One of the first things Rich Pezzillo and his husband Michael DeGrandpre noticed when they moved to Providence from Washington, DC, in 2014 was that downtown was missing a proper neighborhood association. Organizations like the Downtown Improvement District (DID) and InDowncity were already representing the city and downtown merchants, but the people who lived there didn’t have the sounding board that residents of other neighborhoods around the city did.
“We quickly realized how special downtown was, and that it was a growing neighborhood, but there wasn’t any representation for the residents,” says Pezzillo, who with DeGrandpre rallied their neighbors to form the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) in October of 2015.
“There had been groups in the past, but they had become defunct,” says DeGrandpre. “When we came into this we were able to find – between ourselves and some very passionate residents in the area – a group that galvanized and is chugging along quite nicely.”
Our first meeting had 100 attendees, including representatives from the Providence Foundation, DID and Providence Police Department, as well as Mayor Jorge Elorza and Councilman Seth Yurdin. The group gelled quickly, establishing a strong working partnership between downtown residents, merchants, property owners and city officials.