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Eight celebrated at 2017 Rhode Island Smart Growth Awards

Nearly 200 gathered on Tuesday, June 6th, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the magnificently restored Stadium Theatre in Downtown Woonsocket

And the winners are:

Outstanding Smart Growth Leader:
Albert P. Valliere, Jr., Vice President & Chairman, Nation Wide Construction, Inc.

Outstanding Smart Growth Projects:
Blackstone Valley Gateways – Pawtucket, Central Falls
Bristol Industrial Park, Bristol
Sankofa Apartments, Providence
WaterFire Arts Center, Providence
Westerly Education Center, Westerly

Outstanding Smart Growth Policies / Plans:
RI Woodlands Partnership Strategic Plan 2016-2020

Special Founders’ Leadership Award:
Howard M. Kilguss, Community Philanthropist/Business Leader, Outgoing Grow Smart RI Board Chair

* see awardee descriptions below

Business, civic and elected leaders, development and real estate professionals, architects, builders, conservationists, policy advocates and community stakeholders from across Rhode Island will gather at the Stadium Theatre to network and celebrate the achievements of those who are shaping a stronger Rhode Island.

“Each year, passionate, creative and resourceful Rhode Islanders show us the way to tap our state’s full potential through projects, plans and policies that play to Rhode Island’s strengths and generate enduring economic benefits, both statewide and in specific neighborhoods”, said Grow Smart RI’s Executive Director Scott Wolf.

Keynote Speaker


Christopher Coes, Vice President, Real EstatePolicy at the Washington, DC based Smart Growth America will be the keynote speaker. Coes will discuss the potential impacts of the proposed elimination of several longstanding federal programs and tax incentives that have contributed significantly to the rebirth of city and town centers across America. He will also outline details of the broad, bipartisan coalition effort to stave off these proposed cutbacks.

Outstanding Smart Growth Leaders:

Albert P. Valliere, Jr.

A revitalization practitioner who’s left his mark in many city, town and village centers throughout the Blackstone Valley and Rhode Island, Al Valliere has earned a lifetime reputation for doing well by doing good. In addition to building Nation Wide Construction, Inc. into one of the region’s premiere residential and commercial general contractors, Al has taken a particular interest in supporting and building quality housing that’s affordable to everyday Rhode Islanders. To Al, leadership is not a position or title, it’s action and example. His commitment to the principles of affordable housing go beyond the work of Nation Wide Construction. Al has given generously of his time, knowledge and expertise as a strong advocate, sharing his insights as a for-profit developer with state and local policy makers to better understand the challenges to developing affordable housing. Whether adaptive re-use or new construction, you can see evidence of Al’s passion, dedication and fine workmanship from the Blackstone Valley to South County.

Outstanding Smart Growth Projects:

Blackstone Valley Gateways, Pawtucket-Central Falls
Comprising 74 new affordable rental homes across more than 15 sites with an additional 20,500 square feet of commercial space, Blackstone Valley Gateways, Phases I and II, marks the completion of a visionary development begun in 2010. The scattered site project surrounds the much anticipated commuter rail station on the Pawtucket/Central Falls line, and features a mix of new and rehabbed development. Phase I included the construction of a new mixed-use, multi-family building, with ground floor commercial space; and Phase II included the rehabilitation of The Gately Building, a Pawtucket landmark that was built in 1914 and is on the National Historic Register. Farm Fresh Rhode Island now leases space on the first floor, giving this important non-profit organization a permanent location for their job training program and retail space for their products. Affordable housing apartments occupy the upper floors. As Mayor of Pawtucket Donald Grebien stated at the ribbon-cutting: “The rehabilitation of The Gately Building…will be an anchor to our shared goal of a reinvigorated Downtown.”

Bristol Industrial Park, Bristol
For more than 150 years, the Bristol Industrial Park brought employment, prosperity and vitality to the Town of Bristol. Located in Downtown and within the Bristol Waterfront Historic District, the extensive industrial history of the site began in 1864 with the National Rubber Company followed by the U.S. Rubber Company and Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation. Once employing more than 50% of the town’s population, the site was central to the life of the community until the 1970’s when the factory closed. In 2010 after years of neglect, the nonprofit Mosaico Business & Community Development Corporation was founded to acquire and rehabilitate the historic site and restore its economic role in the community. Using state and federal Historic Tax Credits, Community Development Block Grants and U.S. EPA and RIDEM Brownfield remediation grants, Mosaico has successfully completed the first two of three phases restoring 125,000 SF of space which is now home to 45 manufacturing businesses and over 100 jobs in the heart of Bristol.

