City to launch community engagement process to reimagine site as community service hub
Monday, December 19, 2022
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Chair of Urban League of Rhode Island Beverly Ledbetter, Esq., Providence Director of Business Development Keith Stokes, Executive Director of African American Ambassadors Group (AAAG) and Senior Advisor to Mayor Elorza Shawndell Burney Speaks, and community members today announced the start of a planning process to redevelop and reimagine 246 Prairie Avenue (Rosa Parks Drive) as a future community hub. The site, most commonly known as the former site of Urban League of RI, is currently a large, underutilized space in the Upper South Providence Neighborhood.
“Guided by the recommendations of the Providence Municipal Reparations Commission, African American Ambassadors Group, and Black leaders throughout our City, we know that reclaiming this site has been an important priority for this neighborhood,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “Today, I am excited to announce critical investments to acquire and redevelop this site, and a process to engage the community to reimagine what the future of this site looks like. We know this site has the potential to once again serve as a community service hub for the community, and I am excited to see how this process takes shape based on feedback from the community in the months and years to come.”
The redevelopment and reimagination of the site is being facilitated through the Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA), which will acquire the property, demolish the existing building, and, in partnership with the Office of Economic Opportunity, Urban League of RI and the community, plan for the reuse of the site. The redeveloped site will include a combination of space for other community-based anchor organizations, as well as office space for grassroots organizations focused on advocacy, recreation and social services.
The first phase of investment into the project is made possible through a variety of funding sources, including $1.6M of Providence American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to acquire the site and $1M in federal community project funding, secured by Senator Whitehouse, to undergo predevelopment activities including site preparation, assessments and cleanup.
“I am proud to secure funding to support the first phase of this promising project,” said Senator Whitehouse. “This is an investment in Rhode Island’s Black community and the Upper South Providence neighborhood. I’m hopeful this space will play an important role in furthering the Urban League’s mission in the years to come.”
The City will also release a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the facilitation of a community engagement process to reimagine future uses of the site. The RFP will invite qualified firms or consultants with experience facilitating discussions of best and current practices in affordable housing, community development, neighborhood revitalization and public engagement through the public sector. The City expects to submit the RFP to the Board of Contract & Supply later this week for approval in early January 2023.
“I am hopeful to see the transformation of this blighted building and the enormous piece of land it sits on in South Providence,” said Councilwoman and Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11). “The old Urban League property represents a fresh opportunity to provide critical space to different organizations. However, as community leaders, we must ensure engagement with our neighbors for their valued input. I want to thank Senator Whitehouse for securing the federal funds necessary for getting this project across the finish line.”
The redevelopment project, being conducted in partnership with the Urban League of RI, will honor the original work that took place at the site to develop community-serving programs and policies that serve Providence’s Black residents. Founded in 1910, the National Urban League is a historic network that works to provide economic empowerment, educational opportunities and the guarantee of civil rights for underserved communities across the country. The Urban League of Rhode Island acquired 246 Prairie Ave (Rosa Parks Drive) in 1990.
“We are thrilled to be here today celebrating the next steps in transforming this important landmark in this neighborhood and for our community,” said Beverly Ledbetter, Esq., Chair of Urban League of Rhode Island. “For decades, our organization has been in the community working hard to eliminate racial discrimination and elevate the achievement for Black leaders in our state. We have worked with countless individuals to demonstrate their full potential in our community and celebrate their successes. Today’s announcement is an investment in our community, and we greatly appreciate the partnership of the City, Senator Whitehouse, and all of our community partners, and we look forward to participating in the process to envision what the future of this site will become.”
“This property has been a pillar of our community, and as the longest tenant in the building, our organization has been proud to call this space and neighborhood our home,” said Henrietta White Holder, Founder and CEO of Higher Ground International. “As our organization takes a huge leap forward with moving just a few blocks away thanks to the support of Senators Reed, Whitehouse and our entire delegation, I know that what’s to come here will be an amazing community destination and we cannot wait to participate in the process.”
The prioritization of this project was identified with the Mayor’s African American Ambassador Group, which meets three times a month and serves as a direct line of communication between the community and the Administration. Those interested in engaging in the work of the AAAG are encouraged to complete this form.