October 31, 2022
PROVIDENCE – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Representative David Cicilline, members of the Providence City Council, Bonnie Nickerson, Executive Director of Providence Redevelopment Agency, Wendy Nilsson, Providence Parks Department Superintendent, James Comer, Deputy Director of RIHousing, and Marta V. Martinez, Executive Director of Rhode Island Latino Arts (RILA) today unveiled the brand new Roger Williams Park Gateway Center, a project that transformed vacant, blighted land on Broad Street into a gateway for the Park and event space for the community and surrounding neighborhoods. Today’s ribbon cutting comes just fourteen months after breaking ground on the project in August of 2021.
Led by the Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA) and the Providence Parks Department in close partnership with the City of Providence’s Department of Planning & Development and RIHousing, the Gateway Center transforms Roger Williams Park’s Broad Street entrance into a tourism and community destination. The Gateway Center is home to a welcoming visitor center, restrooms, picnic tables and play areas, and the exterior features colorful fins that represent colors found within the neighborhood.
“Design elements of this project reflect the vibrant businesses right here on Broad Street, weaving the Gateway into the fabric of this beautiful neighborhood,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “Turning these formerly vacant and abandoned lots into a state-of-the-art destination promotes inclusivity for our parks, beautifies the community for its residents and introduces new visitors to our neighborhoods.”
The Gateway Center is made possible thanks to extensive community feedback and financial support from several stakeholders. Supporting neighborhood and community organizations include the Elmwood Neighborhood Association, Quisqueya in Action, and Rhode Island Latino Arts, while the Providence Redevelopment Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal American Rescue Plan Act and RIHousing’s Property Acquisition and Revitalization Program all served as significant funding sources. Post-construction, Rhode Island’s Federal Delegation helped to secure $700,000 in Community Project Funding (CFP), which will be used to support the continued activation of the space, including Gateway Center operations and community programming.
“Roger Williams Park has been a Providence treasure for 150 years,” said U.S. Senator Whitehouse. “Congressman Cicilline and I were pleased to deliver funding to support this inviting modern gateway and visitor’s center at the Park’s Broad Street entrance. I’m committed to continuing to reinvigorate Rhode Island’s public parks and green spaces.”
“Congratulations to Providence and the surrounding community on the new Roger Williams Park Gateway,” said U.S. Representative Cicilline. “This project transformed a blighted area and will improve green access, support recreational activities, and ensure that our neighbors can enjoy this park to the fullest. I’m thrilled that we were able to help play a part in this effort and secure $700,000 through the Community Project Funding process.”
Also announced today is the space’s use as a community destination, with a jam-packed November of afternoon and evening events already planned, including fitness classes, gameplay, and tours. Community groups may submit requests to use the space, free of charge, by visiting the Gateway website and submitting the event request form.
“The Gateway Center is great example of what’s possible when partners come together to invest in neighborhood revitalization” said Bonnie Nickerson, Executive Director of the Providence Redevelopment Agency. “The center is a new gateway to Roger Williams Park, and to the neighborhood, but also a real hub for people to gather, and come together. Transforming neglected land into a true community asset is exactly why we do this work, and why we’re so thrilled to open the center today.”
The Gateway Center is an important part of the ongoing revitalization of the Broad Street corridor, a cultural hub that began to form over 60 years ago and is home to a proud and diverse Latino community. The City recently completed safety infrastructure upgrades to Broad Street, part of the City’s Great Streets Plan, which make the area safer and more accessible for people walking, biking, riding the bus, and driving. In August, an innovative ground mural was installed by local artist Rene Gomez at the intersection of Public and Daboll Streets.
“In 2018, the City began discussion and submitted a proposal to purchase and revitalize this location, and now we see the fruits of their labor,” said Marta Martinez, Executive Director of Rhode Island Latino Arts. “The design is both beautiful and inviting, and the colors so symbolic of the people and places that make up the Broad Street neighborhood.”
Through the support of the Providence Housing Trust and various community organizations such as RIHousing, the City has seen significant investment in housing within South Providence, demonstrating a truly comprehensive approach to funding and creating critical affordable housing.
“RIHousing has helped fund numerous housing developments in South Providence and along the Broad Street corridor,” said James Comer, Deputy Director of RIHousing. “These investments have been enhanced by the Roger Williams Gateway project, which has transformed previously vacant and blighted lots into an innovative shared space for residents and visitors to our Capital city. The Gateway project is the ideal showcase for blight elimination and utilizes $1 million from the state-funded Acquisition and Revitalization Program to illustrate the positive impacts innovative design and strategic investments can have on a community.”
Today’s ribbon cutting comes as Roger Williams Park itself, often referred to as the People’s Park, celebrates its 150th anniversary. The Park is comprised of more than 435 scenic acres and offers a wide range of recreational and educational opportunities, annually hosting more than 1.5 million visitors from around the state and beyond.
“Today is a very special day for everyone who knows and loves Roger Williams Park,” said Wendy Nilsson, Superintendent of the Providence Parks Department. “During Mayor Elorza’s tenure, we have transformed Roger Williams Park into a space everyone can enjoy and be proud of, and now, the Park’s exterior has an entrance to match. Today’s ribbon cutting was a perfect way to celebrate 150 years of history and look forward to all that’s to come in the Park’s future.”