Category Archives: Pare Projects

Blackstone Valley Prep Opens 4th School in 4 Years

On November 20th, Pare Corporation celebrated the ribbon cutting and grand opening of the newly-constructed Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 2 (BVPES2), located at 52 Broad St. in Cumberland, RI.  BVPES2 is the fourth Blackstone Valley Prep Academy that has opened in Rhode Island within the past four years, and the program is expected to grow to seven charter schools by 2017.  Blackstone Valley Prep charter schools offer a high-quality public school option to families of Central Falls, Cumberland, Lincoln and Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  Students are admitted via a lottery system.  Pare provided site/civil design, structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, traffic/transportation engineering, and environmental services and permitting for the school.

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Students stand with Blackstone Valley Prep administrators and trustees to cut ribbon.

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A view of the newly constructed BVPES2 building.

This project was developed by Civic Builders, a non-profit organization operating from headquarters in New York City.  Since 2002, Civic Builders has made a large impact on the charter school movement on a national level.  Their organization aims to provide development responsibilities–such as financing, design and construction–to build or renovate inspiring schools in under-served neighborhoods.  As described on the Civic Builders website, “Our schools give under-served students—82% of whom live in poverty and 90% of whom are minorities—the opportunity to excel.”  Civic Builders partners with small independent charter schools as well as large charter school networks.  Projects range from renovations of existing facilities to new construction, like the Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 2.  Civic Builders’ CEO, David Umansky, attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, and spoke to students, faculty and guests about Civic Builders and the opportunities their mission strives to make possible.

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David Umansky, Civic Builders CEO, speaks to guests at ribbon cutting ceremony.

Charter Schools are currently on the rise in Rhode Island.  There are currently 25 charter schools in Rhode Island, and many of these charter school networks, including Blackstone Valley Prep, intend to expand in the coming years.  In 2014 there were 1,935 applications for Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 2 and only 185 open seats.  Students, which Blackstone Valley Prep refers to as scholars, complete an eight-hour school day that includes extra attention to the arts, and a focus on career and college readiness.

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BVPES2 students perform for guests at the ribbon cutting ceremony in their new dual-function auditorium.

Not all Rhode Islanders are pleased with the rise in charter schools.  Some groups including RI public school teachers claim that charter schools take needed funding away from public schools.  Unlike charter schools, public schools cannot accept private funding.  However, testing has shown that RI charter school students perform well in these new facilities.  Blackstone Valley Prep eighth graders ranked at 94% for proficiency in math in the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP), the highest such ranking in Rhode Island.  While charter schools may be controversial in some cases, it is clear that Civic Builders and Blackstone Valley Prep are dedicated to improving education.

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Pare engineers joined volunteers to build the KABOOM! playground on Sept. 13th.

One aspect of this project that impressed the Pare team is the enthusiasm and support this project generated within the community.  As the project neared completion, several members of the Pare team participated in a volunteer project to build a KABOOM! playground for BVP students.  Parents, staff and volunteers of all types came together and assembled the KABOOM! playground in one day.  KABOOM! is a national non-profit that describes their mission as “dedicated to saving play for America’s children.  Our mission is to create great play spaces through the participation and leadership of communities.  Ultimately, we envision a place to play within walking distance of every child in America.”  This playground is open to children outside of school hours.

The Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 2  project was not without obstacles.  Previous development in the area presented the project team with difficulties related to historic sub-surface disturbance in the neighborhood, as well as routine pollutants (which are treated as anything but by the State School Siting regulations).  Pare was able to use its in-house expertise to overcome these obstacles, ensuring the success of the project.  The aggressive construction schedule also posed a significant challenge to the design of the project, as the structural construction documents were needed as an “early bid package.”  This meant that the structural design needed to be completed well ahead of other disciplines, requiring close coordination to meet this goal.  Pare was well equipped for this challenge, as the site design and geotechnical design were done in-house, streamlining the flow of design information.  Also, due to Pare’s close working relationship with the architect, Ai3, the team was able to identify critical items for the structural design so that decisions could be made in a timely manner.

Pare is proud to have been a contributing partner in the BVPES2 project, and looks forward to Blackstone Valley Prep’s continuing expansion and positive effect on Rhode Island education.

Stunning Results After Dam Removal

On June 24th, 2014, PARE joined the Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game, Town of Lancaster, MA dignitaries, elected officials and our partners, to celebrate the completion of the Bartlett Pond Dam removal and the restoration of free flow to Wekepeke Brook, a tributary to the North Nashua River. The dam removal’s ribbon cutting ceremony was utilized as a backdrop to proclaim June as “Rivers Month.”

Bartlett Pond Dam before dam removal:

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The Bartlett Dam removal project marked the first completion of a project awarded funding under the EEA Dam and Seawall Repair and Rehabilitation Fund. The fund enables the Commonwealth to fund project which address current infrastructure concerns  such as the growing need to repair dams, coastal flood control structures and inland flood control structures that pose a risk to public health, public safety and key economic centers, while also supporting the enhancement, preservation, and protection of the natural resources and scenic, historic and aesthetic qualities of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Pare’s Project Manager, Allen Orsi, describes dam removal in general in a previous blog posted here.

The Bartlett Pond Dam, which was identified as a significant hazard potential dam in 2009, “was a threat to native ecology and natural processes,” as described by Briscoe Lang, Principal Environmental Scientist at Pare. Through detailed evaluations, Pare worked with the Town of Lancaster to consider both the rehabilitation and the removal of the dam. After completing a preliminary feasibility study in 2011, Pare worked with the Town, the Massachusetts Department of Ecological Restoration, and other project partners to advocate dam removal as the preferred approach for remediating observed deficiencies, such as native brook trout having no upstream passage, which affected the overall ecology of Wekepeke Brook. Design and permitting for the dam removal program commenced in fall 2012. Permitting was completed by summer 2013 and a contractor was selected by August 2013. Construction activities started in May 2014 with unobstructed flow restored to the brook within two weeks of commencing work.

Bartlett Pond Dam removal construction:

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Briscoe Lang described the results of this project as “stunning.” Upstream passage was restored for 18 miles of high-quality cold water habitat. Pare also collaborated with Birchwood Design Group, landscape architects, to design the incorporation of park improvements and a landscaping program, which will provide added recreational benefits for the Town of Lancaster. The ultimate goal of this project is that the remnant channel will be stable and sustainable. When asked if there were any challenges the ecology could face after the dam removal, Briscoe mentioned that some plant life, such as purple loosestrife, does pose a risk, but Lancaster is aware of these factors and is adept in handling them.

Bartlett Pond after dam removal completion:

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“Cities and towns across the state are facing significant costs to update their antiquated water infrastructure systems. This Lancaster project demonstrates that, when appropriate, removing a dam can be a very cost-effective way to restore a river and enhance public safety and water quality,” said Geoff Beckwith, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

The completion of this project marks the first of what PARE hopes to be many successful dam removals, thanks to the EEA Dam and Seawall Repair and Rehabilitation Fund.

Pare Congratulates Walter Burke on Environmental Achievement Award

Pare Corporation is excited to recognize a long-time client, Bristol Parks and Recreation Director Walter Burke, as the recipient of Save the Bay’s annual Environmental Achievement Award. Walter was recently honored for his efforts to eliminate stormwater pollution entering Narragansett Bay in the Town of Bristol and, in particular, for his efforts to improve water quality at the Bristol Town Beach.

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Working with Pare’s civil engineering and environmental teams, Walter initiated the Bristol Town Beach project to eliminate the frequent beach closings caused in years past by stormwater pollution. Historically, Bristol was forced to close its beach an average of 15 to 20 times per summer due to a stormwater system that carried bacteria, salt, and pollutants directly into the bay. David Potter, Senior Project Engineer in Pare’s Civil Division explains, “Pare worked together with Walter, the CRMC (RI Coastal Resources Management Council) and the DEM (RI Department of Environmental Management) to obtain a joint permit for the first-ever permitted GWVTS (Gravel Wet Vegetated Treatment System) in Rhode Island.”

Bristol Beach Plan

This design uses a vegetated permanent pool split between two cells to temporarily capture stormwater runoff from the adjacent residential neighborhood and treat for pathogens, total suspended solids, and other constituents. The two cells within the GWVTS are planted with a variety of aesthetically pleasing flowers and shrubs that feed on bacteria and pollutants before releasing this “filtered” water into the bay. The GWVTS is one of the solutions incorporated by Walter Burke on the Bristol Town Beach to treat stormwater runoff and reduce the number of beach closings.

The new system worked so well in the summer of 2013 (its first full season) that beach closings went from 15+ to zero. Briscoe Lang, Pare’s Principal Environmental Scientist, stated, “This system has proven successful in removing pathogens, and it should be used in all possible settings. It also provides significant aesthetic benefits.”

Bristol Bioretention Pond

When discussing the dual-functionality and success of the project, Pare’s team unanimously noted Walter Burke’s “vision” and his “get it done” attitude. As Briscoe Lang said, “Talk is nothing without action.” David Potter added, “He not only has the vision, but the patience and energy to achieve it.”

Bristol Beach Wetland

Congratulations to Walter Burke, who was presented the Environmental Achievement Award on Wednesday, May 21, by Save the Bay. For press coverage of Walter Burke’s achievement and additional GWVTS details, click here.