightening to hear.” Mr. Fazioli said the city is being urged to formally recognize the historical presence and contributions of Native Americans in East Providence, something he expects to occur in some meaningful way.

Additionally, Mr. Fazioli said talk touched on the preservation effort for The Odd Fellows Home, which the city relinquished ownership of last year. The director said the new owner’s main focus at the moment is to make sure the dilapidated building is “structurally sound.” He said once that is done, then they will get into the specifics, likely initially ranging from retail on the first floor and office space on second floor.

The proprietors of the Black Duck and East Providence Yacht Club establishments located, respectively, in the district and at the shore attended the meeting as well, Mr. Fazioli saying it was “encouraging” to see business owners be part of the process.

Of the event overall, Mr. Fazioli concluded, “I thought is was well-planned, well-thought out. I was very pleased with how it turned out.”

The director said he and Planning office staff, along with that of the mayor, will spend the next several weeks reviewing the data compiled by BETA. He said the intention is to soon provide the City Council with an update on the information gleaned from the meeting. Mr. Fazioli noted it is likely another similar meeting, hopefully with more detailed analysis available, will be held sometime in the spring.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.