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Providence Downtown Improvement District Celebrates 7th Anniversary with Expanded Programs

Last week, the award-winning Providence Downtown Improvement District (DID) celebrated its 7th anniversary!

The DID was launched in February 2005 with overwhelming support from downtown property owners who recognized that the area needed more attention in order to attract businesses and residents. Initially, the DID focused on keeping the downtown district clean and safe, but over the years the program of work has expanded to include management of a highly regarded planting program along with advocacy for quality of life issues. 

Maintenance of a clean and safe downtown environment remains a top priority, and the records show what a significant impact the DID has had. Wearing bright yellow uniforms, the DID clean team continues to supplement standard city services through daily activities such as collecting trash, pulling weeds, power-washing sidewalks, removing graffiti and painting tree grates. Meanwhile, safety guides do regular patrolling on foot and on bicycle. In 2011 alone, clean team members removed 2,284 graffiti tags and collected 398,066 lbs. of trash, averaging 33,167 lbs. of trash per month! The safety guides also made 6,338 business contacts over the course of the year and had 5,899 opportunities to provide hospitality assistance.

According to Martha Sheridan, President and CEO of the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau, “The Downtown Improvement District provides an invaluable service to the downtown community, one that is crucial to the overall success of the Providence meeting, convention and leisure travel industry. In particular the clean and safe program is a key differentiator for us in our sales and marketing efforts and helps to insure that visitors to the city have a safe and enjoyable experience during their stay.”

Each summer, the DID beautifies the pedestrian environment by adding a great deal of color and greenery to the district. The DID’s highly visible downtown planting program, which started in 2007 with 94 hanging flower baskets, has expanded to a total of 248 hanging baskets, 70 planters, and 11 ground level planting areas in 2011. This year, with additional support from sponsors, the number of hanging baskets is expected to increase to 272, which is 3 times as many baskets as when the program started. Residents and visitors have given the program accolades and it has become the exemplary model for other business improvement districts around the country.

Additional DID focus areas include:

• The marketing for downtown businesses and events through this newly redesigned comprehensive downtown website, downtownprovidence.com, which features an interactive business directory, event calendar, real estate information, and more. The DID also sent out its first e-newsletter earlier this month, replacing its seasonal printed newsletters.

• Leadership in the Downtown Parking Advisory Council with partners from the city, private parking companies and downtown businesses. Through its Park Downtown Providence initiative, the DID has promoted downtown parking as affordable, plentiful, and easy-to-find. It launched a new website last fall, parkdowntownprovidence.com, that has a parking map, information about on-street rates, frequently asked questions, and parking specials.

• The organization and administration of the Hospitality Resource Partnership (HRP) in partnership with the city of Providence. This is a unique collaboration of residents, club owners, public enforcement officials, property owners, and college representatives that is designed to “create safe and vibrant places for people to socialize.” Through task forces, HRP members deal with public safety issues in and around nightclubs such as crowd management and underage serving. They also focus on developing a stronger, healthier nightlife which is critical to the city’s economy.

• Advocacy for infrastructural improvements such as brick and concrete sidewalk repair, street paving, lighting maintenance, replacement of trash receptacles, and the installation of new street signs.

• Support for the Greater Kennedy Plaza Coalition, organized to transform Burnside and Biltmore parks through the introduction of new activities and the reconfiguration of nearby bus berths.

Lisa Newman Paratore, owner of Homestyle and DID board member has said, “The DID honors and works to preserve what is special about the neighborhood while constantly looking for ways to improve upon what we already have. It looks out for the best interest of every property owner, business owner, resident and visitor.”

The DID is primarily funded by assessments on properties within the geographic area defined by I-95 to the west, Memorial Boulevard and Citizens Plaza to the north and east, and the former I-195 boundary to the south. Governed by a 9-member board comprised of property owners, residents and business owners, the DID’s mission is “to continuously enhance the quality of life in downtown Providence.”

Find more information about the DID here