As many Fox Point neighbors know, the utility company National Grid removed three mature and beloved London plane trees last summer from South Main Street near the Van Leesten Memorial Bridge, to the fervent and vocal opposition of residents. The company refused to spare the trees at the time, but pledged to plant 66 saplings around the city, mostly in Fox Point, to compensate for the loss.
Since then, the Tree Restitution Advisory Committee has met to oversee the plantings. Representatives from the Providence Neighborhood Planting Program, Save the Trees PVD, FPNA, the Mile of History Association, and Friends of India Point Park, as well as National Grid, the City Forester, and our Ward 1 Councilor, determined where and what type of trees should be planted. They have since planted trees along South Water Street, in India Point Park, in Gano Park, and behind Vartan Gregorian Elementary, where the highway sounds and pollution have been problematic. The committee also oversaw the planting of almost 30 trees near the South Side Boys & Girls Club and six at the Young Woods School on Prairie Ave. While many neighbors saw the removal of the London planes as an unnecessary loss, the new plantings may provide some consolation.
On May 24, the City Council Committee on Ordinances voted unanimously to include 87 properties in a local historic district (zoning overlay), providing regulatory oversight for exterior changes, demolitions, and new construction. This does not include regulating paint colors or regular maintenance; it does not require undertaking work that is not already planned.
Since 2013, the Providence Preservation Society has led the effort on behalf of residents in the area roughly bounded by Hope, Angell, Governor, and Young Orchard. Ward 1 Councilman John Goncalves sponsored the ordinance, working closely with policy and planning staff. The full Council must consider the ordinance twice. Following their approval, the Historic District Commission will adopt standards and guidelines. Providence’s first local historic district, College Hill, was created in 1960 and expanded in 1990. Other existing districts are Armory, Broadway, North Elmwood, Providence Landmarks District, South Elmwood, and Stimson Avenue.
Local historic districts help protect the architectural character of an area and are created after an architectural and historical survey, extensive neighborhood consultation and education, numerous public hearings, and approval by the City Council. Local preservationists hope to see more protection of Providence’s architectural and cultural heritage, but thought must be given to social and racial equity in any new initiatives. Serious consideration for a greater municipal investment in staffing, resources, and incentives should be given by the current and future Mayor and Council.
The Providence City Council special election primary was held on June 8 with four Democrat candidates – Doris De Los Santos, Casandra Inez, Santos Javier, and Oscar Vargas – competing for the Ward 15 seat, representing the Olneyville, Valley, and portion of Silver Lake neighborhoods. The general election will be held July 6, but because there are no Republican or third-party candidates running, the June 8 election winner will be the only name on the July ballot, though at time of press, primary results were not yet known. The City Council seat became vacant when former Council President Sabina Matos was appointed lieutenant governor by Governor Dan McKee.
The Olneyville Neighborhood Association, a nonprofit organization whose work supports immigrants’ rights and changing the community through collective cooperation, has a front-row seat for the special election. ONA hopes that the winning candidate will work with the organization in establishing a community where social, economic, political, cultural, and ecological conditions are a priority for the residents of Ward 15.
On April 26, the Summit Neighborhood Association held its Annual Meeting, hearing from local elected officials and voting in seven new board members and two new officers. The board will be led by President Sharon Lee Waldman and Vice President Bradly VanDerStad, with Britt Page continuing as treasurer. SNA also honored former Miriam Hospital Director of Community Relations & Corporate Citizenship Monica Anderson with the Sheila Perlow Award “for building trust and friendship between The Miriam Hospital and our neighborhood.”
SNA volunteers continue assisting the Mount Hope Community Center with distributing groceries from the food pantry every Wednesday and Friday to residents in need. They are seeking more volunteers to help with deliveries and unloading food pallets from the RI Food Bank on Fridays. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to join the volunteer email list. Other volunteer opportunities, as they arise, are also sent to this list.
On the horizon this summer, SNA looks forward to hosting a ribbon cutting for a new water fountain in Lippitt Park with support from Miriam Hospital, and work will soon begin on a commissioned mural to be prominently displayed on Hope Street (on the wall of Not Just Snacks), an initiative in partnership with The Avenue Concept and local artist Joanna Vespia. SNA plans to resume their regular annual yard sale and community cook-off in the fall.