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Providence Foundation Annual Meeting Wrap-Up

On Tuesday night, we welcomed more than 130 special guests to the gorgeous, newly renovated event space in the Providence Public Library for The Providence Foundation’s annual meeting, organized in partnership with the Providence Downtown Improvement District and the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy. The program appropriately began with a moment of silence for Bill Warner, an architect who had been instrumental in the city’s river relocation project and other major planning feats.

Outgoing chairman Dick Spies described the Foundation’s commitment to great spaces, with the library serving as a great example. In summarizing key accomplishments, he said that we’ve encouraged investment, helping to create an ecosystem where people want to be.

Executive Director Dan Baudouin highlighted a variety of current downtown projects including Hasbro’s expansion into 15 LaSalle Square; renovations to the Arcade that will create 48 micro-loft apartments above retail and restaurant spaces; the restoration of 4 buildings on the corner of Weybosset and Dorrance comprising the Providence G residential/retail complex; Alex & Ani’s purchase of 159 Weybosset for a shop and professional development center; the redesign of the Biltmore Garage to allow for 6 retail units on Washington Street; new investment in the Biltmore Hotel; Johnson & Wales’ new garage under construction and physicians’ assistant building undergoing renovations; DCI’s product design center under construction on Mathewson Street; the Brown Continuing Ed building which opened last year at 200 Dyer Street; and the Design Office cooperative office space at 204 Westminster.

At the meeting, we also announced the new slate of Foundation officers: Bill Hatfield as chairman, Ned Handy as vice-chair, Buff Chace as treasurer and Joseph Paolino, Jr. as secretary. Incoming chairman Bill Hatfield described his election as an honor and a privilege, given the downtown area’s amazing transformation since his arrival in Providence more than 30 years ago. He believes that “the quality of place has never been better, and it will only continue to get better.” Opportunities for the upcoming year include developing an efficient permitting system, reviewing the city’s tax classification system, focusing on the knowledge economy and the I-195 lands, reinstating Rhode Island’s historic tax credit, improving our open spaces, developing the nighttime economy, promoting arts & retail, and partnering with others to improve the city’s public education system.

Mayor Angel Taveras added that “Providence is what it is today because of the Foundation’s vision and commitment.” He acknowledged that our goals are aligned, listing his top priorities as promoting housing downtown, completing the downtown circulator project, paving roads, transforming Kennedy Plaza, growing tourism, and addressing the commercial tax rate.

Following the mayor, Governor Lincoln Chafee spoke about his plans for investing in education, encouraging better workforce development, and supporting cities and towns. He added some positive news about recent federal labor statistics for Rhode Island, noting that key indicators have been up in 5 main areas for both the month and year for the first time since 1998.

Richard Lappin, chairman of the Providence Downtown Improvement District, then described a few new directions for his organization and summarized several ongoing program areas as listed in the DID’s annual report. To complete the program, Ned Handy, chairman of the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy, recognized the many people involved with creating the new organization dedicated to developing great public spaces downtown. DPPC Director Cliff Wood promised that major announcements about the park would be coming soon, with a friend-raiser scheduled on April 18th. If the enthusiasm in the room is any indicator, 2013 is already shaping up to be a tremendous year!

Read John Kostrzewa’s meeting summaries in the Providence Journal on February 13th and February 17th.

(Top photo: Joelle Kanter. Bottom photos: Tonia Mason, Providence Public Library).