The Providence River Pedestrian Bridge, which opened this year, was envisioned by the Detroit-based architecture firm inFORM Studio and structures designer BuroHappold as far more than a connector: A new artery flowing through the heart of the city, the bridge connects two new waterfront parks and expands the budding Innovation & Design District, all sitting on a narrow parcel once covered by Interstate 195 before its 2013 relocation.

The new urban infrastructure is drawing praise as it supports economic development in the neighborhoods of College Hill and Fox Point, now linked directly to Providence’s Jewelry District and the city’s main rapid transit connector A study by BuroHappold shows Providence could expect more than $5 million in annual property taxes and fees on new developments within 1 mile (walking distance) of the bridge.

Yet the 394-foot span has even greater impact: “Current and proposed projects around the new Innovation & Design district stand to add more than 1,600 new residential units and 750,000 square feet of commercial and research space to the area,” says BuroHappold partner Craig Schwitter. “This new activity alone is can support more than 4,500 residents and 2,100 new employees.” The new housing will also serve the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Brown University, Johnson & Wales University, and other local institutions. (For more on new projects spurred by the bridge opening, see below.)

Built for the client Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), the new bridge is already a magnetic and much-photographed icon that symbolizes Providence’s renaissance. Its innovative and modern form exudes old-world character and warmth thanks to its naturally finished wood cladding, crafted by the innovative firm SITU Fabrication. The design’s reuse of abandoned public infrastructure has set a valuable precedent for other cities nationally, too.

In addition to its work on the acclaimed structural engineering, BuroHappold engaged its Cities Team and Sustainability leaders to carefully model the economic, mobility and environmental impact of their proposed bridge design. The studies have confirmed the economic and civic benefits of a thoughtful investment in urban mobility.

For more information, photos and interviews, contact C.C. Sullivan.

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