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2016 Power of Place Summit

June 21st gathering brought together 400 thinkers and doers committed to shaping a stronger, more vibrant Rhode Island

In the two years since our last Power of Place Summit, Rhode Island has turned some important corners. Our economy is on the rebound, our real estate market is performing better and knee-jerk negativity about our state’s future prospects, though still far too prevalent, is diminishing.

However, it’s up to each one of us to ensure that Rhode Island accelerates the pace of revitalization in a way that has lasting impact for this and future generations.

We’ve started posting presentations and hand-out materials from the plenary and breakout sessions (below). Check back for updates as well as video highlights of the Summit.

Summit Agenda Review

8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. • Registration / Networking
8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. • Morning Plenary

  • Welcome – Howard Kilguss, Chairman, Grow Smart RI
  • Summit Overview – Scott Wolf, Executive Director, Grow Smart RI

Keynote Address

Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist,

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Last December, named Metro Providence the #1 real estate market to watch in 2016, ahead of other booming markets such as San Diego, New Orleans, Charlotte and even Boston. What is it that earned Metro Providence a spot as one of the red hot places for real estate in the nation?  We know that top ten markets on’s list experienced 60% more listing page views than the U.S. overall and saw properties sell 16 days faster than the U.S. average.

With 2016 now nearing the halfway point, how has our market actually performed and what’s the forecast ahead? What’s been driving the increased activity and what does it mean for smart growth prospects in communities from Woonsocket to Westerly?

Remarks by Governor Gina M. Raimondo

Panel Discussion


Lessons Learned from Revitalization Successes in Several Smaller Northeastern Cities

Smaller cities and towns in Rhode Island and throughout the Northeast often have added challenges when it comes to reversing decades of disinvestment and charting a course to reclaiming their vibrancy and attractiveness as places to live, work and play. They are frequently overshadowed by nearby bigger cities, and have limited staff capacity to undertake complicated urban redevelopment projects.

This panel will examine three smaller cities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania that have made notable gains on the path to revitalization.


  • Joe Molinaro, Managing Director, Smart Growth and Housing Opportunity, National Association of Realtors
  • Charlotte Katzenmoyer, Director of Public Works, City of Lancaster
  • Mark Moriarty, Director of Public Works, City of New Britain, CT
  • Gary Ayrassian, Director of Planning & Development, City of Attleboro, MA
10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. • Networking in Exhibit Area
10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. • Morning Workshops
Presentation and hand-out material now being uploaded below workshop descriptions. Click the “+” to expand the boxes below.

RI's New Economic Tools and Incentives: Are They Performing to Expectations? Should They be Tweaked?

The Raimondo Administration, with strong backing from the General Assembly, has recently established and begun implementing the most smart growth oriented set of economic development incentives since Grow Smart RI’s founding 18 years ago. Hear a panel of development practitioners discuss their early experience seeking to access and use these incentives, including the Rebuild RI Tax Credit, The Main Street Streetscape Improvement Fund, the partial reimbursement program for municipalities offering Tax Stabilization agreements, the State TIF program, etc. Find out what’s working and what may need to be adjusted to effectively incent urban and town center revitalization.

  • Scott Gibbs, President, Economic Development Foundation of RI (Moderator)
  • Jesse Saglio, RI Commerce Corporation
  • Aaron Iskowitz, COO, Urban Smart Growth, LLC
  • Scot E. Butcher, Principal, Tax Incentive Finance, LLC
  • Fred Presley, Town Manager, Town of West Warwick, RI

Envisioning a Transit System that Works for More RI’ers: How do We Get There from Here?

A robust mass transit system is increasingly seen by business and civic leaders, and voters alike, as a key competitive advantage to building and sustaining a strong and dynamic 21st century economy. With several transit improvements projects now in the works or on the horizon, Governor Raimondo’s administration is engaging community leaders and stakeholders about the most effective ways to coordinate and leverage public and private investments that yield the best possible transit and economic development outcomes. Come participate in a discussion about shaping a vision and master plan for a robust and coordinated transit system that really works for Rhode Island.

