Municipal Planning Assistance

Transformative Planning for the Barbara Jordan II Housing Development

The Barbara Jordan II housing development in Providence, Rhode Island is a multi-unit public housing project that has been vacant for several years. The 27 two- and three-story apartment buildings, with 74 units on 2.75 acres, had fallen into severe disrepair and neglect, forcing the displacement of the remaining 34 families. Looking for forward-looking ideas to redevelop the properties, the Rhode Island Housing Development Corporation (RIH) selected a joint venture of Omni Development Corp. and Wingate Companies to lead the effort. Omni and Wingate then selected planners with Weston & Sampson to assist them with what was expected to be a complex municipal planning process.

Weston & Sampson’s role was twofold – the first was to provide a “Minor Land Development Project Review and Analysis,” and the second was to provide a review of the proposed zone change for consistency with the city’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance. This involved analyzing the consistency of the developers’ plan with local regulations such as lighting, parking, environmental performance, and others, as well as with the Comprehensive Plan. We have been and continue to be instrumental in applying for and receiving the various building, occupancy, and other approvals necessary to make the vision for the project an on-the-ground reality. Throughout the project, the development team engaged with all stakeholders involved, including the affected residents and other local voices, on the plan for demolishing the existing structures and replacing them with 83 units of new construction in 12 energy efficient and amenitized buildings. We determined that the application for a minor land development project was entirely consistent with all relevant city standards and that the zone change proposal was consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

Weston & Sampson is proud to have played a small but critical role in the success of this project. When completed, the new Barbara Jordan II development will serve as an integral component of the effort to remove vacant and blighted housing and replace it with high quality, neighborhood-compatible, low-to-moderate income housing. To enhance the quality of life in the neighborhood, the innovative and transformational design choice to replace abandoned properties was a major component of the project’s success. Providence City Council President Sabina Matos is quoted saying, “As a city, we are in need of affordable housing, and I am very happy to see that this project has come to fruition,” and the City Council’s Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris stated, “This project is going to be a beautiful representation of what our community needs and will change the quality of so many people’s lives.”


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