Sankofa Apartments, Providence
Recognized as place-making at its best, Sankofa Apartments represents a $13.8M investment in the local economy of the West End of Providence. Developed by the West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation (WEHDC), the effort has resulted in a community that links affordable housing with access to freshly grown food and jobs’ training while reclaiming abandoned and blighted properties and transforming them into 50 safe, affordable rental homes. The effort took 9 vacant infill lots and transformed them using Smart Growth principles, including compact design, historic building patterns as well as making use of existing infrastructure and transportation routes. For residents, access to safe, decent housing, employment opportunities, healthy food, and green space are key benefits provided by this development. This is, after all, a concept at the very heart of Sankofa, an Akan-Ghanian word meaning “to reach back, take from the past what is good and bring it into the present.”

WaterFire Arts Center, Providence
What started in 1994 as a one-time art installation has not only become a world class icon of Rhode Island’s diverse and creative culture, but WaterFire Providence has now permanently transformed a hulking and derelict former industrial building in the city’s Valley neighborhood into a regional center for the arts. Following its purchase of the 475 Valley St. property in 2012, the nonprofit successfully pulled off a highly complex financing deal that had challenged lawyers, bankers, community development experts and nonprofit leaders. Using federal and state Historic Tax Credits, federal New Markets Tax Credits, a portion of the 2014 voter-approved Creative and Cultural Economy Bond funds, brownfield clean-up grants as well as private donations, WaterFire Providence has created a stunning and permanent home in the 1929 building to house its operations as well as a social enterprise venture benefiting the larger arts community in Providence.

Westerly Education Center, Westerly
A conversation three years ago between a local philanthropist and a State Representative led to a public-private partnership that’s now contributing to the ongoing revitalization of Downtown Westerly and providing critical job training skills, including those for one of the region’s largest employers, Electric Boat. The conversation started with Charles “Chuck” Royce and Rep. Sam Azzinaro about the need for a community college in Westerly. Soon after, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, Governor Gina Raimondo, Electric Boat and local companies were on board and collaborating to leverage private philanthropy, including the Rhode Island Foundation, together with state and local funds to convert a 2.5 acre brownfield site into a vibrant downtown hub for job training. The center aims to train up to 1,000 people annually in skilled trades, ensuring that major local employers can meet the demand for job growth for at least the next seven years. This win-win has resulted in cleaning up and re-purposing a contaminated site and bringing new vibrancy back to Downtown.

Outstanding Smart Growth Policies /Plans:

RI Woodland Partnership Strategic Plan 2017 – 2021
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. Moreover 75% of Rhode Islanders get clean and safe drinking water from reservoirs protected by forests. The state’s forests also play a critical role in mitigating the effects of a changing climate by storing carbon, moderating air temperatures, and reducing air pollution. Despite these and other benefits, Rhode Island’s forestlands have largely been taken for granted. That is until the Rhode Island Woodland Partnership was formed several years ago. The Woodland Partnership is a collaboration of foresters, land owners, conservationists, and professionals who came together with a shared vision for promoting these benefits and developing a comprehensive but practical strategic plan for achieving the conservation and sustainable management of Rhode Island’s woodlands.

Special Founders’ Leadership Award:

Howard M. Kilguss
Howard Kilguss has been a superb Grow Smart RI Board Chair for the last 8 years, working tirelessly, methodically and unpretentiously to create the most hands on and dynamic Board in Grow Smart RI’s history and to expand dramatically Grow Smart RI’s visibility, influence and financial sustainability. With a relentless focus on demonstrating how Grow Smart RI’s work improves the daily lives of all Rhode Islanders, Howard has successfully pushed the organization to simplify and humanize its messages. But Howard’s biggest contributions to Grow Smart RI have been his selflessness, integrity, and commitment to civic betterment, qualities that draw people from all walks of life to him and Grow Smart RI. A longtime business and civic leader with an outstanding record of philanthropy on behalf of environmental, public health and other public interest causes, Howard has been and will remain an indispensable force for progress for Grow Smart RI and all of Southern New England.