JWU Class to Assist in Preservation, Redevelopment Efforts

Students from Johnson & Wales are studying historical sites in Coventry and West Warwick to propose ideas for growth and redevelopment.


Six Johnson & Wales students and their instructor were recently given a tour of some of Coventry's most historic areas - the first step in a feasibility study that they will be doing in Coventry and West Warwick. 

The students who took part in the tour are Engineering Design majors currently enrolled in instructor Eric Army's Professional Practice course along with seven other students. As part of the school's Directed Work Experience program, they have begun the Pawtuxet River Valley Heritage Initiative which will include site-mapping and a feasibility study of historic buildings located in the Pawtuxet Valley.

During the tour that focused on the Paine House, Anthony Mill and surrounding areas, Harris Mill and Byron Read Building as well as West Warwick's Lippit Mill, the group was met by Parks & Recreation Director Guy Lefebvre who shared the rich history of Coventry's mill industry, railroad-turned Greenway, and Gen. Nathanael Greene Homestead. He spoke of the town's plans to erect a statue to honor Gen. Greene, the revitalization of Anthony Mill, which will include nearly 150 housing units as well as business space, and the active efforts to organize a mile-long, self-guided walking tour of the area.

This information will provide the students with background knowledge and perspective about the area and its structures, aiding in the study that may eventually help the town attract more tourism, small business and development. 

Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society President Norma Smith initiated the partnership between JWU and WRICHS in August after she made an unrelated stop at the RI Small Business Development Center and was told about the program. This is the second time that Army has had a class perform a study - the first being a public water feasibility study in the Village of Chepachet.

"This was a great partnership to get involved with," said Smith during the tour. "We wouldn't be able to this kind of study otherwise."

Army explained that the students have two major goals to work towards during the project; the first being a feasibility study for Lippit Mill to propose options for the historic building, such as a museum or housing development. As part of this goal, students will record the mill's existing conditions, create a database of square footage for proposed uses, create 3D renderings and develop a presentation of their findings.

The second goal is a mapping study of the Pawtuxet River Valley to showcase historical and cultural resources in Coventry and West Warwick for a map that will eventually be available on-line and in pdf form. The project will include individually historic sites and districts, cultural resources, redeveloped buildings and potential redevelopment sites. Army said that Lefebvre's explanation of the future walking tour will be also be added to to the study.

In February, the students will present their completed findings to the historical society and town council, in hopes that their work will assist with future historical preservation and redevelopment plans. The project will also be included in the RI Historic Preservation & Heritage Commission's conference to be held on April 27.


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