The Providence Preservation Society (PPS) is a leading voice in what has become a nationwide conversation about expanded training in the preservation trades. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently featured PPS’s Building Works initiative for their role in collaborating with Providence craftspeople and social service organizations to train a 21st-century workforce to care for historic buildings. Starting in 2020, PPS began working with Heritage Restoration Inc. and Dorcas International to provide a six-week training program in wooden window restoration for under- and unemployed Rhode Islanders with barriers to employment. The paid workforce development program includes hands-on carpentry, preservation, and job readiness training. Social justice and economic mobility are key strategic goals of the program, and successful graduates receive support in finding new careers or additional training in the preservation trades. The results are encouraging: following the program, several graduates started their own window repair businesses and 80 percent of graduates found full-time employment.
Building Works offers programs for DIYers, too. A new workshop space at 50 Sims Avenue supports not only the windows training program, but also homeowners and renters taking workshops on everything from water management to remediating lead paint. The shop is a place for people to practice new skills and work on projects in the community, sharing their interest in maintaining older buildings and helping to revitalize their neighborhoods. PPSRI.org
At the September Jewelry District Association (JDA) meeting, Lieutenant Matthew Jeanette reported that the Providence Police Department had seized 161 ATVs, and newly appointed Fire Chief Derek Silva said the Fire Department will soon graduate 30 new trainees. Chris Blazejewski, house majority leader and District 2 State Representative, talked about the value (and ease) of mail-in voting, then gave a broad outline of initiatives, from increasing housing starts to combating sea-level rise.
JDA president Sharon Steele and Al Dahlberg, Brown assistant vice president of government and community relations, presented the City’s pending 20-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Brown, Providence College, Rhode Island School of Design, and Johnson & Wales University for $177,472,813 in payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT). A separate memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Brown for $46 million makes it a combined total of $223,472,813, a 138 percent increase over past payments. The far-reaching agreement includes appointment of a Quality of Life Work Group, which will hold regular meetings.
RI Secretary of Housing Stefan Pryor reported that RI has the lowest housing starts per capita in the US. The Jewelry District has enjoyed a boom in new housing on the I-195 land, and there’s hope for stimulus from a $30 million housing tax credit. The new Amtrak station in Pawtucket demonstrates the appeal for development close to transit hubs.
The Mile of History Association (MoHA) will host this year’s Benefit Street Stroll on Saturday, December 2, starting at noon. The prior weekend, on Sunday, November 26 (weather permitting), volunteers are invited to help assemble and install wreaths on Benefit Street lamp posts, gathering at 9am at MoHA treasurer Roz Rustigian’s house, 329 Benefit Street. Neighbors are invited to join in on the fun of decking the halls with MoHA, and encouraged to decorate their own doors in the spirit of the holiday season.
Fox Point neighbors gathered in Brassil Park, located at the corner of Brook and Arnold streets, in late September to celebrate its upcoming renovation. The project, which originated as part of a pre-COVID initiative by then-Mayor Elorza, will involve replacing the park’s play structures, building a ground-level slide into the contours of the park’s hilly landscape, reworking a small blacktop area for popular games, and updating much of the ground cover and landscaping.
The final plans for the park represent months of collaboration, thanks to a new local group, Friends of Brassil Park, that emerged informally last year as a collection of invested parents. Says Fox Point resident and the group’s current leader, Peter Erhartic, “We participated in several plan reviews and went back and forth several times” with city leaders on elements of the design. “There was a good push and pull,” he says about the process. “We [as a group] really wanted to be helpful. I think the plans are great.”
The project was slated to break ground in October (at time of publication), shortly after neighbors gathered to celebrate with Wickenden-area pizza and live music. And while the group has fulfilled its goal to offer input on the renovation, Erhartic adds that it has also served as a meaningful way to strengthen bonds within the community: “It’s been a lot of fun, and a great vehicle to bring people together.”
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