PROVIDENCE – The town of Burrillville was one of ten recipients announced this week in a statewide grant program aimed at improving commercial districts across Rhode Island. The Burrillville Redevelopment Agency plans to use the funding to continue to add lighting to enhance the centers of two villages, where their efforts have already seen some success.
A $40,000 Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement Fund grant will fund year-round lights in Pascoag and Harrisville, adding, “to the momentum created by significant investment into the Pascoag and Harrisville Redevelopment districts,” according to a release this week from the governor’s office.
According to BRA Chairman James Langlois, the tentative plan is to use the money to extend lighting already installed over a portion of Main Street in Pascoag. Last year, the agency put in professional-grade, year-round programable strings of the twinkling lights, which currently run from the Pascoag Fire station, to the area now known as Fountain Square by George’s Pizza.
Grant funding will be used to extend that lighting to corner of High Street and Church Street, once officials from their partners with the Pascoag Utility District determine that it’s feasible.
In Harrisville, the plan is to light Main Street from corner of East Avenue to the front of Town Hall, and then along Chapel Street around a quarter mile to Ashton Court, according to Langlois. By the East Avenue intersection, the lights will extend eastward down the hill by the Assembly Theatre to the waterfall.
“We’re also looking at lighting the Riverwalk as well,” Langlois explained. “That’s just an idea at this point. We feel it does need to be lighted.”
The project for Harrisville came at the request of both residents and members of the Harrisville Hose Company following the agency’s project in neighboring Pascoag. The village usually features such lighting around Christmas each year, but many in Harrisville, Langlois explained, hope to see them year-round.
The agency applied for the grant in conjunction with the town planner’s office, providing a letter of support along with information on what has already been done to improve the areas. Formed in 2000 with the mission of revitalizing Burrillville’s sleepy villages, BRA has made steady improvements in the two villages and has begun to target Nasonville, with more plans to eliminate blight and attract more businesses.
The $40,000 award requires matching funds, but Langlois noted that such investment has been ongoing for the agency. The group recently purchased an illuminated seasonal display, which he notes will serve as a photo op and attraction in town later this year. The agency plans to reveal the feature, he said, this October, and an additional display may be purchased with the grant.
“We’re looking at some other things as well,” Langlois said.
It is the latest development in a successful long-term effort to re-envision the town’s once active former mill villages. In June, hundreds turned out for a block party in Pascoag to celebrate the installation of the new Fountain Square.
The Burrillville grant is just a portion of some $1.47 million in funding given out for improvements to commercial districts, which will help pay for safer sidewalks, new way-finding signage, upgraded building facades, and better street lighting.
“Main Streets are the center of economic development in our cities and towns,” said Gov. Dan McKee. “As a former mayor, I know the difficulty in finding funding for improvement projects such as these. Making these investments are important for the success of our businesses and communities.”
Through the Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement Fund, the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation awards the grants to municipalities and economic development agencies to help revitalize main streets and downtown business districts, with the goal of generating activity in the areas. Eligible projects must be in areas that are walkable and attract residents and visitors.
“The Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement Fund is an opportunity to think of our roads as not just a way to move cars, but as the shared public spaces they are,” said Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos. “By making streets safer, more accessible, and more enjoyable, we’re maximizing the amount of space in our communities that are dedicated to the people who live there. That benefits local businesses and makes our neighborhoods stronger.”
Commerce will open a second round of applications in late 2023 to seek additional projects under the Main Street Streetscape Improvement Fund Initiative. To date, the state has awarded $3 million under the program.