The City of Newport has spent more than a year working on a separate vision for future development in the North End, called the North End Urban Plan, which heads to the City Council this month. Some locals, however, say this plan doesn’t do enough to prevent displacement of current residents.

Those concerns pushed a local coalition, the Newport Health Equity Zone, to hire Smart Growth America, a national organization that specializes in equitable development. The organization will help devise a blueprint for promoting equity while pursuing economic growth.

Coalition Director Jessica Walsh said the partnership aims to put North End residents “in the driver’s seat” of the development process.

“Smart Growth America really sees the process of developing equitable development plans as a way to sort of rectify historic decisions that displaced and economically disadvantaged historically marginalized communities,” she said.

One of the first steps of the project, Walsh said, will be assembling a leadership team of North End residents to help steer the process.

Last week, the Newport City Council also agreed to schedule a workshop with the Smart Growth America team. The equitable development plan will not require city funding, Walsh said, but local organizers hope to partner with Newport officials.

“We see this process as being truly mutually beneficial,” she said. “The city ultimately will have the benefit of a road map around recommendations that address equity, while also meeting their development goals.”

The new equitable development plan, Walsh said, will be designed to supplement the North End Urban Plan, which may soon be approved by the Newport City Council. The Smart Growth America consultants are reviewing a number of city documents, including the draft North End Urban Plan, as a starting point.

“It isn’t about saying that we don’t want development to happen,” Walsh said. “It’s that we want to advocate for development that doesn’t displace folks — and that actually goes a step further and attempts to improve equity through the process of development.”


Antonia Ayres-Brown is the Newport Bureau Reporter for The Public's Radio. She can be reached at antonia@thepublicsradio.org