By mid-spring of this year, representatives from Brown University had met twice with the Fox Point Neighborhood Association (FPNA) to share plans for two new residence halls on Brook Street between Charlesfield and Power streets, at the edge of campus. Each time, university liaisons took questions from neighbors and pledged to honor community feedback on the plans.
Yet also by mid-spring, many neighbors did not feel satisfied that their comments on these proposals had been heard. The buildings, which were slated to hold hundreds of students, were not only too large in scale to harmonize with a quiet residential neighborhood, wrote neighbors in a May letter to Brown President Christina Paxson, but also stray from the character of the historic district. The dorms would “tower over abutting properties,” they wrote, creating a “cavern” on Brook Street. What’s more, residents decried the proposed demolition of three nearby historic houses and the displacement of popular local businesses like Bagel Gourmet and East Side Mini Mart.
Since then, a coalition of neighbors, which includes FPNA, College Hill Neighborhood Association, Mile of History Association, Providence Preservation Society, City Councilman John Goncalves, and individual neighbors whose homes abut the site, circulated a petition that acquired upward of 1,100 signatures. While Paxson’s June reply to the group acknowledged its concerns, members say they were disappointed to see only superficial adjustments to the plans. University architects altered the rooflines, for instance, and moved the west building northward to edge it out of the historic district, but the group has felt largely rebuffed.
“We felt our requests were legitimate,” commented one neighborhood association board member. The group had hoped that Brown cared about cultivating a good relationship with neighbors, she said. “In reality,” she continued, “we feel dismissed and steamrolled by the Goliath on the hill.”
Nonprofit organization Rhode Island Latino Arts (RILA) resumes Barrio Tours of the neighborhood comprising Broad and Cranston streets in the heart of South Providence August 1, a series that began in 2019 to give visitors the opportunity to experience the public art, authentic cuisine, commerce, and rich cultural history of the area. The neighborhood has a long history of Latino cultural expression and activism, which these tours, co-led by RILA Executive Director Marta V. Martínez and residents or barrio docents with strong ties to the community, explore while engaging with the Broad Street corridor. Barrio docents have also spent the summer collecting oral histories and supporting RILA’s LatinXCine program in documenting the changing landscape of Broad Street to create a video trailer that will be released this fall portraying stories, memories, and facets of neighborhood life (like the Chimi Trucks that line the street selling traditional Dominican burgers). RILA initiatives like LatinXCine, which is led by Alberto Genao and seeks to empower the next generation of Latinx videographers, and Barrio Tours are helping to map out the cultural threads of the neighborhood and instill a sense of ownership and pride amongst those who live and work there. To learn more or get involved, email Martínez at Marta@rilatinoarts.org.
Providence has a new local historic district: Power-Cooke Streets. After working for years with homeowners located between Hope and Governor, Angell and Young Orchard, Providence Preservation Society was able to pass this critical preservation protection. Local historic districts allow the city’s Historic District Commission to review changes (demolition, new construction, and exterior alterations) in these districts for appropriateness. This new district adds 87 properties to the purview of the HDC and will protect them for generations to come. The district’s name, Power-Cooke Streets, relates to the corresponding historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, which is a largely honorary designation. PPS is grateful to Ward 1 Councilman John Goncalves for his leadership in moving this zoning change through City Council and to Councilwomen Jo-Ann Ryan and Helen Anthony for their support.
On June 27, the Summit Neighborhood Association (SNA) held a ribbon cutting for their newly commissioned “Hope” mural on the southern wall of Not Just Snacks, next to Eden Park Cleaners. The colorful, floral artwork by Joanna Vespia brings cheer to the street, along with the much-needed message of hope for the community emerging from challenges brought on by the pandemic. The text, “Most of Us Live Off Hope,” is a nod to the 1978 Providence poster by Mad Peck and also apropos of the mural’s location.
SNA enlisted nonprofit The Avenue Concept to coordinate and facilitate the project, and Mohammed Islam, owner of Not Just Snacks, not only provided the wall but also treats at the ribbon-cutting. The raised garden of flowers in front of the mural was created by Kim-Nov Hinh of Eden Park Cleaners and provided both the inspiration for the mural and the immersive functionality of the artwork. Support from SNA members helped to fund the piece, and everyone is encouraged to visit, photograph, and enjoy this new public art on Hope Street.
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