December 2005

Discarded shopping carts find new life as deck handrails at Rising Sun Mills

Providence, RI–– Broken and rusting shopping carts, discarded into the Woonasquatucket River and left to pollute, have found new life, form and use as material for handrails on an outdoor deck at Rising Sun Mills that overlooks its former watery grave. The collaborative effort to reclaim and recycle the carts was recently completed by The Steelyard, the co-developers of the mixed-use project in Providence — Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse (SBER) and The Armory Revival Company — and a number of other local companies.

“This deck claims a unique observation perspective of the Woonasquatucket River and it deserved handrails that were conversation pieces all their own,” stated Ethan Colaiace of Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse. “What initially began as a simple idea to recycle the shopping carts for this use, quickly gained momentum and evolved into a much larger and more complicated construction task,” he added.

Two shopping carts were initially dredged from the river using a primitive rope and hook system. The process also netted a rusted bicycle frame which was “donated” to three teenage boys who stopped to watch the removal project. The Steelyard constructed a prototype design from these carts, utilizing a variety of cleaning, cutting and welding operations, while aware of the need for the handrails to satisfy construction code.

The shopping carts were cut into flat panels and then welded to steel frames to create a cityscape design. Negative space was left at the bottom of the rails to allow the flowing river to be seen from the deck. The shopping carts were then restored to their original appearance consisting of a chrome finish and black painted steel. The design was inspired by the adaptive re-use of the Rising Sun Mills project.

Shopping carts are among the most common items found in and around the Woonasquatucket River. “Persons looking for quick cash will collect scrap metal in stolen shopping carts and then deliver the goods to the scrap yard. Because the carts are not accepted themselves, they end up being deposited in the river to become someone else’s problem. In our re-claiming efforts, we pulled out carts that were used in grocery stores closed more than ten years ago,” Sneider added.

Rising Sun Mills is a conversion of a 130-year-old mill complex in downtown Providence. Upon completion, it will combine a mixture of office space, loft apartments and retail space in an urban setting overlooking the Woonasquatucket River.

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