Woonsocket, RI

Ron Newman

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[spinning off a new thread from this one, where Lrfox said:]

I LOVE Woonsocket. It's gritty, old and a bit run down. However, it has a very cool, very urban downtown area. It has a ton of French Canadian heritage and a lot of interesting places in the city center. Great architecture too. I know there are specific sites, but I would just head downtown and explore.
OK, I finally got to Woonsocket yesterday. Took my bike on the train to South Attleboro, rode a couple miles to Valley Falls where the Blackstone River Bikeway starts, and rode it all the way to the end in Woonsocket.

The bikeway is stunningly beautiful, but .... Woonsocket? That's one of the most depressing places I've ever visited.

The dam is impressive, as are the Stadium Theatre and the disused but pristine-looking old train station. I'd probably have enjoyed the Museum of Work and Culture if I'd arrived earlier in the day (it closes at 4 pm, I got there at 4:30).

But the rest of it? Lots of empty storefronts, We Buy Gold shops. non-profit agencies occupying what should be retail frontage, a big parking lot where the town common should be ... bleh.

A storefront downtown had signs asking for people with good voices. I peeked in expecting to see a radio studio, but instead saw what looked like a shady boiler room full of people on phones.

Where the bike path currently ends, a huge mill was being demolished, and the people I talked to said there were no plans for what would go there next.

Should I give it another chance? What did I miss that I should have seen? I guess I was expecting another Pawtucket or Lowell, and was pretty disappointed. Supposedly CVS is headquartered there, but I never found their office building.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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It's several years behind Pawtucket and Lowell. It bottomed out in the 90's. They're cleaning it up. It's now a blank slate and redevelopment target, they're kicking around plans for new stuff and having the Where Do We Want To Go From Here? conversations, etc. If they play their cards right the 2020's will be pretty kind to them on the redevelopment front like it has with Lowell, but they're not there yet.

Woonsocket's a damn slight better than bombed-out Waterbury or New Britain...if you really want to visit the most depressing places on earth...but it's still a largely single-file line for the shot at a renaissance for these former mill cities. Lowell drew a lower number.
 

Ron Newman

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I also wondered why there is a walkway on top of the dam, but it's fenced and gated off at one end, and just plain ends at the other end with no stairway or elevator down to the street level. Fix that up, and it will give people a reason to visit.

And a place called Market Square should be something more than a parking lot with a little kiosk in the middle. Did it once look more like Portsmouth NH's or Newburyport's Market Squares?
 

JohnCostello

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[spinning off a new thread from this one, where Lrfox said:]



Supposedly CVS is headquartered there, but I never found their office building.
Ron - CVS is in a suburban office park about two miles south of downtown in a joint Woonsocket and Cumberland sponsored business park that has seen tremendous growth over the past few years, owing to tax incentives and the success of CVS, not because of the charms of Woonsocket.

One of the biggest mills was taken down in 2009 for a new middle school. Some of the bigger mills were taken down by flames.

High taxes, lousy schools, and corruption. It is what plagues many RI cities, Woonsocket is no expception.
 

JonFrum

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When all the jobs left years ago, and you're in the middle of nowhere, what are you supposed to do? Mills were built there because the river was there. Rivers are no longer used for power, so there's no need for the mills and no need for the town. And you can't develop your way into a thriving community in every old mill town unless you have a bottomless pit of money to dump into them.

They did have a nice little strip club there some years ago - it's been quite a while since I visited. More local working class bar than gentleman's club, and that's a good thing. Between that and the carp fishing in the river, that's about all you'll find when many of the residents are either un- or under-employed.
 

Commuting Boston Student

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Woonsocket actually stands a better chance than most other places to see metric shitloads of money dumped onto them.

Unfortunately, this is because Woonsocket is bankrupt. Their "shot at the renaissance," as F-Line put it, is probably going to look more like the best and worst of 60s-style Urban Renewal: Woonsocket won't be cleaned up, it'll be cleaned out.

They're not going to play their cards right because they have no cards left to play, and to be quite frank, most of their hopes for a shot at revival are tied up in having gobs of money dumped on them as a result of projects like Woonsocket (or eventual PVD-WOR) Commuter Rail, or (to really drive the Urban Renewal comparison home) upgrading 146 to an Interstate Spur and the resulting mitigation to the city.

That's a very dangerous (not to mention volatile) situation for the city to be in.
 

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