The PRP recently partnered with the City of Providence, Smith Hill Partners’ Initiative, and the Central Providence Health Equity Zone in a successful application for technical assistance from the USDOT’s Thriving Communities Program. Smith Hill is one of 64 neighborhoods across the country and the only one in RI that will receive technical support, planning resources, and capacity building services designed to empower communities in developing and implementing infrastructure projects that enhance their quality of life and strengthen their resilience to climate change.
The Thriving Communities Program is a recent initiative by USDOT that assists communities that have experienced disproportionate or adverse effects due to environmental, climate, and human health policies in accessing federal funds for infrastructure projects. Providence developed a proposal focused on the neighborhood of Smith Hill, which faces significant challenges stemming from historical disinvestment, the construction of highways, and redlining practices. These factors have contributed to its current state as an economically disadvantaged neighborhood with limited affordable housing options, subpar health outcomes, and concerns about safety and quality of life. The neighborhood is divided by the bustling Smith Street (R44) and is situated near four major highways. Furthermore, it is susceptible to the adverse effects of climate change, including the heat island effect and flooding. This vulnerability arises from the abundance of impermeable paved areas, insufficient tree coverage and green infrastructure, as well as the presence of brownfield sites and proximity to the Woonasquatucket River flood plain.
To address these issues, the City and its partners, in collaboration with the Thriving Communities Program, will support the neighborhood in working to advance projects aligned with the Smith Street Revitalization Plan, unveiled in 2020 after deep engagement with residents and businesses. The Revitalization Plan is a comprehensive strategy aimed at transforming the Smith Hill neighborhood into a vibrant and thriving community. The plan focuses on several key areas to achieve this vision. Firstly, it aims to enhance the visual appeal and functionality of the streets and transportation system, creating a more pedestrian-friendly and efficient environment for residents and visitors alike. Secondly, the plan recognizes the importance of preserving the unique identity of the neighborhood by integrating cultural and artistic elements into the planning process. This ensures that the revitalization efforts align with the community’s heritage and values. Thirdly, the plan seeks to improve the quality of life for residents by addressing critical areas such as educational resources, safety measures, healthcare services, and access to supportive social programs.