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Roger Williams, Prospect Park, Providence. (September 2002)

This paper has been developed under Historic Preservation Program, School of Architecture, Art & Historic Preservation at Roger Williams University. The school has an urban campus in Providence, where preservation, architecture and art students visit places and working on community projects.

Roger Williams is no stranger to Providence, for he founded the city in 1636, having come from Massachusetts, where he has been persecuted. So Roger Williams is much like Taiwan's early founder Cheng Cheng-kung who came to Tainan in 1662.

This paper provides a background for the case studies presented at the International Conference for the Rehabilitation and Reuse of Historic Buildings and Districts. After many discussions and much helpful guidance from Professor Taur, this writer has developed an overview on historic districts and case studies. These include:

  • Historic Districts and their development in the United States, and in Providence, Rhode Island
  • Railroads and rivers relocation
  • Downtown ("Downcity") Providence
  • Industrial Sites preservation

Through the symposium, it is hope that this paper is the first step in further cooperate dialogue and endeavors. Through this paper and presentation, It is hoped that Taiwan can learn from some of Providence's successes — and mistakes.

By example, Providence's preservation work is particularly relevant to the conference themes. In Providence, historic districts today are very different from those fifty years ago.

Today, historic preservation no longer stands as a lone defender and resource for historic buildings and their greater context.

Today, preservationists work with a number of allied professions, and a vast array of federal, state and city programs are combined.

Innovation and creativity, in so many ways: with art, design and historic preservation as the centerpieces of this "Renaissance City." Here, public art frames a newly-restored multipurpose river park. In the distance, a highway that will soon be relocated to improve safety while reconnecting historic neighborhoods that have been separated for 50 years. (September 2002)
Collier Park, a new urban park where citizens can fish, launch watercraft, and picnic. This land, now one of the city's urban jewels, was a diamond-in-the-rough: until recently the site was a hill of coal used for the city's electrical generating plant. (September 2002)

For example, Providence has the following traditional and innovative initiatives:

  • It has earned its self-described name of "Renaissance City" through fifteen years of exemplary legislation, funding, cooperative partnerships and projects, which have served as models for other cities nationwide.
  • Through the 1990s, it relocated its railroad tracks and infrastructure; restored its historic railroad station, and constructed a new station. It also relocated and restored its rivers, creating a beautiful urban waterfront.
  • In the 1990s it designated its entire downtown as an historic district, being the only city in America to do so.
  • It has a 1995 state Greenways Act that created a first-ever statewide council to coordinate greenways efforts, which include numerous greenways.
  • In 1998, Vice-president Gore announced that Providence was one of 16 communities nationwide designated as a federal Brownfields Showcase Community.
  • It has passed the Mill Building Revitalization Act, which has been coupled with economic incentives and the creation of the country's first thematic, non-continguous local historic districts that includes over 200 commercial and industrial sites.
  • Federal and state tax credits that total 50% of rehabilitation costs for certified projects on historic structures.
  • New statewide building codes that benefit historic structures and rehabilitation projects.

And more, which shall be addressed in this paper and discussed during the conference.