PAWTUCKET — A concept that began back in 2001 when two prominent professionals approached the mayor about finding ways to encourage business development has grown into a force that has changed and shaped the city. Now in its 10th year, The Pawtucket Foundation gave itself a well-deserved “pat on the back” Thursday night with a spirited anniversary celebration at The Met.
It was attorney Jack Partridge, of Partridge, Snow & Hahn, and Dan Sullivan, of Collette Vacations, who independently approached then-newly elected Mayor James E. Doyle a decade ago out of concern for a city that seemed stagnant and downtrodden. The three men discussed ways that private businesses and the not-for-profit sector could join together and advocate for improvements to Pawtucket’s downtown, riverfront and gateway areas, and thus foster economic development.
It was decided that the foundation’s mission would be to work “to leverage private sector resources to foster a vision for a prosperous Pawtucket.” The founders also set down five principle beliefs: public-private partnerships are needed for positive change; a vibrant business fosters healthy neighborhoods, compounding economic investments and creating a positive self image for the city; major development projects should be coordinated to enhance and reinforce each other; strong neighborhoods mean a stable and vibrant Pawtucket and surrounding community; and a healthy city infrastructure is paramount.
On Thursday night, The Pawtucket Foundation’s longtime co-chairman Jack Partridge said that the foundation’s mission as well as its five guiding principles are considered by its members to be just as important today as they were a decade ago. He said the foundation’s challenge also remains intact: to guide policies and initiatives that will benefit the city.
Partridge and his fellow co-chairman, Dan Sullivan, outlined the highlights of the foundation’s many achievements, including the Tidewater Development project and other improvements along the riverfront, the successful legal fight to block construction of a trash transfer facility in the downtown, a design concept for a mixed-use commercial development along Roosevelt Avenue, and, the biggest coup: helping to gain regional and congressional support for a $25 million MBTA commuter rail stop in downtown Pawtucket.
The foundation also helped fund the Pawtucket Downtown Design Plan which aims to reform zoning to be more development-friendly and to create a new traffic pattern that will benefit pedestrians, bicyclists and businesses. The planting of over 100 cherry trees, and annual events such as the foundation’s Awards Day and Pawtucket Proud Day were additionally noted as being positives for the city and its image.
As part of its celebration, former Mayor James E. Doyle was named as the recipient of the foundation’s Heritage Award to recognize his “outstanding long-term commitment to Pawtucket” and his more than 40 years of service to the community. The Person of the Year Award will be given to Tony Pires, for his significant efforts over the years of “enhancing the quality of life in Pawtucket.” Both awards will be presented at The Pawtucket Foundation’s annual dinner on April 5. Additionally, a Special Distinction Award will be given posthumously to late businessman Ned Barlow.
Newly installed Mayor Donald Grebien addressed the crowd to acknowledge the many achievements of the foundation and to pledge his support. He recognized the contributions of former mayor Doyle, and stressed that he and newly appointed City Council President David Moran are just as committed to continuing the relationship with an organization that has been “a stalwart advocate for a better future for the city.”
Grebien praised the foundation for a decade’s worth of “creative thinking” that has resulted in concrete plans for improvements to the downtown, riverfront and gateways. He noted that the foundation members helped secure grants and private funding, engaged in important networking and brought together key leaders in ways that have moved projects along, such as the commuter rail stop, the I-95 bridge project, and proposed zoning reform.
Grebien stated that a continued partnership with The Pawtucket Foundation will “bridge us to the years ahead,” and that through combined efforts, the city will be able to “have the welcome mat out” for new businesses when they arrive.
Thomas A. Mann Jr., executive director for The Pawtucket Foundation, presented a proclamation to former Mayor Doyle to recognize his support. He also presented Partridge and Sullivan with sterling silver 10th anniversary commemorative pins, created by Gail Ahlers Designs, in recognition of their leadership.
Mann noted that the foundation “has always set its sights and ambitions high despite the economy” and said this has helped to bring about such tangible achievements as the planned regional bike path, the commuter rail station, the zoning and downtown design plan, and other projects which are underway.
“I believe we’re at a unique point in time and history to see some economic transformations taking place,” said Mann. He said the foundation has its goals and strategies, but acknowledged that it will also take a lot of work and “a substantial investment from the private sector” to truly revitalize the city as envisioned.
Mann spoke of the importance of encouraging businesses and non-profits to invest in the city, especially its downtown, which, he said, “holds together our cultural urban fabric and gives our community its collective identity and pride.”
Following the meeting, the band Santa Mamba performed for the party-goers in a venue, The Met, located in a restored candy factory that is now Hope Artiste Village, that were also cited as prime examples of the city’s efforts to reinvent itself.