  • Richard Culatta, Chief Innovation Officer, Office of Governor Gina M. Raimondo (Moderator)
  • Amy Pettine, Executive Director, Planning, RIPTA
  • Peter Garino, Deputy Director, RI Dept. of Transportation

Housing's Role in Revitalizing Mixed-Use Centers: Restoring Vitality, Preventing Displacement

RI’s landscape is dotted with numerous villages and centers that have historically been successful mixes of places to live, shop, work and play. From historic mill villages to urban and suburban neighborhood centers, these places are critical assets to economic development. While some of our urban centers already serve as home to many, continued growth poses pressures of displacement. Meanwhile, our suburban centers are looking to add housing to obtain a density of residents for their economies to thrive. This session will examine how urban centers, like Olneyville, can continue to grow without displacing its current residents, and suburban centers, like Post Road in North Kingstown, are revitalizing by adding new housing and residents to populate its commercial areas and restore vitality. A market research analyst will make the case for how a diverse housing stock is a necessary ingredient to the success of mixed use centers.

  • Barbara Fields, Executive Director, Rhode Island Housing (Moderator) – Presentation
  • Frank Shea, CEO, Urban Edge CDC, Boston – Presentation
  • Frank Mahady, Principal, FXM Associates
  • Nicole LaFontaine , Director of Planning & Development, Town of North Kingstown – Presntation


Unfolding the Next Economy of our Walkable Places

The focus is on unfolding the next economy of our places in RI. This is a facilitated conversation. Particular attention will be on: why walking matters; changing market conditions; innovative financing, such as crowd source funding; best practices; and next generation of housing such as small/micro work live spaces. The presenters for this session are—you – the participants in the session. You will be invited by Robert Leaver to consider and share what you are currently doing. And what you want to do next. Robert will work with the Grow Smart staff to develop a 15 minute provoking presentation the jump start the conversation. A full summary of the session will be prepared and shared.

  • Robert Leaver, Principal, New Commons: Think. Link. Do. (Facilitator)

RESILIENT RHODE ISLAND: Exploring Adaptations to Climate Change in Two Historic Cities

Across Rhode Island, leaders in the topic of resiliency have been examining the effects of climate change on our built environment. This workshop will summarize the findings of two separate-but-related efforts: the #ResilientPVD Community Workshop and the Keeping History Above Water working charrette. The former hosted a team of national experts in Providence for three days of public charrettes, workshops, and community meetings to explore how the capital city’s infrastructure, buildings, and neighborhoods can prepare for the impacts of climate change. The latter team of experts convened in Newport’s historic Point Neighborhood to examine the effects of, and solutions for, climate change and associated sea level rise in vulnerable historic neighborhoods. Sustainable development starts with protecting RI’s unique historic resources, and this workshop takes a solutions-oriented approach to addressing this impending issue.

  • Stephanie Zurek, Associate, Union Studio Architecture & Community Design (Moderator)
  • Leah Bamberger, Director of Sustainability, City of Providence
  • Barnaby Evans, Executive Artistic Director, WaterFire Providence
  • Pieter Roos, Executive Director, Newport Restoration Foundation

Paths to Progress: Why and How RI Should Complete and Connect its Bikeway Network

Over the years, Rhode Island’s investment in 60 miles of bikepaths throughout the state has proven popular with residents and visitors alike. However, many of the paths are disconnected from one another, dead-end or don’t connect with the growing network of bikepaths in neighboring states. To realize the full economic, health and transportation benefits, we need to close the gaps and expand the network throughout the state. Finishing the job of building out our paths network will expand tourism, healthy recreation and alternative transportation opportunities all over Rhode Island. Hear from local experts who have been planning and advocating for Rhode Island to finish the job.

  • Alex Krogh-Grabbe, Executive Director, RI Bike Coalition (Moderator)
  • Bari Freeman, Executive Director, Bike Newport
  • Alicia Lehrer, Executive Director, Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council

Strengthening Communities by Strengthening RI’s Food Sector

Expanding Rhode Island’s food system can yield many positive outcomes for the state and for individual municipalities. By increasing local production, manufacturing, and distribution businesses, and by focusing on access to ensure all Rhode Islanders enjoy food security, we can revitalize neighborhoods, improve health, increase entry-level work opportunities, grow new businesses and jobs, and preserve land and natural resources. Hear speakers from municipalities and non-profits discuss innovative food system work that is making a difference in communities around the state – from Aquidneck Island to Providence to Woonsocket — and learn about plans to develop Rhode Island’s first State Food Plan.

  • Leo Pollock, Network Director, RI Food Policy Council (Moderator)
  • Angela Ankoma, MPH, MSW, Chief, Office of Minority Health and Board President, West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation
  • Annajane Yolken, Program Development, Implementation and Evaluation Manager, Thundermist Health Centers
  • Ckarla Agudelo, Program Manager, Woonsocket HEZ
  • Bevan Linsley, Project Director, Aquidneck Community Table (formerly Island Commons)

12:15 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. • Luncheon and Smart Growth Awards Program
2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. • Networking in Exhibit Area
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. • Afternoon Workshops I

How Massachusetts Partners with its Municipalities to Revitalize Urban and Town Centers

The MassWorks Infrastructure Program provides an effective one-stop shop for municipalities seeking public infrastructure funding. Is it a potential model for Rhode Island? The competitive no-match grant program funds critical public infrastructure projects that support housing and economic development in the commonwealth’s urban and town centers, making them more attractive to private investment. Building on the program’s success, the Baker Administration is now proposing to increase the state’s investment from $60M to $100M/year for the next five years in an effort to continue the revitalization of urban and town centers through investments in water, waste-water, transit stations, roads, streetscape and utility upgrades, etc. Hear first-hand from municipal officials that are succeeding in this innovative partnership.

  • Larry Field, Deputy Director, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance (Moderator)
  • Erica Kreuter, Director, MassWorks Infrastructure Program
  • Gary Ayrassian, Director of Planning and Development, City of Attleboro, MA
  • Gary Anderson, Director of Planning and Development, Town of Easton, MA

Leveraging Transit Investment to Implement Complete Streets: a Win-Win for Cities and Towns

RIPTA has recently adopted its Passenger Experience Enhancement Program (PEEP!), a proactive effort to improve bus stop infrastructure across the state. In conjunction with McMahon Associates, RIPTA is currently completing the first step in this process, the Bus Stop Design Guide. During this session, representatives from RIPTA and McMahon will review the project to provide municipalities the opportunity to learn more about how to utilize PEEP! to improve transit services in their communities. In addition, a representative from the City of Cambridge will show what happens when a municipality takes a more proactive role in identifying challenges related to transit service through a combination of public engagement, planning studies, and analysis using existing data.

  • Gregory Nordin, Principal Planner, Special Projects, RIPTA
  • Sandra Clarey, Project Manager, McMahon Associates, Inc.
  • Tegin Teich Bennett, Senior Transportation Planner, City of Cambridge, MA

How Will the Best Solution for the 6-10 Connector be Determined?

The 6-10 Connector is a state highway segment in Providence that connects from downtown and Interstate 95, through numerous city neighborhoods, to Johnston and Cranston. Much of this highway is dilapidated and needs to be replaced by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT). The 6-10 replacement project must comply with the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). We will explore how criteria are established for determining what will be analyzed in conceptual project design alternatives. Besides a no-built alternative, various constituencies, whose needs and desires vary and overlap, will inform each alternative. An Alternatives Analysis will ultimately determine how the corridor is reconstructed.

  • Peter Brassard, Architectural and Urban Design Consultant, Moderator
  • Bonnie Nickerson, Director, Providence Dept. of Planning & Development – Presentation
  • Peter Garino, Deputy Director, RI Department of Transportation

Leveraging RI's Place Based Marine Expertise

How might the State’s private boat building and other marine engineering firms, which have a long history of innovation with materials and fabrication, partner with the U.S. Navy research and development divisions centered in Newport, local research universities and the State itself to help create new, sustainable, job- intensive businesses and economic activity that directly benefit the East Bay and statewide economy? Learn how RI’s sophisticated local marine technical capacity is already being applied to meet the needs of the US military and in what other ways this intellectual capital can be scaled up to support aerospace and other technology sector growth.

  • James Lima, James Lima Planning + Development (Moderator)
  • Eric Hall, Hall Spars, Bristol
  • Elena Gaudette, Director, Rhode Island Defense Commercialization, Naval Undersea Warfare Center
  • Halsey Herreshoff, Herreshoff Museum
  • Jason Kelly, Moran Shipping Agencies

Transit Oriented Development: Easier said Than Done… What Will Make it Happen in Rhode Island?

How might TOD shape the next generation of growth and development in Rhode Island?
What are the local and national trends telling us about today’s TOD challenges and opportunities? What local and state programs are in place that could catalyze these opportunities? What were the keys to success for TOD projects in other states?
Is Rhode Island ready? Join (7) expert panelists representing a diverse background as they discuss today’s Trends in TOD and what it could mean for Rhode Island. Audience participation will include keypad polling.

  • Geoffrey Morrison-Logan, New England Regional Director of Planning, Urban Design & Landscape Architecture, VHB (moderator)
  • Linsey Callaghan, Supervising Planner, RI Statewide Planning Program
  • Amy Pettine, Executive Director, Planning, RIPTA
  • Anne Galbraith, Principal, ASG Planning
  • Susan Mara, Assistant Director of Planning & Redevelopment, City of Pawtucket
  • Craig Seymour, Managing Principal, RKG Associates, Inc.

Entrepreneurial Urban Placemaking Strategies

Rhode Island is bursting with innovative local leaders driving entrepreneurial programs, projects, companies and non-profits of all kinds, aimed at addressing community challenges while generating sustainable revenue streams and quality jobs. Come hear the “voices and strategies” of three of the most long-standing and successful of these – Bert Crenca of AS220, Barnaby Evans of WaterFire and Lisa Raiola of Hope & Main. Moderated by Dan Levinson of Main Street Resources, an innovative platform for RI impact investing, entrepreneurial philanthropy and more. What’s your story? What’s working? How do you fit within the wider economic development world? Why here? What’s next? Big challenges? Plus plenty of time for discussion.

  • Dan Levinson, Founder, Main Street Resources
  • Bert Crenca, Founder, AS220
  • Barnaby Evans, Executive Artistic Director, WaterFire Providence
  • Lisa Raiola, Founder, Hope & Main

Reinventing Urban Landscapes with Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure is an approach to managing stormwater by infiltrating it in the ground where it is generated using vegetation or porous surfaces, or by capturing it for later reuse. Green infrastructure practices include infiltration systems like rain gardens, vegetated swales and permeable pavement; green roofs; rainwater harvesting; downspout disconnection; and tree planting. Green infrastructure is increasingly seen as important for climate adaptation, particularly in urban areas. This workshop will review the basics of green infrastructure, describe exciting projects under way in Rhode Island and direct participants to tools they can apply to projects in their communities.

  • Meg Kerr, Environmental Advocate and Policy Analyst, Audubon Society of RI (Moderator)
  • Alicia Lehrer, Executive Director, Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council
  • Karen A. Beck, RLA, FASLA, Landscape Architect, RI Chapter, American Society of Landscape Architects
  • Walter Burke, Director of Parks & Recreation, Town of Bristol, RI

Presentation: Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council

4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. • Cocktail Reception in Exhibit Area


Scenes from the day

scene at the summit