News & Event
Posted:Feb 9, 2018 at 7:40 PM
Updated:Feb 9, 2018 at 8:01 PM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Clark Schoettle, who has worked on neighborhood revitalization in Providence for nearly 35 years, will retire in June as executive director of the Providence Revolving Fund, the organization announced this week.
“It is impossible to overstate the impact that Clark has had on the City of Providence’s historic buildings and neighborhoods,” said architect Christine West, president of the Revolving Fund’s board. “The singular beauty of Providence comes from its rich historic character, and it would be difficult to identify a renewed historic building in our city that Clark has not had a direct influence upon through either the Providence Revolving Fund or his numerous civic and volunteer roles.”
Schoettle has led the Providence Revolving Fund since 1983, “transforming the organization from a small historic preservation loan fund to a $12-million community development fund,” the group added.
Since the 1980s, the Revolving Fund has invested more than $14 million in the West Broadway and Elmwood neighborhoods by buying and redeveloping 63 abandoned houses for affordable homeownership, and by making 470 loans to property owners to restore homes.
In 2003, Schoettle negotiated a $7.8-million investment with the Rhode Island Foundation to establish a dedicated loan fund for Downtown Providence, PRF noted. Since then, “the Downcity Fund has invested over $16 million to redevelop 24 underutilized buildings, leveraging $155 million in additional financing and stimulating the revitalization of downtown.”
Under Schoettle’s leadership, the Revolving Fund has also “consulted on 140 historic and low-income housing tax credit projects totaling over $350 million in re-investment in historic buildings in Rhode Island.”
Schoettle’s efforts were seen in “the financing and renovation of 22 of the historic houses surrounding the Dexter Training Ground; the redevelopment of a failed HUD project on Adelaide Avenue which resulted in the restoration of 11 properties for affordable homeownership; the development of 39 artist residences at Monohasset Mill; the financing and development of 12 buildings which revitalized Luongo Square; and renovation of several buildings on Westminster Street by the West Broadway Neighborhood Association, including their headquarters in an old gas station,” according to PRF.
“Restored buildings in downtown Providence funded by the PRF include AS220′s Empire Street and Mercantile Block, the Peerless Lofts, Saki’s Pizza on Weybosset, the Providence G, and the Dean Hotel,” while more recent efforts include “the redevelopment of the Almy Street School on the west side of Providence; the current restoration underway of the Kendrick-Prentice-Tirocchi House, aka the ‘Wedding Cake House’ on Broadway; and the Case-Meade, Union Trust, and Woolworth Buildings on Dorrance.”
Schoettle plans to continue serving on the Providence Historic District Commission and the Downtown Design Review Committee.
“The Revolving Fund has been very much a part of me for more than half of my life. I can’t imagine doing anything else that could be so gratifying and important,” he said. “It has given me the opportunity to work with diverse groups of people to try different approaches and accomplish the historic preservation of difficult buildings to revitalize neighborhoods.”
The search for a new executive director is under way, and a celebratory tribute to Schoettle is planned for later this year.
Courtesy of Providence Journal
Posted Jan 5, 2018 at 10:26 PM
Updated Jan 5, 2018 at 10:26 PM
On Friday nights Megan Smith walks through downtown Providence looking for people who may be struggling with homelessness, addiction, poverty — or some combination of the three — to connect with.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Inside the bus station in Kennedy Plaza, Megan Smith held a grocery bag stuffed with gloves and hats. In her pocket, a stack of bus tickets and Narcan.
“The essentials of life,” she mused. “Or of some life.”
Smith works as a project manager at House of Hope, a Warwick-based outreach center for the homeless. On Friday nights, she walks through downtown Providence looking for people who may be struggling with homelessness, addiction, poverty — or some combination of the three — to connect with.
“The root of it is nonjudgmental listening, bearing witness and from that trying to tackle things at the micro and macro level,” Smith said, snow crunching beneath her boots.
But this Friday was different. With 20-mph winds barreling down Broad Street, she braced against the icy temperatures in an attempt to persuade people to go inside. Or at least accept a pair of ski gloves.
“This is the kind of night where if someone doesn’t have a safe place to be, everything else is moot,” she said. “Because they might not get a tomorrow. It’s that cold out here.”
She plodded down Broad Street with interns Sara Melucci and Andy O’Dell, checking stairways and around corners for people. It seemed the extreme cold, 12 below zero with the windchill, had driven most indoors. But not all.
Robert Souza stood in a thin coat outside the 7-Eleven on Dorrance Street, his arms wrapped around himself.
“Could any of you spare change for a bus ticket,” he asked. Smith launched into action. She procured a pair of gloves and helped Souza put them on his hands. And then handed him a bus pass, so he could get back to Riverside, where he had a place to stay.
“Oh sweetness,” he said as he slipped on the gloves. “Oh thank you. I can’t thank you enough.”
With a quick smile, Smith continued to the bus station. Inside the terminal was a swirl of chaos. Some people were trying to catch buses, some buying time in the heated station.
Mark Rossignol fell into the latter category. From her years as a caseworker, Smith recognizes nearly every straggler left in the terminal or on the street outside. But Rossignol was a new face. She sensed he needed help because of the giant backpack parked next to him.
“Good evening, sir,” she said as she approached and introduced herself. Rossignol smiled wide when presented with gloves.
“Thank you so much,” he said, while having difficulty moving his frozen hands. “It’s so painful, the cold. I can’t thank you enough.”
Rossignol shared his story — he was born in Massachusetts, and lived in Rhode Island as a child when his father, who was in the Navy, was stationed in Newport. Forty years ago, the family moved to Florida.
After a separation from his wife a few weeks ago, Rossignol said he decided to “come home.” He was met with the coldest weather he’s ever experienced.
Hesitant to go to Crossroads Rhode Island, he was waiting for a break in the weather that likely won’t reach Rhode Island until Monday. Nights at a shelter can be loud and scary, Rossignol explained. He has schizophrenia and deals with bouts of paranoia, making the shelter environment even more of a challenge, he said.
Before he even finished his tale, Smith was making phone calls. Providence Rescue Mission usually doesn’t allow people after a certain hour, but she got Rossignol in.
Elated, he bundled back up and headed to the bus stop.
Smith and the interns walked back up to Cathedral Square toward Crossroads, continuing to check each corner.
“Please don’t try to stay outside,” Smith begged anyone passing by. “Please.”
On Twitter: @jacktemp
Courtesy of Providence Journal
Posted May 25, 2018 at 12:01 AM
Updated May 25, 2018 at 12:11 AM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Several neighborhoods in Providence, including those clustered near Downtown and Federal Hill, have experienced rent increases between 2000 and 2015 that far outpaced those seen in other sections of the city, because they are “potentially gentrifying,” according to a new report from HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University.
The report, released Friday, is titled: “You Don’t Have A Problem Until You Do: Revitalization and Gentrification in Providence, Rhode Island.” It is part of the HousingWorks’ Scholar Series on contemporary housing issues, and was adapted from a master’s thesis written by Fay Strongin, who studied city planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
While the citywide median rent jumped 26.1 percent between 2000 and 2015, “potentially gentrifying” Providence neighborhoods experienced a 47.8 percent average increase in median gross rent, nearly double the growth citywide, and nearly triple the increase seen in “non-gentrifying” neighborhoods, where rents increased by 16.2 percent, Strongin found.
The report defines gentrification as a process in which housing costs rise after new investment comes into “historically disinvested” low-income neighborhoods.
According to HousingWorks’ 2017 Housing Fact Book, the monthly cost of an average two-bedroom apartment was $1,431 on the East Side of Providence, and $1,203 for areas in Providence not including the East Side.
Strongin noted that while her study “finds evidence of gentrification in select Providence neighborhoods,” it is “of a more limited extent and pace than in strong market cities... such as New York City.”
But the city’s “anticipated growth could catalyze a rapid increase in gentrification and displacement pressures,” Strongin added. Providence’s population is expected to grow by 29 percent by 2025, and because households are getting smaller, the number of households is expected to grow by 43 percent, according to a 2016 study by HousingWorks.
The report places Providence Census Tracts in one of these categories:
— “Higher Income,” including Hope, Blackstone, most of College Hill, Wayland, Fox Point, and parts of Elmhurst and Mount Pleasant;
— “Non-gentrifying,” including South Elmwood, Manton, Silver Lake, Hartford, Charles and Wanskuck;
— “Potentially gentrifying,” including Federal Hill and parts of Downtown, Smith Hill, Valley, Olneyville, South Providence, Washington Park and Elmwood.
Strongin said that Providence “experienced a decline in population and a weak housing market” after the population reached a high of 250,000 in 1940. The city’s population fell by “nearly 100,000 people between 1940 and 1980.” As of July 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated Providence’s population at 180,393.
Though “deindustrialization and population decline contributed to high rates of vacancy and blight” in many neighborhoods, the foreclosure crisis, which hit especially hard in Providence, “contributed not only to urban blight but also to housing affordability issues, as both single family homes and multifamily rental properties were taken out of the market.”
And “at the same time, Providence has seen very low levels of new housing production,” Strongin added.
The report includes policy recommendations for a proactive “development without displacement” strategy, which include prioritizing a “ramp up in housing production,” and “ensuring that future housing development includes affordable units.”
On Twitter: @ChristineMDunn
Posted:Feb 14, 2018 at 12:32 PM
Updated:Feb 14, 2018 at 7:55 PM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Meeting Wednesday morning at the home of an elderly couple facing eviction, about 20 activists from DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality) announced the start of an effort to put a rent-control initiative on the Providence ballot this fall.
The protest at 40 Grove St. in Federal Hill was in support of the Trottier family, facing eviction Feb. 28 by a new corporate owner from Boston, Providence Student Living. The new investor purchased the three-family house last November and intends to lease at higher rents to students, according to DARE. A spokesperson for Providence Student Living could not be immediately reached for comment.
Butch, 78, and Madonna Trottier, 76, live on the first floor of 40 Grove St. Butch Trottier said that their son, Steven, who is in his 40s and is disabled, lives on the second floor. Christopher Samih-Rotondo, an organizer from DARE, said the third-floor tenant has already been evicted.
Butch Trottier said they were paying $800 a month for their apartment, but withheld rent because it wasn’t properly heated by the landlord. Samih-Rotondo said that when the Trottiers went to court, the judge said the Trottiers wouldn’t have to pay back rent because of the heating issue, but they were still ordered to leave by the end of the month.
Butch Trottier said the family has not been able to find a residence they can afford.
“For months, Providence Student Living has refused to make the Trottiers’ home safe and livable,” DARE said, “and the Trottiers have had to make it through winter without working heat and with broken windows and doors, a collapsed ceiling in their bathroom and rat infestation. Now Providence Student Living is attempting to evict them by the end of February, with plans to renovate and rent to wealthier students after the Trottiers are forced out. The Trottiers are facing homelessness.”
About 20 people attended the 8 a.m. protest, including Rep. John J. Lombardi, D-Providence, who lives on Grove Street.
DARE activist Malchus Mills said the organization is starting an effort to gather signatures to put a Providence rent-control initiative on the city ballot in November. Although rent control is needed statewide, seeking it in Providence first is a place to start, he said.
The aim is to make increases, limited to once a year, subject to a city rent control board, according to Mills.
According to the office of Mayor Jorge Elorza, the City Charter would require DARE to submit a petition of 1,000 qualified registered voters along with their proposed ordinance for action. Then, the City Council would have 70 days to consider the ordinance. If the council failed to enact the proposed ordinance without amendment, “it then shifts to a referendum petition whereby 5 percent of the qualified registered voters (some 6,000) are needed for the City Council to have City voters consider the ballot referendum at the next general election.” This ballot referendum petition must be submitted at least 60 days before the general election.
According to the 2017 Factbook from HousingWorks RI, most of the households in Providence are renting households. In the East Side, 56 percent rent and 44 percent own, while in the rest of the city, 67 percent rent and 33 percent own. In the East Side, 48 percent of the renters are cost-burdened, defined as paying more than 30 percent of income on housing costs, while in the rest of the city, 57 percent are cost-burdened, according to HousingWorks.
