A man from GrowSmartRI with a briefcase walking down a set of steps.

In the Arena: GrowSmartRI CEO Scott Wolf

This week Joe Paolino Jr. interviews Scott Wolf, founder and CEO for over 24 years of GrowSmartRI. They talk about the leadership role of Howard Kilguss, who recently passed away, and how many agencies could use a leader like him.

GrowSmart focuses on improving the design and use of building and neighborhood design and how that can contribute to the economic success of RI, while protecting water and environment. Also working on affordable housing. Part of coalition type partnership with Smart Growth America. They talk about ideas working in RI and elsewhere. Major role in championing the state’s historic tax credit – responsible for about $2Billion of investment in RI.

Now getting into the issue of public health – walkable communities. Breaking down zoning barriers in communities. Working at the RI State House on bills of interest. Affordable housing’s focus on multiuse – non single use housing.

More info here:

Watch In the Arena every Sunday at 7am on ABC6


2023 Smart Growth Award Winners Are … 

Carla DeStefano, Executive Director, SWAP

Outstanding Smart Growth Leader

For 30 years Carla DeStefano’s leadership of Stop Wasting Abandoned Property (SWAP) has been marked by an unwavering commitment to revitalizing communities, promoting sustainable practices, fostering social equity and achieving results. She’s spearheaded innovative and transformative initiatives that have had a significant impact on the lives of many across Rhode Island, but especially in the South Side of Providence. She has focused on opportunities to leverage walkable neighborhoods with access to public transportation and invested in mixed-use buildings along the heavily traveled Broad Street and Elmwood Avenue corridors improving countless lives by improving communities.  While SWAP has worked in several communities statewide perhaps the best illustration of example of Carla’s 30-year commitment to smart growth principles is in Providence’s South Side.

Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera

Outstanding Smart Growth Leader

Mayor Maria Rivera became the 33rd Mayor of Central Falls, RI in January 2021. Mayor Rivera’s exemplary smart growth leadership has been evident in her Administration’s laser focus on housing, safe streets, and economic development, and in her direct approach to community engagement. One of her Administration’s first priorities was a targeted response to the extreme housing shortage exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic; after convening a 3-day housing summit and producing a corresponding report, the City has become actively involved in the acquisition and development of vacant and underutilized properties for affordable housing. She is the first woman Mayor in city history, and first Latina Mayor in the State of Rhode Island.

Downtown Woonsocket Collaborative

Outstanding Smart Growth Leader

The Downtown Woonsocket Collaborative is a dedicated group of volunteers that are following the Main Street America approach to be the first accredited local Main Street board in RI. They successfully lobbied for the passage of the downtown overlay district which has seen several million-dollar mixed use renovation projects and reduced vacancy of storefronts from 50% to 17%.  DWC has championed a unified approach to connect business owners, property owners, non- profit leaders, city officials, state officials, and residents to all work in collaboration to revitalize the downtown area. The group supports local developments, holds seminars, leads community clean ups, installs public art and beautification projects, creates walking tours, and promotes downtown Woonsocket.

Pawtucket Central Falls Transit Center

Outstanding Smart Growth Project

The Pawtucket-Central Falls Transit Center opened for service on January 23, 2023. It is the culmination of more than a decade of collaboration between the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) the Mayors of Pawtucket and Central Falls and federal officials, most notably U.S. Senator Jack Reed who first secured a grant to study its feasibility in 2004. The new station allows riders to switch modes of transportation easily between commuter rail operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and RIPTA’s statewide bus network – making it easier and more convenient for many Rhode Islanders traveling across Northern Rhode Island and Metro Boston.  A major benefit of this station, which is already seeing in excess of 400 daily passengers, is the transit-oriented development now taking root within walking distance, leveraging transit investments to expand sorely needed housing choices and affordability in the Conant Thread District of Pawtucket and Central Falls.

Southside Community Land Trust Headquarters, Providence

Outstanding Smart Growth Project

The Southside Community Land Trust’s new headquarters building at 404 Broad Street in Providence has had a profoundly positive community impact since its opening in June 2022. The 40-year old organization, dedicated to promoting urban agriculture and food justice, has created a hub for community engagement, education, and empowerment. The award-winning historic preservation project now serves as a vibrant center for numerous programs and initiatives that benefit the local community. It hosts workshops and training sessions on organic gardening, sustainable farming practices, and healthy cooking, fostering knowledge and skills among residents. Beyond its physical impact, the headquarters building has catalyzed a sense of unity and collective action within the community, fostering a collaborative approach to addressing food insecurity and promoting social equity.

The Studley Commercial to Residential Conversion, Providence

Outstanding Smart Growth Project

Redeveloped by Paolino Properties, The Studley is a newly opened 65-unit apartment project within the former Studley Office Building at 86 Weybosset Street. The Project was a recipient of State of Rhode Island and Federal Historic tax credits along with a RI Housing Workforce Housing Innovation Grant. The 65-units include studios and one-bed room furnished apartments with in-room laundry and flat screen TVs for rents between $1,500-$2,000. The project capitalizes on Downcity’s density, strong transportation network, and growing commercial opportunities and creates much needed workforce housing in an area with high apartment prices.  14 of the 65 units (20%+1) are deed restricted affordable through a workforce housing innovation challenge grant.

Westminster Street Revitalization, Providence

Outstanding Smart Growth Project

Completed by Cornish Associates and its founder and managing partner Arnold “Buff” Chace in July 2021, the innovative and adaptive re-use of the Lapham, Wit and Trayne Buildings are the latest in a series of real estate investments that began in 1991. Now comprising twelve separate projects, the critical mass redevelopment package represents more than 300 new residential apartments, 40,000 square feet of retail space and 27,000 square feet of office space that have systematically catalyzed the revitalization of Westminster Street in the central core of Downtown Providence. Committed to the principles of New Urbanism, and Smart Growth, Cornish preserved the architectural integrity of the underutilized or vacant buildings while attracting new uses and delivering on the company’s overarching mission of creating diverse, walkable and sustainable places.

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