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Providence Journal: Elorza, city planners hear from neighbors about revitalizing Providence’s Broad Street

Published on September 7, 2017

By Christine Dunn

Journal Staff Writer

Posted Sep 6, 2017 at 10:48 PM Updated Sep 6, 2017 at 10:48 PM

PROVIDENCE — South Providence is the city’s most diverse neighborhood, and that diversity is something that residents are proud of and want to preserve.

This was just one of many messages shared Wednesday evening at Iglesia Visión Evangelica, at 1014 Broad St. Mayor Jorge O. Elorza and city planners had invited the South Providence community to the meeting to share their ideas about Broad Street. The revitalization of this main commercial corridor is one of the city government’s top priorities, Planning Director Bonnie Nickerson said. More than 100 people attended the session, held in the church basement.

Allen Penniman, the city’s principal planner, led small-group discussions centering on residents’ visions for Broad Street, their concerns about the former St. Joseph’s Hospital property on Peace Street, and what they would like to see happen at the site, now owned by former Providence Mayor Joseph Paolino Jr.

In late January, when Paolino floated an idea to use part of the site as a homeless shelter, it was met with opposition from many residents. That same sentiment was on display Wednesday night.

Concerns include the presence of similar services in the neighborhood. Of the seven homeless shelters in Providence, four are located in South Providence. Although Paolino said in January that he planned to convert part of the former hospital into 140 units of long-term housing for the homeless, he has not made any formal proposals to date.

Penniman also went over some of the demographics of the neighborhood: one-third white, two-thirds people of color, with many residents born outside of the United States; 34 percent live in poverty, compared with 14 percent in the metro area; 25 percent of residents do not own a car, and 40 percent do not commute alone in a car to work.

The neighborhood also has the city’s highest rate of car crashes with pedestrians and bicycles, as well as 5,000 elementary, middle and high school students, he added.

Making Broad Street safer and cleaner, with more public green spaces and parks, was a goal expressed repeatedly, and others mentioned the need for income equality, rent control, and more resources for formerly incarcerated residents who are moving back to South Providence.

Several suggested that the St. Joseph’s site be used as a center for youths, with after-school programs and recreational activities. The need for more day-care services and food distribution centers was also mentioned. Several people suggested a grocery store for the St. Joseph’s site.

Penniman said all the ideas would be compiled into a report, which will be available soon online at www.providenceri.gov/planning

cdunn@providencejournal.com/

(401) 277-7913

On Twitter @ChristineMDunn

Courtesy of Providence Journal