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2018 Power of Place Summit

March 29, 2018
Rhode Island Convention Center

Biennial Summit will bring together change agents committed to shaping a stronger, more vibrant and resilient Rhode Island

In the two years since our last Power of Place Summit, Rhode Island has experienced some very positive developments. Our economy is stronger, cranes are once again on the downtown skyline, our quality of place is the subject of numerous magazine articles and new companies and industries are choosing our state as a place to locate, develop talent and grow.

Rhode Island’s federal, state and local elected leaders, in partnership with Grow Smart RI and other private and public community stakeholders, have played an important role in shaping a quality of place that’s attracting people and business.  But, while the revitalization momentum of our Capital City is impressive, we must redouble our efforts to accelerate the revitalization of our other urban and town centers from Woonsocket to Westerly.

That’s why we invite you to join with 500 business, civic and elected leaders, development and real estate professionals, architects, builders, farmers, conservationists and policy experts from across the region to learn from one another what’s working when it comes to shaping places that thrive.

Who should attend?

  • Community change agents and citizen planners
  • Members of neighborhood associations
  • Developers and builders
  • Elected representatives
  • Development practitioners, architects, engineers, planners
  • Members of municipal boards and commisisons
  • State and local officials
  • Finance, lending and real estate professionals
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Students
  • Preservation, environmental and conservation activists
  • Public heath advocates

See who attended last time

Summit Agenda | Program

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

  • Welcome – Gail McCann, Board Chair, Grow Smart RI
  • Summit Overview – Scott Wolf, Executive Director, Grow Smart RI

Keynote Address

James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic

Community Revitalization and Reinvention: Best Practices from Across America

The award-winning national correspondent for The Atlantic, James Fallows has reported extensively from both inside and outside the United States and once worked as President Carter’s chief speechwriter.

Fallows and his wife Deborah have traveled the U.S. extensively over the last several years observing and reporting on how small and mid-sized American cities have rebounded from hard times and reinvented themselves as stronger, more vibrant and resilient places. These comeback communities are chronicled in City Makers: American Futures Project. His presentation at the Summit is titled, “Community Revitalization and Reinvention: Best Practices From across America.”


Remarks by Governor Gina M. Raimondo

Hear from the Governor about her perspective on the economic and community revitalization progress that Rhode Island is making using smart growth tools and incentives that the legislature and the administration have deployed to shape stronger, more vibrant and resilient communities across the state.

What are the key factors and place-based amenities that are drawing new private investment by companies such as GE Digital, Virgin Pulse, Johnson & Johnson and Infosys?


Rebooting New England – Bob Yaro

High performance rail connecting and growing local economies

The Rebooting New England project proposes high performance commuter rail to provide the critical enabling infrastructure for creating a network of super-connected economies from NYC to Boston. The rail infrastructure would be leveraged with an integrated economic development strategy focused on amplifying the region’s prime economic capabilities to create the largest and most powerful innovation ecosystem in the world. The concept builds upon the precedent of the United Kingdom’s “Northern Powerhouse” initiative, whereby the UK government is investing upwards of $100 billion on new high-speed rail links and related urban economic development strategies to promote revitalization of several mid-sized former industrial cities across the North of England.

Bob Yaro, Professor of Practice, University of Pennsylvania, former President, Regional Plan Association

10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. • Networking in Exhibit Area
10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. • Morning Workshops

How can Rhode Island regain its momentum for redeveloping historic buildings and neighborhoods

Beginning in 2002, the pace of breathing new life into our state’s bountiful supply of old historic buildings increased when Rhode Island stepped up with an ambitious State Historic Tax Credit program to supplement a similar tax credit at the federal level. Entrepreneurs responded by fixing and repurposing hundreds of historic buildings – many underutilized or vacant. The result attracted new people, business, jobs and vitality to historic centers across Rhode Island. Momentum slowed when the program was eliminated in 2008 for new projects and then only reinstated with very limited funding in 2013. Currently 32 projects representing a proposed quarter billion-dollar investment in RI’s economy remain on the program’s Waiting List. Participate in a lively discussion about what’s been achieved since 2002 and how we can gain back the momentum for revitalizing our historic urban, town and village centers.

  • Scott Wolf, Executive Director, Grow Smart RI (Moderator)
  • Clark Schoettle, Executive Director, Providence Revolving Fund
  • Hon. Kenneth A. Marshall, State Representative (Dist. 68)
  • Kristin DeKuiper, Partner, Holland & Knight LLP
  • Senior Staffer, Preserve RI or Preservation Society of Newport County

Unlocking Regional Prosperity through Improved Rail Connectivity

For nearly 30 years, the cities of Providence and Boston have been connected by intercity (regional commuter) rail under an agreement between their two states called the Pilgrim Partnership. However, the increasingly busy Northeast Corridor presents challenges to rail growth, and current service lacks both service frequency and reliability. Despite a longstanding consensus that enhanced rail service between Providence and Boston would strengthen the regional economy, this connection currently ranks as one of the slower, less frequent and most expensive commuter rail lines on the East Coast. Participate in a lively discussion about the barriers to improvement and the path forward toward more frequent and reliable service.