The 2017 Factbook added that the average two-bedroom rent on the East Side was $1,431, while it was $1,203 in the rest of the city.
Journal Staff Writer
Posted Jul 10, 2018 at 10:19 PMUpdated Jul 10, 2018 at 11:43 PM
Topics discussed by the candidates in Wards 1 and 12 included public schools, a proposed high-rise tower on Dyer Street and a plan to move bus stops from Kennedy Plaza to a site near Providence Station.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Speaking at a Downtown Neighborhood Association meeting Tuesday night, four Democratic candidates running for Providence City Council to represent Wards 1 and 12 shared similar views on many pressing issues and answered questions from the audience about education.
Topics included public schools, a proposed high-rise tower on Dyer Street and a plan to move bus stops from Kennedy Plaza to a site near Providence Station.
In attendance were Ward 1 Councilman Seth Yurdin and his opponent, Justice Gaines, an organizer with Rhode Island Jobs with Justice, as well as Ward 12 Councilman Terrence Hassett and his opponent, Katherine Kerwin, director of communications at the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence.
The candidates were unanimously opposed to the luxury apartment tower that has been proposed by developer Jason Fane to be built on former Route 195 land. They cited concerns about its design, its height and the lack of demand for more high-end apartments downtown.
They also all expressed reservations about a Rhode Island Public Transit Authority proposal to move a portion of Kennedy Plaza bus traffic to a site near Providence Station.
Residents of Avalon at Center Place and Waterplace, who would be living in front of the new transportation hub, would have to deal with increased traffic in an already congested area, Kerwin said.
Gaines and Yurdin said moving the hub would disadvantage those who rely on public transportation.
Hassett said it would be more productive to look at structural improvements that could be made at Kennedy Plaza.
When asked what major issues were facing their wards, the candidates mentioned the deteriorating condition of Providence public schools as well as affordable housing.
Audience members asked the candidates various questions related to education, including whether they supported charter schools and what they as council members could do about the segregation of students by race and class in Providence’s public schools.
Hassett said he felt that charter schools were productive and useful, but that he wouldn’t want them replacing the public school system. Kerwin described charter schools as a “necessary evil” in Providence currently, but said she would rather see the city investing enough in public schools to make charter schools obsolete.
Gaines also said that investing in public schools should be a priority, and Yurdin said he was opposed to charter schools, except in limited circumstances, such as the Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts, which offers a unique program.
The candidates also said that an overall investment in improving public schools would help solve issues of segregation in the student population.
“Even though Classical High School and Central High School are next to each other, they’re segregated by class,” Gaines said. “They share a courtyard and yet one has wealthier students and one has poorer students. What type of city are we living in where we’re segregating our schools in that manner, and both of those schools are falling apart?”
On Twitter: @madeleine_list
Posted Feb 16, 2018 at 11:44 AM
Updated Feb 16, 2018 at 11:45 AM
NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Chain stores, fast-food restaurants and surface parking don’t suggest the traditional New England village, but in modern American suburbs they’re often the closest thing to a town square or main street.
Such is the case in the Woodville section of North Providence, where residential subdivisions branch off from the high-traffic commercial thoroughfares of Douglas and Mineral Spring avenues.
Although it takes its name from a small 19th-century factory built on the West River, Woodville remained largely rural and agricultural until after World War II, when a flurry of construction created the tracts of single-family houses, condominium complexes and shopping strips there now.
As is often the case with decentralized, low-density suburbs, Woodville doesn’t have a strong name recognition or clearly defined boundaries.
Many people are more familiar with Woodhaven to the west and Geneva to the south, where the namesake mill is still standing.
Complicating matters further, the North Providence neighborhood is one of two to use the name in Rhode Island, with part of Hopkinton also called Woodville.
The factory that gave North Providence’s Woodville its name was built by John B. Wood in 1846 and produced “coconut dipper” ladles.
A cotton mill, bleachery and dye works were built not long after that and the 19th-century village also featured a town asylum and poor farm, according to a 1978 report on the history of North Providence from the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission.
