[And there’s] definitely more activity on our main streets. We’re lucky in that we basically have three main streets; we have Broadway, Westminster, and Cranston Street.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO SAY WHAT THE NEXT 30 — OR MAYBE 10, OR 5 — YEARS WILL LOOK LIKE FOR THIS NEIGHBORHOOD? We want to be the most sustainable neighborhood in the state and set an example for others to follow. We’ve done some things in that regard. We have a solar panel program, which we’re the first in the state to do. [We want to] have as many houses as possible in the neighborhood have solar panels. We have a composting program we’re doing with the city and Southside Community Land Trust. We’re looking at doing a rain barrel program with Groundwork Providence. We have [two] community gardens, too, and we’re looking at adding a third.
Historic preservation. We pride ourselves in the really rich, rich, historic fabric we have in this neighborhood. And that’s the greenest thing there is because we’re saving our existing buildings and add[ing] a nice quality of pride of place for people and quality of life. We feel like everybody deserves to live in a decent place.
EARLIER THIS YEAR, THEPHOENIX WROTE ABOUT CLUCK!, THE ABANDONED-GAS-STATION-TURNED-URBAN-GARDENING-SUPPLY-STORE ON BROADWAY THAT FACED REPEATED ZONING HURDLES AND LOCAL OPPOSITION (ALONG WITH PLENTY OF LOCAL SUPPORT) BEFORE IT WAS FINALLY ABLE TO OPEN. WHAT WAS YOUR TAKE ON THAT SITUATION? Well the WBNA has a community development committee and we review proposals if they choose to come before us. And Cluck! came before us and the WBNA was supportive of the project. We have a saying called “SWELLL,” which stands for “Shop, Work, Eat, Live, and Learn Locally,” [so] that kind of small business seemed wonderful. It also seems really in sync with so many different things that are going on that seem positive to us, in our sustainability direction of the urban growing, bee supplies, compost supplies.
I think a lot of [the opposition was related to] change. You’re comfortable with the way things are. There’s fear. We’ve struggled in the neighborhood. When I first moved here there was a building that had a nightclub in it and it wasn’t properly run. Public urination, broken bottles, stabbings — those sort of things. I think that people who have maybe lived through some of the rougher times, sometimes have fear of change, and [say], “Oh, we don’t want to have those sort of things happen.”
GREENERY A WBNA community garden.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE “G-WORD”: “GENTRIFICATION.” WHAT DOES THAT WORD MEAN TO THE WBNA? IS IT A WORD THAT COMES UP AT MEETINGS? It certainly does come up. But what WBNA has been trying to do all along, whatever word it is, is trying to make a wonderful place for people to live, work and play, no matter who they are. Everybody lives some place. Everybody needs to eat. Everybody needs to live in a neighborhood. Everybody deserves to be safe. And call it what you will, that’s what we’re trying to do.
We invite everyone to come to get involved and make difference. We will help you sit around the table. When we have general meetings, our elected officials are here. If there is a city planning thing, we can help you connect with the government. This is a small enough city and neighborhood that you have face-to-face time; you can meet your state senator, your representative, the congressional [representative]. You can get them there. That’s pretty neat. I grew up in suburban Maryland, [where] you don’t have face time with these folks. But we want to help connect you with that.