  • Peter Brassard, Architectural & Urban Design consultant, builtd Architecture (Moderator)
  • Ari Ofsevit, Member, TransitMatters, Boston, MA
  • Stephen Devine, Administrator of the Office of Transit, RIDOT

The Ballpark at Slater Mill: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Although we don’t know the fate of the Pawsox stadium proposal at press-time (2/14), community and team officials have made their case for what they believe is a win-win opportunity to invest in their futures. Win or lose, we’ll take a look back at the vetting process and talk about lessons learned. What will be (or could have been) the impacts for downtown Pawtucket, the State and the region? How were they measured? And how is the Pawsox stadium proposal different or similar to other high-profile public-private-partnerships, including the Providence Place Mall, the Garrahy Garage, South Street Landing or the I-195 economic development funds, all of which leveraged public investment for projects with a public benefit?

  • Jan Brodie, Executive Director, Pawtucket Foundation (Moderator)
  • Dylan Zelazo, Chief of Staff to Mayor Grebien, City of Pawtucket
  • Dan Rea, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Pawtucket Red Sox
  • Lori Urso, Executive Director, Old Slater Mill Association
  • Thom Deller, Special Projects Coordinator, City of Central Falls

Facilitating Community Engagement: The good, the bad and the ugly

Stakeholder engagement is a key element of many successful planning initiatives. It can, however, be challenging, or even disadvantageous, to get people to the table, let alone consider and incorporate their diverse perspectives. How the process is carried out can make the difference between a community that thrives and one that is divided. Join us in this interactive session for insight into how to assess and increase the potential for collaboration in community processes, effective ways to identify and engage stakeholders, and how to deal with disruptions that take processes off track.

  • Jennifer West, Coastal Training Program Coordinator, Narragansett Bay Research Reserve (Moderator)
  • Gayle L. Gifford, President, Cause & Effect, Inc.
  • Carri Hulet, Senior Associate, Consensus Building Institute
  • Peter Flinker, Principal, Dodson &Flinker

A New Crossroads in Housing Choice

America’s housing stock reflects a historical progression from housing defined by class structure to the mid-twentieth century innovation of large-scale production of single-family homes. Seventy years later, and we are at a new crossroads in how we house ourselves. Armed with new knowledge about smart growth and community development, coupled with a massive demographic shift that portends smaller households and an aging population, housing professionals are exploring alternative choices that help manage affordability and land use while also building community. This panel will explore trends and options, including manufactured homes; accessory dwelling units; and new kinds of home structures, like micro-housing that sometimes faces zoning and other hurdles.

  • Brenda Clement, Director, HousingWorks RI at RWU, Moderator (Moderator)
  • Mary O’Hara, Director, ROC USA, LLC
  • Arnold Robinson, Associate Dean for Community Engagement, RWU
  • Bonnie Nickerson, Director, City of Providence Planning
  • Jennifer Hawkins, Executive Director, One Neighborhood Builders

Rhode Island Forests – Our Invisible Green Giant

Despite being the 2nd most densely populated state in the country, Rhode Island is 56% forested. Forest products contribute an estimated $710 million annually to the Rhode Island economy and support over 3,300 jobs. The state’s urban and rural forests also play a critical role in mitigating the effects of climate change by storing carbon, moderating air temperatures, reducing air pollution and protecting clean drinking water supply. Despite these benefits, our forests have largely been taken for granted and continue to disappear under the pressure from land use conversion and fragmentation. This panel will examine the current state of our forests, their economic contributions to Rhode Island’s economy and quality of life, and how the use and promotion of smart growth land use techniques can accommodate economic growth while preserving forest land.

  • Christopher Modisette, State Resource Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources (Moderator)
  • Bill Buffum, Research Associate, University of Rhode Island, Department of Natural Resources Science
  • Tee Jay Boudreau, Deputy Chief, RIDEM – Division of Forest Environment
  • Christopher Riely, CF, Coordinator, Rhode Island Woodland Partnership

Getting Your Municipal Transportation Priorities on the State’s To-Do List

Municipalities and organizations have a great resource for potential infrastructure improvements in the State Transportation Improvement Plan, but few have a thorough understanding of its complex machinery. Furthermore, these municipalities and organizations may not be confident in their understanding of what qualities make an application truly competitive, and how they might formulate a plan that has what it takes to be accepted, leverages assets and opportunities appropriately, and produces the best version of that plan for their community. Featuring members of the decision-making team as well as successful applicants, this workshop will cover all parts of the process and make the Transportation Improvement Plan machinery as transparent as possible.

  • Meredith Brady, Administrator, RIDOT Division of Planning (Moderator)
  • Michael D’Alessandro, Transportation Planner, RI Division of Planning
  • Peter Friedrichs, Director of Planning & Economic Development, City of Central Falls
  • Jillian Finkle, Executive Director, Broad Street Regeneration Initiative

Creating a Model for Resilience: An Update on Newport’s Smart Cities Initiative

How can a city or town requirement for developing a resilience strategy be leveraged to become an engine for growth? Digital ecosystems, innovation centers and Community Anchor Institutions have an opportunity to redefine resilience far beyond the traditional disaster recovery response methods. In partnership with OSHEAN and CISCO, this session will focus on the City of Newport’s model for resilience and sustainable development that creates value from innovation, engagement, and investments in next- generation broadband and the Internet of things.

