June 13, 2013 – Providence, RI – Saying there’s no better way to promote the many benefits of smart growth than to profile successful local examples, Grow Smart Rhode Island honored and celebrated individuals, plans and projects that play to Rhode Island’s strengths, generate sustainable economic benefits and improve communities and neighborhoods in the process.
The 2nd Annual Rhode Island Smart Growth Awards were presented on Monday, June 10th, at a 5:30 p.m. reception and ceremony held at the Pawtucket based Hope Artiste Village, itself a 2012 award-winner for its redeveloped mill space that is home to more than 90 business tenants.
The 2013 Smart Growth Awards recognized two inspiring leaders, five transformative smart growth projects and one visionary plan for Main Street revitalization. The public was invited to nominate candidates by March 15th and a selection committee made up of Grow Smart Board members and staff made the final selections.
In addition to an awards ceremony, the June 10th event featured a keynote address by Tacoma, Washington Mayor Marilyn Strickland, drawing connections between smart growth and economic development in her city. Mayor Strickland and Warwick, RI Mayor Scott Avedisian are colleagues on Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council Advisory Board.
Outstanding Smart Growth Leaders:
During his six years of service on the Narragansett Town Council (2006-2012), perhaps no one proposed and got approved more local initiatives supportive of smart growth than Chris. As a member of the Town Council and Narragansett Land Conservancy, Chris successfully advocated for investing in key open spaces and the development of a Master Plan for the 160-acre Canonchet Farm, following 18 months of public engagement. Chris also led the charge to invest in the iconic Kinney Bungalow at the historic Sunset Farm. Under his leadership in 2009, the Town established historic districts to preserve the character of historic neighborhoods and he spearheaded the effort to establish a comprehensive and asset-based economic development plan for the Town.
Westerly Land Trust, Westerly, RI
What distinguishes the 25 year-old Westerly Land trust from most others is that it has an “urban” as well as “open space” mission preserving Westerly’s sense of place. In addition to its holdings of 1,550 acres of woodlands, grasslands, freshwater and coastal wetlands, its Urban Initiative focuses on the redevelopment and enhancement of downtown commercial properties, particularly those having historic significance to the Town of Westerly. This urban initiative represents the flip side of the land conservation coin. Revitalizing historic, downtown areas to make them more attractive places in which to live, work and play reduces development pressure on open spaces that contribute to Westerly’s sense of place with important environmental and recreational resources.
Outstanding Smart Growth Projects:
Aquidneck Mill, Newport
The 1831 Aquidneck Steam Mill, one of the four largest original Newport Mills, was redeveloped in 2009 with the help of Rhode Island’s State Historic Tax Credit program. Located on Thames Street in Newport Harbor, the adaptive re-use of the historic landmark by the International Yacht Restoration School preserved an important asset, allowed for school expansion, the addition of a maritime research library, and created 20,000 SF of commercial lease space available to outside companies and those working in the marine trades, an important economic development asset to the Ocean State.
Providence Community Garden Network, Providence
The Providence Community Garden Network, a project of the Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT), has transformed six acres of vacant urban land into a network of 43 gardens where more than 300 families grow, eat and sell healthy food. SCLT network gardens are located in walkable, urban neighborhoods with compact built environments and transportation alternatives. The gardens affordably repurpose vacant land, create new and significant neighborhood amenities, provide public open space and support healthy lifestyles.
The Providence G, Providence
Located in the former office buildings of National Grid and Providence Gas, the Providence G brings a vibrant 24/7 mixed-use complex to Dorrance and Weybosset Streets. Completed in April, 2013, the complex includes fifty residential units, three retail/restaurant spaces and a 60 car lift-based garage. Made possible through Federal Historic Tax Credits, the project takes advantage of existing transportation infrastructure, located just blocks away from Providence’s key train and bus nodes and utilizes the existing grid for all utilities.
Rumford Center, East Providence
Famous for its most prominent product, baking powder, the former 1856 Rumford Chemical Works was redeveloped by the Kirkbrae Development Corp. and Peregrine Holdings LLC of East Providence in 2009. The project involves the redevelopment of an 8.5 acre, 200,000 SF historic mill into a mixed-use complex that includes homes, jobs and restaurants. By 2005, several buildings in the complex had fallen into disrepair and were in danger of condemnation. Fortunately due to opportune timing and the presence of State Historic Tax Credits, the future of the complex took a dramatic turn from an endangered historic property to a vibrant mixed-use development that has redefined and revitalized this section of Rumford in the City of East Providence.
The Sweetbriar community, developed by the East Bay Community Development Corporation, demonstrates the importance of good design in earning community support for affordable housing. The development consists of 23 freestanding buildings with 47 affordable rental units that are affordable to households earning 50% to 60% of area median income. Located on the site of the former West Barrington Middle School, Sweetbriar creates a very livable neighborhood for its residents and offers the convenience of public transit access to a variety of destinations, including a grocery store. Once a target of intense community opposition, Sweetbriar’s attractively designed and well cared for homes have won approval from many former nay-sayers.
Outstanding Smart Growth Policies and Plans:
Woonsocket Main Street Livability Plan
The Woonsocket Main Street Livability Plan, begun in 2012, creates a smart growth blueprint for guiding and coordinating public and private investments toward a vibrant Downtown Woonsocket where a revitalized Main Street becomes a more attractive and inviting place to live, work and shop. The plan includes a number of recommendations that aim to leverage the city’s success with arts and entertainment and calls for a number of policy changes including changes in land use and zoning, streetscape improvements, creation of dedicated bikeways, improved pedestrian connections and a reconfiguration of traffic patterns. The 209-page analysis was prepared by The Cecil Group and reflects a comprehensive approach to smart growth.
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