In Your Neighborhood

It is a beautiful day in the Olneyville neighborhood

By completing the Amherst Gardens project, ONE Neighborhood Builders has transformed 13 foreclosed and blighted properties into stable, affordable housing for 36 families

Photo by Richard Asinof

It was a neighborhood celebration when the ribbon was cut celebrating the completion of the Amherst Gardens project in Olneyville on Dec. 1, with Jennifer Hawkins, the executive director of ONE Neighborhood Builders holding the scissors with Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 12/4/17
ONE Neighborhood Builders celebrated the completion of its Amherst Gardens in Olneyville, transforming 13 blighted and foreclosed properties into attractive new affordable housing, helping turn the neighborhood around.
Which TV news reporter will be the first to do a walking tour on the transformation of Olneyville? How is the health equity zone making a difference in the community’s health outcomes? What kinds of sustainable industries can be the source of new investments? Is there a way to create a new kind of public transportation pilot program that connects Olneyville and downtown Providence?
There is a basic economic truth that the path to prosperity begins at the front door of your home, when it is safe, healthy, affordable and connected to a neighborhood. Investments in housing – and not just real estate – are critical to the future success of Rhode Island’s economy.

PROVIDENCE – Call it a good news story. Everyone was smiling, dignitaries were beaming, and bright sunlight filled the renovated commercial space on Manton Avenue, as ONE Neighborhood Builders, a community development corporation, celebrated the completion of its Amherst Gardens project.

Jennifer Hawkins, the executive director of ONE Neighborhood Builders, was exuberant as she introduced the speakers, including: Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza; Barbara Fields, the executive director of Rhode Island Housing; Sabina Matos, the Providence City Council president; one of the tenants, Nitza Cora, a single mom with two kids who will be living in an upstairs apartment at the Manton Avenue location; Jeanne Cola, the executive director of Rhode Island LISC, one of the investors; and Michael Correira from the Providence City Council.

Also attending was Col. Hugh T. Clements, Jr., the Providence Chief of Police, and the principal of the William D’Abate Elementary School, Brent Kerman.

In addition to leveraging more than $2 million for community safety and public health improvements, helping to facilitate the redevelopment of Riverside Park, and becoming the local coordinator of the health equity zone in Olneyville, the most impressive numbers were the ones that championed the role that ONE Neighborhood Builders in achieving a big reduction in crime through its strategy of buying up and transforming blighted and foreclosed properties that had become a magnet for crime.

Between 2013 and 2016, the number of robberies dropped by 54 percent, the number of aggravated assaults dropped by 37 percent, and the number of burglaries had dropped by 7 percent.

“ONE Neighborhood Builders is proud to be a piece of the puzzle toward reducing crime in Olneyville,” the poster read, a testament to the role that housing plays in stabilizing neighborhoods and communities.

Rooted in housing
Fields, who had attended the announcement on Monday, Nov. 29, when Infosys announced that it was locating a new innovation and design hub in Providence, with plans to create 500 new jobs, talked about the crucial role that housing plays in our lives.

“Housing is where you go to sleep at night,” she said, not in the office where you work.

Elorza praised the William D’Abate Elementary school, which has become one of the most desired places to go to school in Providence. He talked about a meeting he had held with health care executives and university presidents about making investments in Olneyville.

Cola said that she “hearts” Olneyville.

Perhaps most importantly, the new tenant, Cora, talked about the reasons why she felt safe to live in the neighborhood with her two kids.

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

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