35: 2048: An Ocean State odyssey

By PHILIP EIL  |  November 20, 2013

Deb and Sheila Dormody , Cultural Affairs Manager for the Providence Department of Art, Culture and Tourism (Deb) and Director of Sustainability for the City of Providence (Sheila) — and sisters, of course

Here we are in 2048 and Providence is further on its way to a city balanced in sustainability, creative and economic vitality, and citizen health. Maybe you’re envisioning a non-sexist version of The Jetsons, but dogs don’t know how to talk yet so that’s just crazy.

Providence residents will tell you that the city’s rise as an international leader and its transformation to a green mecca came by creating jobs in energy efficiency, green infrastructure, and recycling. Here are Sheila’s favorite parts of Future Providence:

• All parts of the city are connected by public transit routes. The frequent service by the solar-powered, zero-emission vehicles adds an ambiance that makes commuting a genuine pleasure.

• The network of protected bike lanes makes bike riding revelatory. Bike and pedestrian bridges help navigate particularly difficult intersections with highways.

The Narragansett Bay ferry helped Rhode Islanders to overcome reluctance
to cross a bridge without packing a lunch. With regular service and various route options, it has significantly reduced highway traffic and made people 89 percent happier.

• With the rise of urban agriculture and green infrastructure investments, residents can now eat their way through the city with berry bushes, vegetable gardens, and fruit trees planted along sidewalks and road medians. Trees and green roofs keep the city cooler in the summer while preventing flooding and polluted run off.

• Providence buildings actually serve as the power that runs the city. After creating a citywide jobs program to make all buildings energy efficient, buildings were updated with solar, geothermal, and wind power generators. Wicked cool!

• With mandatory composting operations in every community, the local agriculture has plenty of rich soil. Bonus: eco-toilets give residents an unlimited outlet for previously waning potty humor.

• Recycling businesses are booming now that the state makes product manufacturers pay for the collection and recycling of their products. Most manufacturers make their products more durable, less toxic, and recyclable in order to avoid having to take things back.

• The history museum at the former Central Landfill stands as a memorial to the long gone practice of pretending that you could throw things “away.” The perpetual flame sculpture fueled by the methane from the last remaining trash pile serves as a poignant reminder to continue our sustainable practices.

Creative people in Providence make artwork and situations that help us understand our sense of place and our culture. The atmosphere of encouragement hasn’t diminished over time — nor has the innovative spirit. Here is what makes Deb excited about living in Future Providence:

• Artists, musicians, performers, and creative entrepreneurs flock here for the affordable spaces for working, living, and presenting. Individual artists are able to engage audiences and buyers through a diverse mix of venues that range from the scrappy to prestigious. Galleries are thriving. Art critics have jobs.

• Local gallery owners opened a visionary museum of contemporary art on Providence’s waterfront, adjacent to the now public gateway marina near India Point Park. The area serves as a tremendous destination and marks Providence as a leader in creative public spaces.

• The temporary public art program that took off a couple decades ago has flourished into a renowned festival. Expanded artist residency programs offer a cultural exchange that also helps keep Providence fresh.

• Neighborhoods are flourishing with access to reasonably-priced housing, public transit, jobs, independent shops and restaurants, and thriving arts opportunities. People are loaning each other cups of sugar all the time.

• Residents connect in bustling libraries, cultural centers, and parks with homegrown activities that reinforce the many cultures in the city.

• In the heart of Providence, a downtown public market building with rooftop green space adds a vibrant draw to the city’s center. A massive colorful water slide park twists its way around downtown’s buildings, landing sliders into a pool at the foot of the federal building.

• A string of connected parks along the river — from Olneyville to the bay — offer community gardens, festivals, beer gardens, amphitheaters and boat-side movie watching.

• Advocates and elected officials cultivated sustained public and private funding sources for non-profit arts and cultural organizations, allowing them to focus on artistic excellence.

Our youth — the next generation of creative makers and leaders — has significant access to visual and performing arts both in and out of school.

Also, the Providence Phoenix has tripled in circulation, and readers find that the sexy-time insert continues to fall out at inopportune times.

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