Combining the strength, history and expertise of two impactful nonprofit agencies – Olneyville Housing Corporation & Community Works Rhode Island – ONE Neighborhood Builders continues the work of community revitalization in the Olneyville and Elmwood neighborhoods of Providence. ONE Neighborhood Builders promotes equity, community health and neighborhood growth through strategic real estate development and a focus on building community assets.
ONE Neighborhood Builders’ (ONE NB) mission is to work with residents to build a safe, healthy and stable community. We accomplish our mission through four lines of business: (1) creation and preservation of affordable housing, and development of commercial real estate to spur economic development, (2) ONE Neighborhood Works – our social enterprise which prepares young people for work while providing landscaping and maintenance services in the neighborhood’s public spaces, (3) individual asset building to prepare families for homeownership, and (4) community building and organizing to strengthen the neighborhood’s social fabric.
Through the years, ONE Neighborhood Builders has developed 330 affordable apartments and over 115 single family homes in Providence, as well as more than 50,000 square feet of commercial and community space that provide amenities and job opportunities. These spaces include preservation of historic buildings – returning residents and commerce to these important landmarks. ONE NB’s newest development project, Amherst Gardens (breaking ground in the fall of 2015), is focused around Amherst St. in the residential core of the neighborhood. This small pocket in the neighborhood was among the most devastated by the foreclosure crisis. The project will transform 13 formerly foreclosed and blighted properties into attractive and stable housing for 36 families who are invested in contributing to a healthy community. Additionally, ONE NB acquired Paragon Mills and the Imperial Knife Factory – two historic buildings totaling over 200,000 sf in key neighborhood locations. Paragon Mills will be redeveloped for commercial uses to create new and serve as the linchpin to broader economic development in the commercial district around Olneyville Square. Imperial Knife will be redeveloped as a mixed-use facility with rental apartments for low-to-moderate income persons, including “live-work-sell” lofts for artists.
ONE NB is the convener of the Olneyville Collaborative, a coalition of over 25 neighborhood organizations. The Collaborative holds quarterly meetings that serve as an opportunity for members to share information, address local issues of concern, and plan initiatives. The Collaborative coordinates several annual projects including a community festival, two neighborhood clean-ups, a community garden network, and a neighborhood newsletter.
ONE NB believes in the importance of community building through meaningful resident engagement. We work with residents to identify the improvement goals for the neighborhood, identify emerging leaders to spearhead action committees, organize two annual community pride events, mentor youth through the Olneyville Youth Council, and inform how best to focus public safety measures. Our community initiatives are the result of intensive planning efforts with neighborhood stakeholders. These efforts identify specific strategies to address local issues like housing, jobs, and public health and safety. Our most recently completed neighborhood revitalization plan was funded through the two highly competitive federal efforts: Housing and Urban Development’s Choice Neighborhoods and the Department of Justice Byrne Criminal Justice Innovations project. Critical predecessor efforts have also included the LISC Our Neighborhood project, the Rhode Island Housing KeepSpace program, and most recently, the RI Department of Health Center Health Equity and Wellness initiative. ONE NB and our partners are now working collaboratively to implement Olneyville’s revitalization plan and build a mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhood where all people will choose to live. We intend to replicate this comprehensive assessment and planning effort in Elmwood in the coming years.
Lastly, ONE Neighborhood Works, ONE NB’s landscaping social enterprise, was launched in June 2012. Its staff is comprised of a full-time manager and four part-time job training participants. ONE Neighborhood Works competitively bids for fee-for-service contracts. These contracts allow the crew to dedicate half of their time to pro-bono commercial district maintenance in Olneyville Square and along the Elmwood Avenue commercial corridor. Employees pick up litter, remove graffiti, water hanging flower baskets, and generally demonstrate to patrons that these business districts are safe and vibrant.