Those credited with shaping a stronger Rhode Island were recognized at May 21st event
“Each year, passionate, creative and resourceful Rhode Islanders show us the way to tap more of our state’s full potential through projects, plans and policies that play to Rhode Island’s strengths, generate enduring economic benefits, both statewide and in specific neighborhoods”, said Grow Smart’s Executive Director Scott Wolf.
In addition to an awards ceremony, the event featured a keynote address by Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer. Congressman Blumenauer has been the chief spokesperson in Congress for smart growth and vibrant communities. He has traveled the country for more than a decade observing and promoting smart growth best practices.
The 2015 awards recognized three inspiring leaders, four transformative smart growth projects and two visionary sets of policies that encourage smart growth and address barriers to downtown development. A special Founders’ Leadership Award was also presented.
Mayor Scott Avedisian
Taking the helm of RIPTA’s board of directors in 2012, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian brought bold leadership and a clear vision for how mass transit can better work for Rhode Islanders and for our economy. Under his leadership, RIPTA has implemented a number of improvements aimed at creating stronger communities that offer a range of transportation choices and better access to jobs. And with renewed public confidence in RIPTA, voters went to the polls in November and approved the first-ever stand-alone transit improvement bond referendum. Back in Warwick, the mayor has championed the economic value of mass transit in advancing City Centre Warwick, a transit-oriented district that’s already attracting significant new investment in hotels, restaurants, offices and residences.
The Pawtucket Foundation
Founded in 2000 as a business-backed nonprofit community development organization, the Pawtucket Foundation has been a driving force behind many initiatives that are helping to revitalize Downtown Pawtucket by using smart growth principles and strategies. The Pawtucket Foundation has achieved great success convening community stakeholders and developing consensus around a vision for the city’s future that capitalizes on its existing assets as well as public investments in planning, transportation gateway enhancements, riverfront development opportunities and policy reforms that address barriers to downtown development. The foundation has also been a leader in aggregating citywide data on the performance of the State Historic Tax Credit program to aid in advocacy efforts to restore the incentive program.
Sheila Deming Brush
After managing the 1997 conference that gave birth to the vision of a statewide smart growth coalition, Sheila Brush played a critical role in making that vision a reality. She provided operational support and strategic planning to the business and non-profit leaders that founded Grow Smart Rhode Island, secured the organization’s initial funding and, after the organization’s incorporation, became its first staff person. For the last 18 years she has dedicated herself to multi-interest coalition building and policy development to promote expanded housing choices and affordability, the historic preservation tax credit, and strengthened food systems. Working collaboratively with more than 20 organizations and agencies, she established Grow Smart’s award-winning Land Use Training Collaborative, which has developed and delivered workshops to more than 3,000 municipal officials and land-use practitioners.
Hope & Main
As the state’s first culinary incubator, Hope & Main is an innovative nonprofit enterprise that provides low overhead kitchen space and business mentoring to beginning food businesses. In 5 short years, visionary founder Lisa Raiola worked with an energetic Board, food industry leaders and a supportive town government to put together a self-sustaining business model, secure funding and rehabilitate an empty 100-year old school on Warren’s Main Street. Already, 14 businesses are in operation and many more are in the pipeline. Hope & Main’s organizational mission to support the expansion of Rhode Island’s food sector and its decision to convert a vacant downtown property to a vibrant new use exemplify the principles and vision of smart growth.
The Design Exchange
Constructed in 1880 at 161 Exchange Street in Downtown Pawtucket, the Design Exchange is a restored four-story brick mill building which was once part of the RI Cardboard Company complex. The 100% commercially occupied mill sits within a city and state historic district that’s become a center for the arts, including the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center and the Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre and the adjacent Blackstone Studios Building. Owned and developed by LLB Architects, the project received state and federal historic tax credits. The building is filled with graphic, industrial/interior designers, photographers, textile designers, architects, and engineers helping realize the building’s full potential and drawing visitors and businesses to the Arts District.
North Cove Residential Neighborhood
Located adjacent to Wickford Village in North Kingstown, North Cove is a great example of how a suburban community can encourage and support development of affordable rental homes, using a traditional village neighborhood design. North Cove was completed in 2013 by North Dartmouth Properties, Inc. and features a compact design with a clustering of 38 homes. Allowed under North Kingstown’s Planned Village District zoning, the development preserves 45% of its land area as open space and offers easy access to walking trails, a boat launch, bike paths, Narragansett Bay and Wickford Village. The neighborhood makes good use of existing infrastructure and is conveniently located near stores, amenities, employment opportunities and mass transit.
Center for Physician Studies at Johnson & Wales
Setting its sights on a growing segment of the healthcare sector, Johnson & Wales selected a former jewelry factory in Providence’s Knowledge District to begin the first-ever physician assistant’s program in Rhode Island. Leveraging its proximity to Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, the two schools are now collaborating, sharing professional resources – in addition to a neighborhood and infrastructure – and creating a whole that’s greater than the sum of their parts. Completed in 2014, the Center for Physician Assistants Studies is among the first major investments directly adjacent to the I-195 redevelopment district and is playing an important role in building critical mass for a successful high tech, medical and business hub to fuel Rhode Island’s economy.
Rural and suburban communities can often face increased challenges when it comes to shaping future development that integrates the need for economic growth with the protection of natural resources and community character. Scott Millar has been at the forefront in addressing these challenges, both as a local official in Exeter and as Chief of the Sustainable Watersheds Program at the RI Department of Environmental Management. Scott, with the support of DEM leadership, has been the driving force in developing and finding funding for the publication of numerous RIDEM guidance manuals. These include the RI Village Guidance Manual, RI Transfer of Development Rights Manual, Low Impact Development Site Planning and Design Guidance Manual, Community Guidance to Maintain Working Farms and Forests and the RI Conservation Development Guidance Manual, among others. Each demonstrates how innovative land use techniques can promote smart growth in rural settings.
City of Providence Zoning Ordinance
If you want to encourage smart development that allows, for example, residential development above commercial or retail in a downtown, your zoning should allow it by right. Adopted in November 2014, the new Providence Zoning Ordinance does this and makes it generally easier and more predictable for property owners and developers to build the pedestrian, transit and bike-friendly neighborhoods that residents want. The result of two years of collaborative work between city departments, the City Plan Commission, residents, and other stakeholders, the new zoning ordinance implements a larger vision established in the Providence Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan developed with extensive community stakeholder input. The impact is expected to streamline the development process and produce more vibrant community spaces that offer increased convenience and amenities to residents and businesses.