Create – Plan – Implement
The Planning Department is responsible for creating and implementing plans to achieve the City’s vision for the future. We also remain actively engaged in state and regional planning efforts.
The State of Rhode Island requires all municipalities to develop a comprehensive plan to guide development decisions and to establish the basis for zoning ordinances and other land use regulation tools. The plan must address community concerns such as housing, parks, transportation, community services and many others. In Providence Tomorrow you will find all of the required elements and a few others such as sustainability, the city’s built environment, and the arts. You will also find discussions about growth and change and where and how the city plans for future development.
As part of the Providence Tomorrow planning initiative, ten Neighborhood Plans and one Special Area Plan were completed. These plans were developed through extensive public engagement and have each been approved by the City Plan Commission.
Environmental Planning covers a wide range of issues, including, but not limited to, sustainability in the context of escalating energy concerns, degradation of natural resources and climate change.
Harbor Management Plan (HMP)
The Harbor Management Plan for the City of Providence is currently being drafted in accordance with State guidelines. The purpose of the HMP is to:
- Provide a comprehensive and continuous evaluation of municipal harbor management activities;
- Provide for a detailed assessment of current and/or proposed municipal harbor management programs, ordinances or regulations to ensure compliance with applicable regulatory and management requirements of the State of Rhode Island; and
- Delegate the primary management authority and responsibilities of consistent local harbor management programs to the municipalities.
Guidelines for the Development of Municipal Harbor Management Plans, State of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, revised 2009
In accordance with State law, a Harbormaster was appointed in 2011 and a Harbor Commission was recently appointed to oversee the HMP and the Harbormaster.
Flood Zone Management
The Planning Department is the designated flood plain management agency for the City and oversees the adoption and maintenance of flood zone regulations and the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) in collaboration with other departments according to National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and FEMA regulations. Special Flood Hazard Areas regulations were amended in 2009 (Section 423 of the Zoning Ordinance) along with the adoption of new digitized FIRMs. The maps should be updated in the next 2-3 years to reflect new information developed in consultation with City staff. This process includes the HAZUS and Risk MAP projects and periodic meetings with planning, emergency management and other City staff. Concurrently, the Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a 4-municipality Woonasquatucket Flood Reconnaissance Study, a preliminary study of conditions which could set the stage for a feasibility study to address implementation strategies for flood control and mitigation, particularly in the Olneyville and Valley neighborhoods.
To find out if your property is in a flood plain, click here.
Department staff participated in review of the 2009 RI Stormwater Design and Installation Standards Manual and related LID (Low Impact Development) Guidelines, emphasizing the urban perspective. Innovative approaches to managing a decaying and overburdened stormwater system are encouraged in the Providence Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan and grant funding sources for implementation continue to be sought.
Through participation on the Urban Agriculture Task Force, by amending the comprehensive plan, zoning and other regulations, in community forums, and through efforts to identify appropriate land for community gardens and a variety of urban agriculture practices, Department staff supports the continued growth of urban agriculture in Providence.
Electric Vehicle Readiness Support
Staff supports the efforts of Project Get Ready RI and Ocean State Clean Cities, the latter through participation in the Plug-in Readiness and Strategic Planning Grant stakeholders group.
Planning for Climate Change
Staff participates regularly in conferences and workshops on Climate Change and Sea Level Rise (SLR), continues to amend the comprehensive plan to improve public and private practices, and has given presentations on planning for climate change.
Hazard Mitigation/Emergency Planning
Staff received hazard mitigation training through FEMA, participated in preparation of the local Hazard Mitigation Plan and coordinates regularly with Providence Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) staff. Staff also participates in quarterly meetings of the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).
Staff supports the efforts of the RI Compost Initiative and has amended the comprehensive plan to include several measures encouraging development of a citywide and/or regional composting program, as well as smaller efforts at the residential and institutional level.
The City of Providence continues to work towards making sure that our streets are “Complete Streets”– streets that are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. In 2011, the City of Providence passed a Complete Streets resolution.
In 2012, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission was established in order to provide input on the provision of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in Providence and in 2016, the role of the Commission was expanded to provide more direct feedback and review of the City’s plans for our streets to ensure that they are designed with Complete Streets policies in mind. (Click here to learn more about the Commission.)
We are continuing to advance this work by training City staff and neighborhood leaders in Complete Streets policy, conducting a Vulnerable Road Users Safety Action Plan and an audit of all City policies and procedures, and completing projects including the Fountain Street improvement project. To learn more about the City’s Complete Streets initiatives, please contact .