At the northern end of the neighborhood near the Smithfield line, the former Farmer’s Baptist Church still stands on Angell Road and in Governor Notte Park the town-owned Otis Angell Gristmill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in November.
The fieldstone gristmill, built in 1855, had been used for textile waste bleaching and a clubhouse for the Geneva Sportsman’s Club before it became part of the park.
But aside from those scattered historic structures, Woodville is primarily characterized by contemporary commercial buildings and post-war housing, such as ranches, bungalows, raised ranches and low-rise condos.
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio lives in the area and describes it as a stable, quiet area without too much turnover.
Woodville, like North Providence in general, remains a relatively affordable option for suburban Rhode Island single-family homes.
The median North Providence house price rose 9.8 percent in 2017 to $225,000, according to statistics from the Rhode Island Association of Realtors. That’s still below the $258,000 single-family statewide median.
A sample of houses on the market in Woodville in February include a four-bedroom, four-bathroom, 1969 split level on Pinewood Drive with an asking price of $375,000.
South of Mineral Spring Avenue on Malcolm Street, a three-bedroom, two-bathroom ranch built in 1954 is on the market for $219,900.
And to the east near Louisquisset Country Club, a three-bedroom, one-bathroom 1957 ranch has a $224,900 asking price.
By Christine Dunn
Journal Staff Writer
Posted Dec 12, 2017 at 12:41 PM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Standing outside in the cold drizzle Tuesday morning, Mayor Jorge Elorza announced new housing assistance for residents in the form of down-payment/closing-cost loans for home buyers, and loans for home repairs.
The city has made $200,000 available for down-payment help, which will be available starting Jan. 15, and another $200,000 for home repairs. Both programs are being financed through the city’s community development block grant money. The City Council is also considering adding another $200,000 to the home-repair loan program, for which funds are available now.
All the assistance is in the form of a zero-percent interest, deferred-payment loans for up to $25,000. Payment is due upon sale, change of primary residence, refinancing with cash out, debt consolidation or transfer of the property title.
Tuesday’s announcement was made in front of a home at 160 Langdon St., purchased last year for $130,000 by Magda Berroa with down-payment assistance from the city. Berroa is the mother of a son with special needs.
City Councilman Nicholas Narducci (Ward 4) said he lives about 10 houses down from Berroa’s home, and he remembers that the house was vacant for a long time, and had started to become a neighborhood trouble spot. Acting Council President Sabina Matos and Councilman David Salvatore were also at the announcement.
“Fostering housing equality is one of my administration’s top priorities,” the mayor said.
Melina Lodge, executive director of the Housing Network, noted that Providence is one of a handful of municipalities in the state that has made down-payment assistance available to residents. Lodge’s group, an association of nonprofit community-development agencies and affordable-housing developers, will manage the city’s down-payment assistance program. The home-repair program is being run by the city’s Community Development Division.
The down-payment and closing-cost assistance is available to buyers who meet HUD income limits who purchase a 1- to 3-family home or condominium. The properties must be the owners’ primary residences. The program is also restricted to those who can commit to staying in the property for at least five years. The funding is extremely limited and will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The home-repair loan program helps qualified homeowners perform a variety of home-improvement projects, including emergency roof replacements, heating-system replacements and correction of code violations.
Applications for the home-repair program are also processed on a first-come, first-serve basis unless an emergency situation exists that warrants prioritization (for example, a house with no heat or no running water). For more information or to apply, call (401) 680-8400 or visit http://www.providenceri.gov/planning/community-development/. Applications are also available by visiting the Joseph A. Doorley, Jr. Municipal Building at 444 Westminster St., Providence.
For more information on how to apply for down payment and closing-cost assistance, call (401) 721-5680 or visit the Housing Network of Rhode Island’s website www.housingnetworkri.org/our-programs/down-payment-and-closing-cost-assistance-program/. Applications can be made in person by visiting the Housing Action Coalition of Rhode Island at 1070 Main St., Pawtucket.
On Twitter @ChristineMDunn
Courtesy of Providence Journal
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