Providence’s Federal Hill has an international reputation for fine dining and foodie retailing. It is a year-round feast celebrating not just Rhode Island’s Italian-American cuisine and culture, but those from subsequent waves of immigration.
Two recent violent incidents there, including one in which a man was beaten to death, however, have the potential to do damage beyond the human tragedy.
To many, the core of the problem is the addition in the last few years of nightclubs to the collection of fine-dining and retail establishments. They bring with them a rowdier crowd, often resulting in altercations that spill into the street, much like similar establishments have afflicted the Downcity and Knowledge District neighborhoods for years. Many also see the proliferation of hookah bars as bringing a similar volatile mix to the district.
In addition, the neighborhood has allowed itself to become dirty and inhospitable.
It won’t take long for negative experiences to pile up and for folks to look for somewhere else to go and spend their discretionary dollars. In fact, as reported in a story last week in The Providence Journal, a wine-tasting event scheduled to take place this month on Atwells Avenue was canceled, citing the recent problems.
What should be done?
Well, first, adjust the neighborhood’s zoning to push nightclubs and the like out. Move closing times earlier (do bars really need to be open until 2 a.m.?). And form the equivalent of the Downtown Improvement District to spruce the place up (or just hire the DID to do what it does down the hill).
Being a destination is not a given. It’s earned with every visitor’s experience. •
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