Letters to the Editor 04.03


    To the Editor:

    Thanks to Sarah Gleason for her article on affordable housing and historic preservation. Her recognition of local preservation action by three small, passionate and hardworking organizations is appreciated.

    Providence’s non-profit housing developers have been under-recognized for the amount and quality of affordable housing they provide for low and moderate income people. What stands out about their work is that it almost always is well-designed, quality construction that blends seamlessly into the neighborhood where it is located, be it for infill new construction or more often than not into renovated historic buildings. SWAP, AS220, Providence Revolving Fund, One Neighborhood Builders, West Elmwood Housing Development Corp. and their cohorts set an example as excellent stewards of shaping Providence’s places for people. Their work enhances neighborhoods through gentle density and adaptive reuse and yes, through providing affordable housing! 

    What was not mentioned in the section about WBNA is that our work on affordable housing has not only been through reviewing projects through our Community Development Committee (yes, every neighborhood needs one) and through advocacy to the city on the Comprehensive Plan and other policies, but also by doing our own projects as demonstration projects. All of WBNA’s affordable housing projects have been on Westminster Street, one of the neighborhood’s “Main Streets” which is in the local historic district (and by the way has a great ever growing variety of types of affordable housing by WBNA, SWAP, and others, and more coming soon!). WBNA’s “demonstration” projects intend to set an example of preservation, new construction, green technologies, “Main Street” revitalization, supporting/strengthening local businesses and including neighbors in the process. WBNA’s projects are:

    1390 Westminster Street

    1192 Westminster Street

    1577 Westminster Street

    1192 Westminster Garage Conversion  (this one is especially current as a demonstration project of an ADU- Accessory Dwelling Unit)

    WBNA also worked with neighbors in 2004 to double the size of the Armory local historic district and a few years later laid the groundwork for creating a Conservation District in Federal Hill and parts of the West End.

    If I might end with a plea to get involved. Please support your local neighborhood association and non-profit housing developers. Call your City Councilor to support the proposed demolition delay ordinance. Continue to weigh in on the Comp plan by reviewing the proposed map changes, and advocating for people-centered, human-scale community development that highlights historic preservation and affordable housing. Neighbors make a difference!

    Thanks for shining a light on this topic, Sarah!

    Kari Lang

    To the Editor,

    In the recent week this publication (https://pvdeye.org/at-home-with-the-providence-housing-authority-the-largest-landlord-in-the-city/) wrote a brilliant piece about one of my local heroes Ms. Deb Wray. Highlighting her tenacious and tender attitude for the neighborhood in which she takes pride. I have only been familiar with Ms. Deb Wray less than five years but her warm and loving spirit makes it feel as if she is one of my aunties. Again I can’t express enough the joy it bring to me to read about someone who I strive to emulate, just a true champion of the community much gratitude and appreciation for giving her her flowers while she can still smell them. 


    To the Editor,

    This statistic in Jon Howard’s Providence Counts (March 27, 2024) stuck out for me, with all the anti-immigrant talk one hears.

    In 1900, more than 60 percent of Providence residents were immigrants from outside the US, compared to about 32 percent today. 

    I am sure those immigrants were viewed in much the same way as immigrants are today, however their descendants do not necessarily see the commonality. The difference between speaking Italian, or Yiddish, and speaking Spanish is not great. Or perhaps the skin color is different, yet the difficulty of being a stranger in a strange land is the same.

    Although it is not in RI, the construction workers on the Francis Scott Key Bridge are a prime example of the contributions and sacrifices immigrants make to our state and country.

    Karen McAninch

    To The Providence Eye

    I want to respond to good points about the Comprehensive plan made by two writers of Letters to the Editors of The Providence Eye.  Bobbi Houlihan wrote, February 28 , that at a  Fox Point Community Association meeting regarding the development of the City’s Comprehensive Plan,  Tim Shea of the Planning Department stated that 5000 new apartments are planned for Fox Point, the I-195 land – and who knows where else?

    That “who knows where else” makes me nervous.  My own takeaway, from the first public review of the Comprehensive Plan (available on Planning & Development’s YouTube channel), was a lot of vagueness about where new building would happen. Bob Azar similarly suggested that new buildings would be primarily in areas already dense, e.g., Fox Point and the Downtown. So, I tell myself, we shouldn’t be surprised when new developments such as those happening today will be popping up in these key areas in the next ten years. Much better, I think, might be to build more in less dense areas – and to work with  RIPTA transportation planners to integrate routes for the state with those in the city. Easier movement between workplaces and residences should be a priority.

    Moreover, anyone driving through Fox Point will notice that traffic, parking and construction have already maxed- out. The four separate structures comprising the 5-story, 132-unit Power Street Apartments going up on Gano Street will provide only 86 parking spaces. Tenants without parking will inevitably use nearby Power Street and the narrow, historic streets parallel to it, making them even more impassable than they can be now.

    Similarly, the mixed-use six- story structure to be built at 269 Wickenden, on the corner of Brook, will have 75 units and also very little parking. Such minimal parking is possible because zoning regulations state that “in the C-1 and C2 districts, all lots of 10,000 square feet or less are exempt from parking requirements” (P. 18, Zoning Ordinance User’s Manual).

    Warning: the Comprehensive Plan will be completed this year, and if residents want more input this is the time to do it.  Timelines for the Plan, and more, can be seen at the https://www.providenceri.gov/comp-plan/.

    And Kim Salerno, in her Letter to the Editor of March 13, notes that the Providence Comprehensive Plan lacks a vision statement, unlike the Newport Comp Plan that she had worked on. She explains why we need one:

    Great places start with great ideas. What is the animating idea for the 2024 Comp Plan? The residents of Providence sense that there is no overarching purpose to the Plan, and they wish it was otherwise.

    Time is short, but changes to the Plan are still possible. I suggest that readers of the Eye come up with their own vision plans; and here is mine:

    Providence has a treasure of historic buildings that reflect its growth as one of the oldest cities in the country. While the pressure for new housing is enormous, the City’s Comprehensive Plan will recognize the irreplaceable value of this heritage, make use of existing structures while building new ones, and emphasize new building design that enhances what has been created over centuries.

    Sarah Gleason