PVD Monthly's Who to Watch

Downcity Design

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DownCity Design (DCD) was founded in 2009 with the goal of getting young people excited and engaged about the built environment in their neighborhoods. Since then, those young people have helped to design and implement gathering spaces, play structures, and functional pieces of art around the city. Now, they’re reaching out to adults through their recently launched CityWorks program.

Led by DCD co-founder Manuel Cordero and Bryce Dubois, CityWorks is something that’s been a long time coming.

“I always had this aspiration to be able to ask our own questions,” says Cordero. Typically, DCD’s work outside of youth programs has been to facilitate conversations around problems brought to them by outside organizations. Now, they’ll be driving the conversation, and recruiting members of the community with a vested interest in the city to be a part of it.

More than 40 applicants threw their hats in the ring, with 18 ultimately selected to examine the area around the Providence Riverwalk. The cohort, which is made up of people from a wide age range and an eclectic professional background (aka they’re not all architects and designers), began work in November to explore the needs of the downtown river. Framing those needs is the idea of resilience, both in terms of resilience in the face of climate change and the way the community comes together. From there, the cohort will put out a call for proposals, and alongside City Planning, the Parks Department, and groups and businesses with a vested interest in the riverfront parks, select a project to be implemented. What that project will be is still anyone’s guess. It could be similar to any of the projects DownCity Design has worked on with its youth programs, but it could be something else entirely. That’s kind of the beauty of it.

“I would like to think that it’s something that I can’t even imagine,” Cordero says when asked what he think the project might result in. “The fact that we’ve gotten this much interest means that this is a conversation that people want to come to. It’s piloting not just the possibility of the project, but the possibility of the different way of engaging in this conversation.” 

Get a chance to meet the members of Downcity Design and celebrate with RI's leading trailblazers at the first great event of the year; Providence Monthly's Who to Watch Party on January 16 at Skyline at Waterplace! Click here to reserve your ticket to this can't-miss event!