Re: Observation of an RI Naif (and One from an RI Architecture Columnist)

In a post from last week, Justin offered up this piece of (literally) homespun wisdom…

During a telephone conversation with my Jersey Boy father last night, he said (paraphrasing), “Rhode Island is essentially a playground for the rich, and the rich don’t need a middle class.” The point being, I suppose, that circumstances in this state will have to go beyond intolerable — beyond the point at which any rational citizenry would insist on change — before change will even be conceivable.
The frightening thing is that the few native Rhode Islanders with whom I was able to share the commentary today replied, “Sounds about right.”
David Brussat offered an interesting counterpoint in his Projo column from last Thursday…
RUMOR HAS IT that Arnold Schwarzenegger has bought two Westin condos for his daughters starting at Brown next fall.
It’s anecdotal at this point, but the fact that Da Governator is interested in buying a Westin condo is a reliable sign that some of Providence’s new high-profile housing units exist within the realm of the “rich”. If we accept that, then Brussat’s column is an argument that making cities into livable places requires upper and middle classes that work together…
The Westin expansion, the Masonic Temple hotel and the Waterplace condos cruise toward completion, promising almost 300 new apartments and almost 500 new hotel rooms downtown….
The year-round residents…set the tone of a place at night — and it’s the environment after dark that makes or breaks the vitality of a downtown. For all the good publicity reaped by Providence’s downtown “renaissance” over the past decade, its streets during the evening hours are still dead on most nights — albeit not as dead as in 1997.
Indeed, many nice new shops have opened and more are coming soon. But too many of these places close too early to help enliven downtown. Their window displays may be attractive, but a shop that closes at 6 or 7 not only adds little to the life of the street when needed most, but thwarts some another entrepreneur who might put the space to better use.
Could the difference in outlooks towards class dynamics be as simple as the difference between urban and seaside life (I don’t think most people would think of Providence as part of “the playground for the rich” aspect of Rhode Island), or is a more complex explanation needed?

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