Part of what makes vibrant community are the people that live there. While it hasn’t always been a super residential area, Downcity has been changing–a lot! The Downtown Neighborhood Association, while only getting started in October, has a fire in their belly for positive engagement. Here, we talk with Richard Pezzillo about the Association’s pride in the neighborhood many of us enjoy and a few live.
Rich and his Husband Michael on Westminster Street
What is the Downtown Neighborhood Association, and how did it get started? For a long-time, Downtown Providence was not considered a residential area. However, times have certainly changed. There are currently 5,000+ people living in Downcity, making it the fastest growing neighborhood in the city. When my husband Michael and I moved to downtown Providence last year from Washington, DC, we quickly learned that there was no organized voice to represent the residents. In October of 2015, we organized an inaugural meeting that was attended by over 80 downtown residents, Mayor Elorza, Councilman Seth Yurdin, The Providence Foundation, the Downtown Improvement District, and the Providence Police. At this meeting, residents had a chance to voice what they love about living downtown, what their concerns are, and what their vision is for the city. All responses were recorded and sent to the entire group. From there, these four committees naturally formed to start addressing some of these issues:
- Quality of Life and Safety
- Development and Planning
- Social Justice
How often do you meet? Since the inaugural meeting in October, the DNA has been meeting on the second Tuesday of every month at Aurora Providence from 6:30 -7:30PM. Our next meeting will feature an opportunity for downtown residents to ask questions with Mayor Elorza on Tuesday, March 8, 630PM. Learn more about the event
After each meeting, we host a social at different downtown restaurants to continue the conversation. This gives everyone an opportunity to get to know their neighbors on a more personal level, while supporting a local business. Throughout the month, we also partner and share events like the Tuesday Tastings.
What is the mission of the DNA? The mission of the DNA is to enhance the quality of life for residents in Downtown Providence by:
- Creating a united voice on downtown issues.
- Adding to the ongoing efforts of the Downtown Improvement District (DID).
- Supporting and assisting with beautification projects.
- Representation of residents at Board of Licenses hearings, City Council meetings, and other events.
- Encouraging a sense of community amongst residents.
- Forming a Neighborhood Watch.
At the moment, what is your biggest project? The DNA has already helped to get a second stop sign on Westminster and Union Streets installed, organized a project that drew neighbors together to paint over graffiti on the “Keep Providence Beautiful” mural on the Paolino Properties building, and submitted a letter prior to a recent Board of License Hearing to represent the concerns of residents at a new establishment coming into the building at Westminster and Empire Street. We were even able to get PPAC to include downtown residents to their rush tickets for certain shows!
We are currently working on these issues:
- Improving the way graffiti is currently reported, the processes to remove it, and ensuring a follow through.
- Helping to add more art to vacant storefronts.
- Organizing an Earth Day cleanup.
- Lighting and security surveillance inventory (to include making sure that every light bulb downtown is replaced or turned on).
- Establishment of a Downtown Neighborhood Watch.
- Improving the overall nighttime economy of downtown (increased police presence and decreased noise).
- Working to help get a downtown grocery store built.
- Addressing the overall safety of Kennedy Plaza and Burnside Park.
- Beginning the dialogue to have overnight street parking.
- Helping to create additional resources and services to the homeless.
What are your favorite things about living downtown and being a part of this group? After living in DC for eight years, I didn’t quite know what to expect moving to a smaller city. However, I would never imagine that we would have fallen in love with this city the way that we have. Providence has everything you could want in a city: it’s walkable, has a thriving art scene, active community, world-class restaurants, and preserved architecture. When a restaurant or business opens, it makes a difference here. After four short months, the DNA has already exceeded my expectation. We currently have over 200 residents involved and it continues to grow as a true sense of community has been established. Each and every resident that gets involved is passionate and dedicated to help Providence become an even better city for residents, businesses, and visitors.
How can someone get involved?
1) Attend one of our monthly meetings.
2) Be added to our mailing list. Simple send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
3) Follow us on Facebook