Providence residents have until Saturday, Nov. 4 to share their feedback at

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy. 


Luis Hernandez: Tell us what a comprehensive plan means. What is it going to do?

Joe Mulligan: So the Comprehensive Plan is a guiding document that determines the underlying land use criteria that we use in order to shape and form our built environment. So if you think about where you live, you're probably in a residence or an apartment building. That type of use is determined by the underlying land designation, whether it's a single family home, or a multi unit apartment building, and the places where you work will be zoned for a particular purpose. So the places where you go to school, for education use or even open space and in spaces that we might encounter throughout the day, as we traveled through a city, all that is prescribed through our land use requirements. And all that is determined through the Comprehensive Plan process.

Hernandez: The city right now is currently seeking, as I'd mentioned, feedback from the public as part of its effort to update the plan. What kinds of things are you looking to hear from residents? What do you want from us,

Mulligan: This is a fortuitous opportunity to consider the city. As we move forward in our planning efforts for the next decade, we can all imagine, appreciate what has happened since COVID. People are no longer going into town to an office five days a week, maybe it's three, we want to be able to respond to that and have our built environment correspond to those new patterns of behavior.

Hernandez: I wonder what you've heard so far from residents.

Mulligan: What we've heard a lot, particularly related to and I think folks who are familiar with living in Providence, about the cost of living, the ability to buy a new home, or to rent an apartment. During COVID, there was a, I think a flight to quality and people from all over the country determined that they wanted to live in a different way. And the place that many decided they wanted to live was here in Providence due to its historic quality, its walkability, its anchor institutions, its arts and cultural capacity. And we need to respond to that there's an increased demand on housing, it's driven up prices, we have to look for places that we can learn to grow and increase our density and accommodate this surge that we've experienced recently, and the desirability of Providence to be a place to live.

Hernandez: Can you give me a sense, though, specifically how my feedback, how feedback from residents is going to be incorporated in the plan, though?

Mulligan: Sure, we've done, we do a polling while we're in the community meetings, and we've done over 70 engagements in the community, what we're hearing is cataloged and documented. We'll look at the map on the plan of Providence and then we'll look at those areas and we'll adjust zoning accordingly. Maybe going from allowing two or three family to more than that to a higher density capacity. Retail has changed in the last decade or so. And where we used to have requirements for first floor retail, we're looking at ways to maybe modify that maybe that street scape engagement or activation will be enhanced by other types of services, maybe daycare, or some other healthcare related opportunities or general office. So that helps us determine that of the shape and the form as we move forward based on the feedback we receive from the public.

Hernandez: Just real briefly, I’ll finish with this. But if you could, what ways do you anticipate this, this plan to be different from the last one?

Mulligan: Well, in many ways, cities are still building for a climate that doesn't exist. So there'll be an acknowledgment of that. At one point, Providence was a much denser city than it is today the population was closer to 250,000. Currently, we're under 200,000. So we're looking for ways to get back to that historical density. That is, I think, right sizing the city, in a way and also within people's residences, there's a designation called an ancillary dwelling unit so people can maybe convert a garage into what's traditionally called an enlarger apartment or an empty apartment. opportunities for greater places for people to live.

Hernandez: Providence city planning director Joe Mulligan, I really appreciate the insight. 

Mulligan: It was great talking with you. 

Morning Host Luis Hernandez can be reached at