Bike Providence Master Plan Update
UPDATE: The City of Providence is currently working to update portions of the Bike Providence Master Plan. For more information on the bike plan update process, please contact .
The Bike Providence Master Plan provides the framework to identify, prioritize and implement bicycle facilities in the City of Providence. All new developments and redevelopments are encouraged to follow the recommendations of the Plan, in addition to requirements set forth by other federal, state, and local regulations. Click here for the Bike Providence Master Plan.
USDOT Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets
In 2015, USDOT Secretary Foxx issued a challenge to mayors and local elected officials throughout the country to take significant action to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. The City of Providence is thrilled to participate in the Mayors’ Challenge and will be working with the Providence Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission to accomplish key tasks associated with the Challenge.
Olneyville Circulator Study
Led by the City of Providence, in partnership with the Olneyville Housing Corporation, this study summarizes the existing transportation system serving the Olneyville Square area; identifies existing and future areas of traffic congestion; evaluate the impacts of potential circulation changes, and suggests potential implementation phases. Click here for the Olneyville Circulator Study.
RIPTA Comprehensive Operational Analysis
The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) performed a statewide evaluation of services called a Comprehensive Operational Analysis (or COA). The COA identified the transit system’s strengths and weaknesses and determine where resources should be redirected to better serve customers and attract more riders.
Transportation Corridors to Livable Communities
Recipient of the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Planning Association’s Paul Davidoff Award
In 2010, the City was awarded a Community Planning Challenge Grant through HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities to conduct the Transportation Corridors to Livable Communities study. The project focused on transit, land use, and arts and cultural planning along the highest ridership bus routes in the city– Broad Street, Chalkstone Avenue, Elmwood Avenue, Manton Avenue, and North Main Street. Click here to view the Transportation Corridors to Livable Communities study.
As part of this effort, RIPTA began running the R-Line, the first Rapid Bus corridor in the state, along Broad and North Main streets, connecting Providence to downtown Pawtucket in June 2014. You can also follow them on Twitter: @RIPTA_RLine.
Bike-Share Study and Implementation
In 2011, the City conducted a bike-share feasibility study with Alta Planning + Design. The study includes an in-depth review of bike share systems and technologies in other cities throughout the U.S and the world, makes recommendations for a possible bike-share program in Providence, and details the capital funding requirements for a bike-share system. Click here to view the Providence Public Bike-Share Feasibility Study.
In 2009, RIPTA completed the Metropolitan Providence Transit Enhancement Study, recommending ten strategies for improving transit within the metropolitan area. Click here for more information on the study.
Historic Preservation Planning
The Department of Planning and Development strives to preserve the historic buildings, districts and areas that contribute positively to Providence’s urban fabric. Historic Preservation Planning covers a wide range of issues, including, but not limited to, the protection and preservation of historic resources citywide through the use of design standards, historic district zoning and other tools, uncovering distinct cultural values in the neighborhoods and taking steps to honor their significance, and supporting efforts to educate Providence residents on the importance of historic preservation.
City of Providence Zoning Ordinance
The City’s current Zoning Ordinance was adopted in November 2014 and became effective on December 24, 2014, and contains amendments up to and including July 27, 2018. The Department of Planning and Development strives to incorporate amendments as soon as they are approved. Contact the Department to inquire about recent amendments. For a certified copy of the Ordinance, contact the City Clerk’s office.
City of Providence Zoning Maps
The City of Providence Base and Overlay Zoning Maps are available in .pdf format. The Department of Planning and Development strives to incorporate amendments as soon as they are approved. Contact the Department to inquire about recent amendments. For a certified copy of the maps, contact the City Clerk’s office.
City of Providence Zoning Ordinance User’s Manual
The City of Providence Zoning Ordinance User’s Manual is intended to provide a brief overview of the organization of the Providence Zoning Ordinance, the general purpose of the various articles of the ordinance, and summaries of some of the key ordinance sections. This manual is intended for informational purposes only.
ARC GIS Viewer Service
These applications, based on the ArcGIS Online framework, provide access to municipal data on ongoing development projects, parcels, zoning, census, flood and parks, as well as other initiatives. These viewers work on IOS and Android platforms. Note: users may need to click the “View Full Site” link. Click here to access the viewers.