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Miriam and the Institutional Zone

In 1986, the City of Providence sought to control the destruction of neighborhoods by non-profit institutions by re-introducing those institutions to zoning regulation. Between 1952 and 1986, hospitals and colleges were unregulated, allowing them to destroy whole blocks of houses to gain land for growth. The city created "floating institutional zones" - separate zones drawn on top of, and relaxing the constraints imposed by, existing zones.

The bargain struck by the new ordinance allowed continued growth, but only within existing boundaries. These institutions were also required to submit five-year institutional master plans, declaring their intentions to build or make changes in their I-zones. The master plans were to be reviewed by the City Plan Commission to ensure that they were in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan.

Though the I-zone has prevented housing conversions, it has done little more to protect neighborhoods from institutional growth. Neighbors across the city agree that the I-zone ordinance is broken and must be fixed if Providence is really going to "put neighborhoods first."

In the fall of 2002, the Providence Preservation Society invited neighborhood groups to a series of meetings to discuss the I-zone with representatives of the Department of Planning and Development (DPD). These meetings resulting in a draft rewrite of the ordinance circulated and commented upon by concerned individuals and groups across the City.

SNA responded in a letter which summarizes our thoughts on how the zoning ordinance should be changed.

Update (August 2003)

On July 21, 2003, DPD Director Thomas Deller issued a Request for Comments to "Elected and Appointed Officials, Educational and Healthcare Institutions, Neighborhood and Historical Preservation Organizations, Residents of Providence...Regarding Changes to the Regulation of Educational and Healthcare Institutions."

SNA responded with a second letter reinforcing and elaborating on the first one.

Mr. Deller's office is drafting proposed changes to the I-zone ordinance based on the comments they received. We look forward to reviewing this important document.

This Page Last Updated: Thu Sep 4 23:29:22 2003