Updated March 25 at 12:28am

Grow Smart R.I. to honor community leaders, projects


PROVIDENCE – Grow Smart Rhode Island – a nonprofit that advocates for sustainable economic growth in the Ocean State – will honor individuals, plans and projects that play to Rhode Island’s strengths, generate sustainable economic benefits and improve the state’s communities and neighborhoods at its second annual awards gala in June.

On Monday, June 10, at 5:30 p.m. a reception and ceremony will be held at Hope Artiste Village iin Pawtucket to recognize five “transformative” smart projects and one “visionary plan” for Main Street vitalization, according to a Grow Smart release.

The public was invited to nominate candidates by March 15 and a selection committee of Grow Smart board members and staff made the final selections.

The 2013 Outstanding Smart Growth Leaders are:

  • Christopher Wilkens - During his six-year tenure on the Narragansett Town Council (2006-2012), Wilkens worked to get a number of local initiatives supportive of smart growth approved. His term on the Town Council and the Narragansett Land Conservancy included investing in key open spaces as well as investments in Canonchet Farm and Kinney Bungalow at Sunset Farm.
    “Under his leadership in 2009, the town established historic districts to preserve the character of historic neighborhoods, and he spearheaded the effort to establish a comprehensive and asset-based economic development plan for the town,” said the Grow Smart RI release.
  • Westerly Land Trust - “What distinguishes the 25-year-old Westerly Land Trust from most others is that it has an ‘urban’ as well as ‘open space’ mission preserving Westerly’s sense of place,” said the Grow Smart release.

    In addition to its holdings of 1,550 acres of woodlands, grasslands, freshwater and coastal wetlands, The Land Trust’s Urban Initiative focuses on the redevelopment and enhancement of downtown commercial properties, particularly those having historic significance to the town of Westerly.

The 2013 Outstanding Smart Growth Projects are:

  • Aquidneck Mill, Newport - The 1831 Aquidneck Steam Mill, one of the four largest original Newport Mills, was redeveloped in 2009 with the help of Rhode Island’s State Historic Tax Credit program.

    According to the nonprofit, the adaptive re-use of the landmark preserved an important asset, allowed for expansion by the International Yacht Restoration School, the expansion of its library and created a 20,000-square-foot commercial lease space for outside companies and those working in the marine trades.
  • Providence Community Garden Network - The garden network, a project of the Southside Community Land Trust, transformed 6 acres of vacant urban land into a network of 43 gardens, where more than 300 families grow, eat and sell healthy food. Furthermore, the gardens are located in walkable, urban neighborhoods.

    “The gardens affordably re-purpose vacant land, create new and significant neighborhood amenities, provide public open space and support healthy lifestyles,” said the Grow Smart release.
  • The Providence G - Located in the former office buildings of National Grid and Providence Gas, the Dorrance Develeopment Co.’s project brings a “vibrant 24/7 mixed-use complex to Dorrance and Weybosset Streets,” said the nonprofit.
    Made possible through Federal Historic Tax Credits and completed in April, the complex includes 50 residential units, three retail/restaurant spaces and a 60-car lift-based garage.
  • Rumford Center, East Providence - The former 1856 Rumford Chemical Works was redeveloped by the Kirkbrae Development Corp. and Peregrine Holdings LLC of East Providence in 2009. The project involves the redevelopment of an 8.5 acre, 200,000-square-foot historic mill into a mixed-use complex that includes homes, jobs and restaurants.
  • Sweetbriar, Barrington - The Sweetbriar community was developed by the East Bay Community Development Corp. and, according to Grow Smart, demonstrates the “importance of good design in earning community support for affordable housing.”

    The development, located on the site of the former West Barrington Middle School, comprises 23 freestanding buildings with 47 rental units available to households earning 50 to 60 percent of the area’s median income.

The 2013 Outstanding Smart Growth Policies and Plans are:

  • Woonsocket Main Street Livability Plan - The plan, which began in 2012, creates a “smart growth blueprint for guiding and coordinating public and private investments toward a vibrant downtown Woonsocket, where a revitalized Main Street becomes a more attractive and inviting place to live, work and shop,” said Grow Smart.

    The plan includes a number of recommendations to leverage Woonsocket’s success in arts and entertainment and also calls for policy changes in land use and zoning, streetscape improvements, the creation of bikeways, improved pedestrian connections and a reconfiguration of traffic patterns.

In addition to an awards ceremony, the June 10 event will feature a keynote address by Tacoma, Wash., Mayor Marilyn Strickland. Strickland and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian are colleagues on Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council Advisory Board.

Tickets to attend the June 10 event are $50 and can be reserved at www.GrowSmartRI.org.


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