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Roger Williams Kicks Off 28 Community Revitalization Projects

Friday, February 22, 2013


Roger Williams University students will participate in 28 projects in a dozen RI communities this spring. Photo: RWU.

Spring blooms early more than a dozen Rhode Island communities, as Roger Williams University's Community Partnerships Center starts the spring semester with 28 projects, including community development and Main Street revitalization initiatives in Providence, Woonsocket and Central Falls.

A key component of the University’s Affordable Excellence initiative, the CPC pairs students and faculty with local nonprofits, municipalities and other organizations to tackle community projects that often require specialized expertise or additional resources. Students apply classroom learning and gain real-world experience by engaging in community projects such as economic development research and planning, public policy formulation, architectural design and urban planning.

Business support + community revitalization

Half of this semester’s projects will focus on business support and community revitalization efforts in Providence and Woonsocket as part of the University’s recent partnership with the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, which Governor Lincoln D. Chafee announced in a State House event last October.

“A key economic development priority of my administration is the revitalization of Rhode Island’s urban communities, especially our main streets in Providence, Woonsocket, Pawtucket, Central Falls and West Warwick,” Chafee said. “By engaging the outstanding colleges and universities within Rhode Island, we can more actively use the skills and expertise of the students and faculty of our educational institutions to benefit communities throughout our state.”

Like Governor Chafee, CPC Director Arnold Robinson points to the statewide impact of this semester’s projects: “This semester, some 250 students will integrate their coursework with technical, hands-on community collaborations that will help solve critical issues facing our local neighborhoods, from Woonsocket to Bristol to Portsmouth," he said. "Each of our projects draws upon the diverse expertise of the University’s faculty and programs while empowering students to gain valuable experience and job-ready skills that will prepare them for successful careers.”

Providence projects

As part of the RIEDC agreement, teams of Roger Williams students led by faculty will collaborate with officials in Providence as well as local nonprofits including SWAP (Stop Wasting Abandoned Property), the Broad Street Merchants Association and Trinity Restoration, Inc. on the following six projects:

  • Update, expand and analyze inventory of businesses located on Broad Street to drive clear, up-to-date information sharing and connection among business owners.
  • Build communication vehicles to assist the Broad Street Merchants Association in engaging local businesses.
  • Create and distribute multi-lingual information on local resources and programs available to Broad Street business owners.
  • Assist Broad Street businesses with organizational tasks such as business planning, accounting and marketing plan development and implementation.
  • Conduct research and analysis on the regulatory landscape of mobile food trucks in Providence and identify national best practices for food truck support, promotion and licensing.
  • Assist Trinity Restoration, Inc. in rehabilitation planning for a building that will be converted into a center for performing arts.

Woonsocket projects

Through the same RIEDC agreement, students and faculty from Roger Williams University will also begin the following eight projects with the City of Woonsocket:

  • Identify successful Main Street policies and best practices for downtown Woonsocket.
  • Revitalize business interest in Main Street by creating network of Woonsocket organizations.
  • Examine tactics for creating a welcoming, positive environment for Main Street nonprofits that serve local residents with socioeconomic or substance abuse issues.
  • Evaluate case studies to help identify strategic residential planning practices and development opportunities in downtown Woonsocket.
  • Assess the investment and return of rehabilitating and reusing Main Street buildings and projects in downtown Woonsocket.
  • Create a Main Street redevelopment plan addressing development and rehabilitation issues such ascommercial use, housing types, educational institutions and transportation.
  • Create a “Restaurant Start-up Toolkit” to assist in business planning for existing and prospective Woonsocket restaurant owners.
  • Research the Stadium Theatre’s traditional customer profile to create business development plans that revitalize Main Street businesses to focus on this target market.

Projects in other RI communities

In addition to the Providence/Woonsocket partnership with RIEDC, students and faculty will also be collaborating with the following local organizations this spring:

  • Adams Memorial Library, Central Falls – The project will design a new children’s room to help improve the quality of the facilities for its children’s programs.
  • Barrington Preservation Society, Barrington – Students will identify and document Barrington’s previously unknown industrial heritage.
  • Town of Bristol – The project will create an operational feasibility plan for the Bristol Marine Armory Boating Center to guide reuse of the historic waterfront armory.
  • Central Falls Division of Planning and Community Development – Students will help design a new “Welcome” sign to be fabricated and installed at a major gateway.
  • Coggeshall Farm Museum, Bristol – The project will document existing conditions and prepare a rehabilitation plan for the Cheese House.
  • East Bay Community Action Program – Students will help create and implement a survey of existing and potential donors to the East Bay Coalition for the Homeless services.
  • Herreshoff Marine Museum, Bristol – Students to conduct an architectural concept study for a new building that will house the Museum’s upcoming model display of the Reliance, a large racing yacht made famous in 1903 for winning the international race, America’s Cup.
  • Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, Bristol – Students will research the history of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company during the turn of the 20th century.
  • Town of Richmond – Students will create the urban plan for a village growth center to serve the rural community.
  • Meeting Street, Providence – Students will help create a conceptual design for a building that will house expanding Meeting Street programs focused on early childhood education and job training.
  • St. Mary’s Sacred Ground Sustainability Center, Portsmouth – Students will research best practices and create a conceptual program design for a sustainability center at St. Mary’s Church including the adaptive reuse of its former parish house.
  • Rhode Island Library Association – Students to help the library association safeguard its literary collections from damage and begin to implement disaster risk reduction initiatives including disaster response tactics.
  • Warren Baptist Church, Warren – Students will assist in the promotion and marketing of the Church’s 250th anniversary celebration.
  • West Broadway Neighborhood Association, Providence – Students will research foreclosure and tax sale activities that are impacting local residential neighborhoods.

The Community Partnerships Center conducts a call for projects from community organizations on a bi-annual basis and will be seeking new projects for thenext academic year by April 22, 2013. To learn more about the CPC, go here.  


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