In the past year, SCLT laid the groundwork for a capital campaign–the GROW! Campaign–to renovate a building at 404 Broad Street in Providence’s Upper South Side. It will house our offices, a produce processing facility, a Youth Entrepreneurship Center and three leasable spaces for food businesses. Staff have been seeking input from neighborhood stakeholders about how SCLT can support ongoing efforts to meet community needs, and to bolster them with SCLT’s work to improve the health of underserved people.
We talked to Austin Smith, a member of the GROW! Campaign Committee, about his involvement and hopes for the project. A “lapsed geologist” by training, Austin worked as an exploration geologist in Louisiana, before returning to New England to become an investment manager.
Tell us about your work with environmental organizations in the state.
I’m on the board of trustees of the Rhode Island Nature Conservancy and have worked with the South Kingstown Land Trust. I serve on the National Council of the National Parks Conservation Association and have been involved with SCLT for seven or eight years.
I’m interested in environmental conservation and, in the broader sense, how people benefit from better management of our land, water and air.
What interests you about SCLT?
I love organizations that get stuff done. SCLT is starting all these gardens and farms, and you can see the positive force for stability in the communities.
SCLT helps the environment and helps people in a number of ways. By protecting green space in Providence, by building community gardens and urban farms, SCLT is preventing storm water runoff with all its carried pollutants from flowing into Narragansett Bay.
SCLT is also addressing the lack of healthy food in underserved parts of Providence. The organization has been leveraging interest in the farm-to-table movement to enable people to get access to high-quality produce who aren’t otherwise able to.
Why are you drawn to the GROW! Campaign specifically?
404 Broad has so much potential. It’s an old building, built in stages beginning in the 1850s, that can act as a community lynchpin in Trinity Square. It’s located just outside of the historic district and can effectively extend the district through high-quality restoration.
Developing 404 Broad with a USDA-compliant washing and packing facility will fill an important need. It will give it the potential to be a very important community resource for the south and west sectors of Providence. The biggest change will be connecting the growing community with the using community: local grocery stores and other outlets that serve the neighborhood. We need to get to the scale where we can reliably distribute more fresh food.
The building aims squarely at increasing the availability of high-quality food, green space, jobs and community resources. It hits all of those. I find very few organizations that can address as many important issues, and that will make it easier to gain support for the 404 Broad Street project.
Thank you, Austin! We look forward to sharing the capital campaign’s progress in upcoming newsletters.
—Jenny Boone, Grants & Communications Manager