The Village of Providence and Its Supposedly Impossible Stuff

Providence Town Center 15JUN03 8395

1. Business Curation

The Town Founders do a great job of business curation. Their intent is to build a town center filled with businesses that look a lot like traditional towns that are thriving, so while they probably wouldn’t turn away a high-end boutique of some sort, I haven’t seen one there. Instead, they look for a wide range of cuisine in their bars and restaurants, and they have a range of everyday to occasional needs, from a specialty grocery to a dry cleaner, a barber shop, a drug store, insurance agencies, mortgage brokers, three hotels, and a lot of other common needs. And that’s just at street level. Their focus isn’t just getting a good range of business types; they also curate for the best in class, and actively recruit those best businesses to open in Providence. They also incorporate a wide dollar range, so the restaurants include a taco shop, a barbecue joint, and a pizza parlor.

2. Programming

The Town Founders are just as passionate about programming. On any given weekday evening where things are dead for miles around, Providence is almost guaranteed to be hopping. Yes, they have things you’d expect like a regular farmers market on the square and live entertainment on the plaza for the blended clientele of the white tablecloth restaurant and the burger place flanking the plaza. But I regularly find new things they’ve programmed that I didn’t expect. And those three hotels? They have the top occupancy for each of their flags in the entire region, and the programming is key, because Providence is hands-down the most interesting place to stay for many miles around.

3. A Path for Entrepreneurs

The third key is the fact that they have long been committed to providing a path within Providence from startup to major corporation. Some of the buildings in the town center are filled with apartments and condominiums, but several others are filled with offices. I love the story of Mike Durant, who began his business at Providence as a one-man operation. Mike was the real-life pilot of the Black Hawk helicopter on which the Black Hawk Down movie was based. In short order, his business was prospering, so he had to move out of the one-person incubator into larger space elsewhere in the town center. This process continued several times, to the point that he built his own building at the northeast corner of the square.

There are so many great Providence stories that I did an entire presentation at the Congress for the New Urbanism a week ago on just some of them. I’m hoping get more of them published in the coming weeks. In the meantime, is there anything in particular you’d like to know more about, vis-à-vis the jobs in Providence?

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