POSITION: Senior associate, Cornish Associates LP; city councilor, City of Providence.
LIFELONG AMBITION: To live a well-rounded life.
FAVORITE BOOK: “1491: New Revelations of Americans Before Columbus,” by Charles C. Mann.
GUILTY PLEASURE: Music – playing and listening (though there’s no real guilt involved).
When Cornish Associates first set out to revitalize downtown Providence through residential development, historic preservation, retail and the arts, Cliff Wood was instrumental in helping translate the vision and philosophy into a language that city government, community members and investors could understand and support.
Wood also helped lobby for the state historic preservation tax credit, widely viewed as one of the most powerful economic development incentives that Rhode Island has developed. And he managed community relations for Cornish, helping the developer connect with government, academia, businesses, the media, advocates, foundations and artists.
He left Cornish to make a difference in the whole city, first as deputy chief of policy for Mayor David N. Cicilline at the start of his administration, then as director of the brand-new Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism.
With limited resources and staff, Wood built a high-profile department that helped the city grow and promote the arts as an economic development engine, attracting new activities and film productions to the city and bringing people together in the community.
Under his tenure, Providence hosted its first Sound Session, created FirstWorksProv and FirstWorksKids – an outgrowth of the defunct First Night – and started the Celebrate Providence! neighborhood arts programming initiative, which in 2005 won a “Livability Award” from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
In 2006, he ran for the City Council, defeating a 16-year incumbent to represent Ward 2, a section of the East Side. On the council, Wood has taken on a variety of responsibilities, but he is particularly proud, he says, to be chairing the created Special Committee of Public Education, which will provide an ongoing public forum to discuss ways to develop and support high-quality public education in Providence.
And he’s back at Cornish, the place where he began what he considers his most gratifying experience, revitalizing downtown Providence.