  • Glenn Gardiner, Principal, Northeast Collaborative Architects (Moderator)
  • Paul Carroll, Director Civic Investment, City of Newport
  • David Marble, President and CEO, OSHEAN
  • Jason Vail, IoT Sales Specialist – Smart Connected Communities, CISCO

12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. • Luncheon and Smart Growth Awards Program
2:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. • Networking in Exhibit Area
2:15 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. • Afternoon Workshops I

Think Big! Creating a Vision for the Future of Transit in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is kicking off work on the State’s first Transit Master Plan, establishing a vision for how to connect our communities and link us with neighboring states over the next 20+ years. Presenters will give a brief background on how other regions such as Nashville, Seattle and Denver have created and advanced impactful long-term plans to improve their transit networks. Instant cell-phone polling will be used to stimulate discussion on the opportunities for enhancing transit, as well as how to best get local decision makers to “think big.”

  • Amy Pettine, RIPTA CEO (Interim) (Moderator)
  • Jennifer Wieland, Principal, Nelson Nygaard Consulting Associates
  • Geoff Slater, Principal, Nelson Nygaard Consulting Associates
  • Plus a panel of local business leaders

Building the Next Generation of Public/Private Partnerships

In the realm of public/private partnerships we have begun to engage a new world order, already here and unfolding. Conditions have changed. For example, the federal government will be less of a player and cities are more in the game. Fresh practices are required to implement the next generation of partnerships. What external conditions — current and emergent – have disrupted, or will disrupt, the historical practice of public/private partnerships? Given the new world order, what do we have to no longer consider– take off of the table? The focus of the session is on practices — both human and technical. Given the changing conditions, What do we have to let go of? What known practices are effective? What practices are emerging and require nurturing? What practices have to be developed? Participants collectively answer the questions.

  • Robert Leaver, Convener, New Commons

A Smart Growth Approach to Renewable Energy Siting

Rhode Island has ambitious and worthy goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Expanding renewable energy is critical to meeting these goals. This workshop will review what Rhode Island and other states are doing to expand renewable energy development by using a smart growth approach to reduce impacts to farm and forestland. Attendees will hear about legislation in play in 2018 and engage in discussions of strategies for increasing incentives for siting renewable projects on brownfields, landfills, rooftops and other developed sites.

  • Meg Kerr, Senior Director of Policy Audubon Society of RI (Moderator)
  • Erika Niedowski, Policy Advocate, Acadia Center
  • Scott Millar, Community Technical Assistance Manager, Grow Smart RI

Revitalizing Transportation Corridors

In an automobile-oriented world, putting the well-earned importance back on the local business districts of Rhode Island can be a challenge. Though studies have proven time and again that business districts thrive with walkable, attractive streets, the tools required to achieve those goals often seem either elusive or impractical. In this presentation, public and private-sector experts will focus on the strategies and tools most useful in the quest to revitalize areas built around and/or for the automobile, including the notorious and too-numerous “grayfields,” and will explore how to harness these areas’ roles as transportation corridors to create thriving, mixed-use communities.

  • Kate Michaud, Director of Planning & Community Development, Town of Warren (Moderator)
  • Katie Dickson, Executive Director, Discover Warren
  • Nate Kelly, Principal Planner, Horsley Witten Group
  • Tom Feronti, Construction Manager, Mashpee Commons

Enhancing the Sustainability of Urban Environments for People and Wildlife

Wildlife is everywhere, with both rare and common species deserving our attention. This session will discuss some of the animals that live in urban and suburban Rhode Island or that stop here to rest and refuel during migration each year. We will describe some of the wildlife conservation challenges in urban and suburban areas, the natural resources required for vibrant populations, and the importance of habitat for wildlife and people. We’ll share important insight into ways human management of urban greenspaces can improve the sustainability of urban environments for wildlife and enhance human well-being by reconnecting people with nearby nature.

  • Amanda Freitas, RI Wildlife Action Plan Community Liaison, RI Natural History Survey & RIDEM Division of Fish & Wildlife (Moderator)
  • Carol Lynn Trocki, Conservation Biologist, Mosaic Land Management LLC and the Rhode Island Land Trust Council
  • Susannah Lerman, Research Ecologist and Adjunct Professor, UMass Amherst Department of Environmental Conservation

Shaping Local Policy for Walkable Bikeable Communities

Getting public support for any Complete Streets initiative is a crucial step in the process of making your community more walkable and bikeable, as is navigating the complicated local process for enacting policy reforms. A handful of communities in Rhode Island are setting high bars for these processes and for Complete Streets policies themselves. This panel will explore the many elements, steps, and strategies it takes to get serious momentum and support behind crucial Complete Streets initiatives.

  • Bari Freeman, Executive Director of Bike Newport
  • Peter Friedrichs, Director of Planning & Economic Development for Central Falls

3:45 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. • Cocktail Reception in Exhibit Area


Scenes from past Grow Smart RI Summits and Awards Programs