West River was the first of several redevelopment areas in the city. Beginning in 1956, demolition and reconstruction began on a seventy-six-acre parcel wedged between the routes of Interstate 95 (not yet built at the time, but in the planning stages) and State Highway 146 (the major route to the northwest). The area had developed historically as a largely small-scale, though densely packed residential neighborhood with more than the usual complement of industrial operations – thanks, largely, to its adjacency to the main rail line connecting Providence with Boston. Several churches and schools, as well, were located here. While a couple of nineteenth-century complexes were not demolished, most of the land was cleared and made available for light manufacturing or commercial development. Immediately to its south, the Randall Square area was the site of several dense industrial complexes. Largely underused or vacant, like so many in Providence by the late 1960s, this group of buildings became the object of scrutiny for imaginative redevelopment, along the lines of San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square, begun just a few years earlier in 1964. Fire struck on a large scale in 1970, and the complexes were destroyed, with only two small buildings surviving. Two different methods of urban clearance, with two different results.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture