After the Town received grant funding from the Southeast New England Program (SNEP) of the U.S. EPA (administered by Restore America’s Estuaries), they hired us to develop a neighborhood plan for the low-lying coastal area between Market Street and Metacom Avenue. The project area is a dense, mixed-use neighborhood (both commercial and residential) that faces tidal flooding impacts, is threatened by projected sea level rise impacts, and has a high percentage of paved impervious surface areas that produces a large volume of stormwater runoff (affecting water quality). The Market to Metacom Plan addresses both the challenges of bringing in new development opportunities and ensuring that those opportunities are protected from environmental effects.
An important component of the Plan was to actively engage the community (residents, property owners, business owners, etc.) to develop a true and honest vision for this project. Hearing from those who walk the streets, who operate private businesses, who will be impacted by construction, and who understand the day-to-day challenges of living in this area provides invaluable information that leads to informed decision-making. After Fuss & O’Neill collected and analyzed existing conditions (land use, property values, infrastructure, regulations, flooding, and projected sea level rise impacts), three public workshops were led by Fuss & O’Neill and Union Studio to present these existing conditions and to gather input from the community.
After considering the existing conditions and the community’s input, the Plan is a phased approach that implements two complementary scenarios. The first scenario would implement a buy-out program for properties in the Market Street Neighborhood that are threatened by frequent flooding, while, at the same time, making area transportation corridors more resilient to climate change impacts to maintain regional and local transportation connectivity. The second scenario for the Metacom Avenue Corridor would change the zoning to a simpler Form-Based Code and allow higher density, mixed-use development that encourages commercial development and upper-floor residential housing.
Redevelopment projects would need to conform to updated site development regulations, which would result in less impervious area and improved and nature-based stormwater management. This has the potential to significantly improve water quality in area rivers and Narragansett Bay. The current width of Metacom Avenue presents an opportunity for a reconfiguration that can still accommodate a high level of service for vehicular traffic while adding a center turning land, adding bike lanes, and improving sidewalks. This type of alternative road configuration has traffic-calming effects and is associated with vehicular and pedestrian safety improvements – both of which encourage economic development. When transportation improvements are implemented, there will be opportunity to integrate improved stormwater infrastructure, which will improve water quality.
As this is a community opportunity, it is important to the leaders of this Plan that the community be constantly involved. A project website was created to allow 24/7 accessibility to ongoing project information. The website encourages feedback and facilitates interaction with stakeholders. The website is routinely updated as the project progresses. In addition to the project website, social media (Facebook) is used
to communicate and update stakeholders.
The Town’s Plan sets a bold vision for the future, with a goal of creating a regulatory and incentive environment that motivates private sector developers. The Town, Fuss & O’Neill, and Union Studio have created several proof-of-concept site plans and graphics, and the Town is interested in exploring partnerships with experienced development companies for redevelopment proposals. The Market to Metacom Project has attracted the attention of Congressional leaders, infrastructure funders, and the local leadership structure. As a result of the project and the support it has garnered, the Town is taking actions to encourage and incentivize redevelopment in the Metacom Avenue Corridor. Work to date has identified opportunities for 500-800 residential units and 100,000+ ft2 of commercial development. The Market to Metacom Plan makes the Town of Warren a forerunner in integrated community development and resilience planning.
Preserving history while restoring a river’s natural systems