Governor Lincoln D. Chafee announced the next action step in a multi-agency effort over the next two years to develop an integrated approach for the state to economic development, housing, transportation, and land use, as part of the Sustainable Communities Initiative. Through an open Request for Proposals (RFP) issued November 21, 2012, by the Rhode Island Division of Planning's Statewide Planning Program, Rhode Island has selected a consulting team led by the Horsley Witten Group to create statewide plans that address economic development housing and growth centers while linking them to strategies for transportation, land use, and the environment with the goal of creating a better place for all Rhode Islanders.
"As we work collaboratively to identify the most promising path to a prosperous future, it is important to have a guiding plan that capitalizes on our assets and is mindful of how all Rhode Islanders will be affected," Governor Chafee said. "I am grateful that we now have the comprehensive data analysis to inform our decisions. We will continue to move forward to make Rhode Island a better place to work and live."
The federally funded Sustainable Communities Initiative is one component of Governor Chafee's broader efforts to bring a comprehensive and forward-looking approach to the state's efforts to make Rhode Island a better place to work and live. This includes investment in quality public education, sound infrastructure, and workforce development and training. It includes supporting local communities and keeping property taxes down. And it includes focusing on existing small businesses and helping them succeed and grow. Prior to Governor Chafee taking office, the state had no coordinated plan for economic development, housing, transportation and land use. The Sustainable Communities Initiative will build upon the work already done by the Chafee Administration, with the state and its partners creating an integrated approach to these critical issues. Rhode Island released the initial results of the project in February when it issued the Economy Rhode Island and An Equity Profile of Rhode Island reports, which analyze Rhode Island's demographics, business climate, and economic competitiveness. The Department of Administration's Division of Planning expects to complete the planning process, which will include extensive public engagement, in 2014. The final year of the initiative will focus on implementation planning and capacity building for Rhode Island municipalities, state agencies, and community partners.
The Division of Planning issued the RFP as part of a broader $2.3 million initiative, funded by a grant from the Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities, to mobilize state and community resources to improve the economy and quality of life for all Rhode Islanders. Twenty-eight other recipients were awarded Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants in the last round; Rhode Island is the only state government to receive this funding to date. Successful awardees needed to demonstrate how their efforts would help reduce transportation costs for families, improve housing affordability, save energy, increase access to housing and employment opportunities, and nurture healthier, more inclusive communities which provide opportunities for people of all ages, incomes, races, and ethnicities to live, work, and learn together. The effort is aimed at building a sustainable, prosperous and equitable future for Rhode Island through a series of strategic actions steps in the short-term and the implementation of long-term, comprehensive plans over 10 to 20 years.
A multi-agency review committee selected the Horsley Witten Group for the integrated planning project. The Horsley Witten Group is a full-service environmental science and engineering firm with offices located in Providence, Rhode Island, and Sandwich and Newburyport, Massachusetts. Horsley Witten's team for the project includes Jamestown-based Mapping and Planning Services and leading national and regional firms, PlaceMatters, Goody Clancy, Nelson\Nygard Consulting Associates, 4Ward Planning, and Bonnie Heudorfer Housing and Community Development Consulting.
"We have an opportunity to develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy that integrates economic development, land use, housing, environmental issues and transportation," said Kevin Flynn, Director of the Division of Planning. "We will take a new approach that unites the efforts of multiple state agencies and community partners as well as the public in order to create a stronger more equitable Rhode Island."
"We're incredibly excited by this opportunity. The potential for success in Rhode Island is enormous and we think this project could not have come at a better time," said Nathan Kelly, Project Manager at Horsley Witten. "Through a diverse set of partnerships, Rhode Island is going to develop an integrated approach to land use, transportation, housing, and economic development and we're ready to get to work."
As part of the Rhode Island Sustainable Communities Consortium, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, Rhode Island Departments of Environmental Management and Transportation, and other state, municipal, and non-profit partners have joined the Division of Planning and the Rhode Island Department of Administration in leading this effort.
The next two years of the Sustainable Communities Initiative will cover six key areas:
- Economic Development: Create one economic development plan that integrates business growth with land use and transportation choices. Align economic and workforce development to create jobs in areas close to where people live.
- Housing: Create a statewide housing plan that encompasses the needs of all Rhode Islanders, particularly working families and identifies impediments to fair housing.
- Growth Centers: Develop strategies to promote growth where Rhode Island's infrastructure can best support it. Map natural, cultural, and economic infrastructure to guide the best use of limited resources.
- Social Equity and Community Engagement: Involve a broad range of Rhode Islanders in the planning process. Ensure that the action steps created are equitable for all Rhode Island residents.
- Technical Assistance and Capacity-Building: Create tools and training for Rhode Island's cities and towns, state agencies, and community partners to build skills and knowledge for implementation.
- Implementation: Create detailed strategies to ensure Rhode Island achieves the goals it sets over the next two years. Identify ways to measure progress toward implementation.
In addition, the six key livability principles guiding the Sustainable Communities Initiative include:
- Provide more transportation choices.
- Promote equitable, affordable housing.
- Enhance economic competitiveness.
- Support existing communities.
- Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment.
- Value communities and neighborhoods.
Along with diverse areas of technical expertise, HW brings a long history of public engagement to its work and is uniquely qualified to help local stakeholders balance environmental, social, and economic objectives. Whether funded through state, regional, or local initiatives, HW has worked closely with government agencies across the country to identify and implement a wide variety of sustainable land use management strategies. In Rhode Island, HW provided consultation for award-winning planning and design projects in Exeter, North Kingstown, Providence, Pawtucket, and with the KeepSpace program.
About Sustainable Communities Initiative This grant is one of several offered through the Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a collaboration of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program supports metropolitan and multi-jurisdictional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments in a manner that empowers jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of: (1) economic competitiveness and revitalization; (2) social equity, inclusion, and access to opportunity; (3) energy use and climate change; and (4) public health and environmental impact. The Sustainable Communities Program is coordinated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, whose mission is to create strong, sustainable communities by connecting housing to jobs, fostering local innovation, and helping to build a clean energy economy. Rhode Island will develop the comprehensive, integrated plan through an inclusive public process with an eye towards positive and equitable impacts for all Rhode Islanders. The grant consortium is composed of state agencies, municipalities and non-profit organizations.