The Jewelry District Association’s long battle against the Fane Tower began on November 14, 2016, when Jason Fane presented the I-195 Commission with his concept for a large three-tower apartment complex on Parcel 42, dominating the new Pedestrian Bridge and public park. The building’s 600-foot height in an area zoned for 100 feet was just one of the significant objections raised by citizens, the JDA, Building Bridges (a nonprofit focused on supporting economic development and improving quality of life in neighborhoods), and other stakeholders, but the City Council defied the “no” vote of the Downtown Design Review Committee and gave Fane permission to proceed. When the Mayor stepped up and vetoed the Council’s decision, the Council overrode him. On January 11, 2019, the dispute took a turn when Building Bridges and other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in Rhode Island Superior Court, and 11 months later, Judge Stern ruled for the defendant. His ruling reopened the door for Jason Fane to move forward. Four days later, Building Bridges filed to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The JDA, however, is emboldened by the fact that Judge Stern’s decision has, in counsel’s opinion, legal and factual errors; the zoning amendment that benefits Fane directly violates Providence’s Comprehensive Plan. Parcel 42 lies in the heart of the Jewelry District. Since Jason Fane’s unveiling of his self-proclaimed “iconic” project, the JDA has been monitoring its evolution and actively cheerleading its opposition. While the Jewelry District continues to undergo unprecedented development, the JDA emphasises that this doesn’t mean abandoning the sense of scale and character that makes the neighborhood such a special place to live, work, and play. As the battle to stop Fane enters its fifth year, Building Bridges and its loyal group of supporters and donors vow to stay the course, as the JDA and sister neighborhood associations support their efforts.
At the December meeting of the Fox Point Neighborhood Association, members of the nonprofit group Harvest Cycle shared a proposal to build a compost hub on the East Side. The hub will be located just outside the Fox Point Community Garden on lower Gano Street and will include six fully enclosed processing bins and an additional drop-off bin. While neighbors will be charged a fee to participate, program coordinator Joshua Tarantino explains that the payment system will be tiered, ranging from $10 to $25 per month, and free for garden members and SNAP participants. “We will do everything we can to make it accessible and affordable,” they say. What’s more, the new hub will replace a years-old composting system that is ailing. Neighbors have complained that the large, open bins currently located on the site have attracted rodents. The new setup solves the problem and offers other environmental benefits. “We think that super-localized composting is really important,” adds Harvest Cycle coordinator Katie Murphy. “It is a resource for growing food. It has economic value and nutritional value.” The new composting system will be phased in starting in Spring 2021. Tarantino and Murphy encourage neighbors to learn more about composting at the Groundwork Rhode Island website.
The South Providence Neighborhood Association held a virtual meeting in December with Southside Community Land Trust about the progress of their anticipated community food hub, which will be housed on 404 Broad Street. The building is currently under construction and slated for completion in the summer of 2021. According to Jazandra Barros, community outreach coordinator at SCLT, “The project will be home to SCLT’s operations, farm-to-market center, and commercial kitchen, as well as additional space for three small food businesses. The building will serve as a resource distribution hub for the farmers and gardeners we work with and as a food access point for our neighbors.” SCLT currently has two potential tenants but is still looking for applicants interested in operating a “green” corner grocery, with more details at SouthSideCLT.org/grow. As part of SPNA’s long-term efforts to address food insecurity, Ruth Breindel of the Observatory Neighborhood Association also spoke with neighbors about addressing these challenges across the city by providing alternative transportation options for residents who live in food deserts, or neighborhoods with limited access to affordable groceries.