A look at the juxtaposition of historic preservation and development in Rhode Island via The Nicholson House in Providence.
Situated behind a stone wall and layers of trees on Blackstone Boulevard in Providence, Rhode Island’s east side, The Nicholson House is often referred to as one of the last of the great estates that defined the neighborhood for much of the 20th century. Some three acres in totality and boasting an impressive manor house and gardens, the property undoubtedly adds an element of charm and living history to the area.
However, in recent times, as the Nicholson family has moved to sell of the estate, questions about historic preservation, community member and private property owner rights city planning and zoning have come into play, as a vocal group of neighbors have actively attempted to stop a would-be 10 parcel development on the Nicholson site, arguing that such a development doesn’t adhere to the city’s Central Planning standards, and would disrupt the fabric of the east side.
On today’s episode, I’m joined by Providence Ward two Councilwoman Helen Anthony and Brown University professor Matthew Turner, who each live in the area, and argue that the proposed development of the Nicholson site is inappropriate.
I also speak with Jim DeRentis, the buyer and seller agent on the project, who tells me that the proposed plan has already engaged in compromise, and given the evolution of housing demand and city planning, that the proposed development is perfectly within bounds.
This case applies broadly to an array of debates on a statewide level surrounding how to preserve historic and sentimental aspects of the Rhode Island’s identity, while also allowing for innovation unfold.