If you like to brag you learned on the streets in Woonsocket, you're about to share that distinction with students at Roger Williams University.
The city, Main Street in particular, will soon be the classroom for the university's students thanks to a pilot program from the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) marshaling the university's Community Partnerships Center on the city's languishing downtown center.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced the partnership between (RIEDC) and Roger Williams University for community revitalization efforts within urban communities at the State House Thursday at 11 a.m. Chafee, Roger Williams University President Donald J. Farish, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Woonsocket Mayor Leo Fontaine and Paul McGreevy, Special Assistant to the Governor at EDC attended the announcement.
The university's program will provide support to Woonsocket during the current fall semester, and the spring and summer semesters (see attached .pdf).
The teaching plan for this semester will include architecture faculty and students working on a building rehab plan for the historic Longley Building (also known as the Parms Building, now home to Dominos Pizza) with the cooperation of the owner.
Marketing students will bolster an existing plan to promote Main Street, assisting in an effort to document the area's pros and cons to be used in infrastructure planning.
Also, the University has created a graduate program to study the effect of a $100,000 transportation challenge grant to prepare a Main Street Livability Plan to address streetscape design, pedestrian/bike and transit planning and parking.
"I am very grateful to Roger Williams University for providing the city of Woonsocket with this extraordinary opportunity to benefit from the expertise and energy of its faculty and students," said Fontaine.
Of the many sources of help Woonsocket has sought to address its economic challenges, Fontaine said, this is the longest-term and most in-depth partnership to date.
Fontaine said Woonsocket's involvement in the pilot program is a result of a talk he had with Chafee about partnering the city with a regional university at the same time the governor was putting together the program.
Fontaine said he'd already reached out to Northeastern University hoping to set up a similar program with a permanent presence in the city, but the suggestion didn't work out. Roger Williams' involvement, though not through a physical location within the city, provides critical help and ideas for its economic aspiration. "It's a very positive thing," Fontaine said.
Cities like Woonsocket and Providence have been forced to cut across the board because of funding cuts at the state level, Fontaine said, sapping the city's ability to work on economic development projects. So the university students help will come in very handy.
"Roger Wiliams involvement stregthens our ability to come to grips with many complex, inter-related issues of revitalizing our historic Main Street. I think the City has many causes for optimism, and this is another step toward realizing those objectives," Fontaine said.