“ReallySaid Terri Wright of DARE, as Developer Omni Group, “If you want apartments for low income people, you can walk down Broad Street, take some of the abandoned properties, and build your low income housing there.“
“No! We don’t want thisReplied the community member. “We have been here and we want to stay here. This is our community. “
Just over 100 people gathered outside the old Citizen’s Bank building at the intersection of Cranston and Westminster streets in Providence Thursday night for a rally and street theater in opposition to the development of market-priced apartments at the site. The event was organized by DARE (Direct action for rights and equality), as well as allies, including the South Providence Neighborhood Association (SBNA).
The street theater portion of the rally was a re-enactment of Providence’s Town planning commission (CPC) meeting, held on Zoom, which gave the green light for the development of the site by Omni Group despite opposition from residents. Omni Group, a for-profit real estate developer with high-end properties in Providence, plans to build one-bedroom apartments for $ 1,400 to $ 1,800. Residents are calling the project for gentrification, noting that these apartments are priced outside the range of area residents.
In the performance, community members acted as community members, and DARE’s own Terri wright played the developer. A cardboard frame was held between the actors and the audience, to give the impression of a Zoom meeting. Community members would voice their concerns, asking, for example, how many black entrepreneurs would be involved in the project. (Answer: “We deal with our own contractors. They are our construction partners. They are the ones we plan to build with.”) By law, 10% of work on projects like this must be done by minority entrepreneurs. In practice, this law is never applied.
“Let me remind you: a trial cannot stop us. But we’ll sue you if you don’t approve this permit, ”Wright continued, as the developer, receiving a chorus of boos.
The play continued, with another community member asking how many units in the development would be reserved and used for low-income and affordable housing.
“Zero,” Wright replied.
“You must be kidding,” replied the community member. “Nothing in this area? It is not fair.”
“In fact,” continued Wright, still in the role of Omni Group, “if you want low income apartments, you can take to the streets and take some of the abandoned properties and build your low income housing there.”
“No, we don’t want that,” replied the community member. “We have been here and we want to stay here. It’s our community.
Leroy, from the Association of Black Entrepreneurs, complained that the city of Providence was not enforcing the law.
The game continued with the CPC delivering an empty box to the community and a green light to the developer. When asked what the developer is offering the community, Teri Wright replied, “To spruce up this building, because it is an eyesore.”
The rally then proceeded through a series of loudspeakers, starting with Dwayne Keys, who heads the South Providence Neighborhood Association.
“We want to have inclusive, non-segregationist policies,” Keys said. “Let’s call it that… It’s not just about a building and a structure. This is one of many battles in a war for the soul of our city. What kind of city do we want to be?
“Remember we have people in political positions who want to be anti-racist and yet the process, and this project, is inherently racist,” Keys continued. “We have people who have just announced a comprehensive and anti-displacement housing plan, while at the same time making it possible to carry out a project that will move. We want to be the creative capital, and yet we don’t allow people’s creativity to just say “No”.
Catarina lorenzo and Yesmina from AMOR:
Alicia, an organizer of the George Wiley Center:
Malchus Mills by DARE: