Adaptive Reuse, Urban Revitalization and Neighborhood Change


An hour-long radio documentary about the renovation of mill buildings in the poorest neighborhoods of the “Renaissance City,” and the subsequent displacement of artists and small businesses. The following audio clip is an excerpt from the introduction of the piece.

There are nearly 250 old mill buildings in Providence, Rhode Island, left over from the city’s days as an industrial powerhouse.

In recent years, renovation and adaptive reuse of the mills has sparked intense debate, revolving around the city’s efforts to revitalize the neighborhoods, and the need for artists’ space in a city and region that promotes the arts. The battle over the city’s mills is a battle about gentrification, about who controls change in a city that’s changing fast.

In the next few years some of the mills will be converted into retail space and condominiums, some will be demolished to make way for new construction, some will be reused by artists, non-profits and small businesses, and some will burn down.

Reconstructing Providence is a documentary about the adaptive reuse of the city’s mill buildings, and all the controversy that’s come with it.

This hour-long story includes interviews with Providence city officials, developers, artists from the now legendary Fort Thunder collective, activists, historic preservationists and city residents. It features an original score for cello and violin by composer Alec K. Redfearn, performed by Margie Wienk and Olivia Geiger.

A live performance version of the piece debuted at AS220, May 10, 2004. Originally aired on WRNI, Rhode Island’s NPR News Station, August 15, 2004. Subsequently aired on WZBC Newton, Mass., and WMPG Portland, Maine.

To buy a CD copy of Reconstructing Providence, featuring original artwork by Ian Cozzens of Secret Door Posters and layout by Jeffery Alexander and Miriam Goldberg of Secret Eye Records, email me.