The two sections of town are separated by the Claiborne Pell Bridge ramps, which were built many years ago and cut right into the city. The long-awaited plan aims to connect Newport’s North End to downtown Newport, as the Rhode Island Department of Transportation works to realign the ramps themselves.

As currently drafted, the North End Urban Plan will propose zoning changes for potential retail and manufacturing areas, as well as more bike and walking trails including ones that would finally give North End residents enhanced access to the Newport waterfront.

Consultants at NBBJ, the firm hired to develop the recommendations, also suggest expanding wetlands to combat flooding. Those flooding concerns are one reason why the plan does not prioritize increased residential development, in spite of concerns about affordable housing.

From a long-term resiliency point of view, we assume that this area will deal with storm water and sea level rise but this area is subject to flooding, and it probably is not such a good idea to put housing in a flood-prone area. We should probably be looking to put housing in areas that are a little safer,” said NBBJ consultant Alan Mountjoy at a virtual preview of the draft plan on Thursday night.

As RIDOT’s ramp realignment project opens up new parcels of land, some North End residents have been concerned about future development, and with it, the threat of gentrification. Chris Herlich, another NBBJ consultant, said during Thursday’s presentation that their goal is not to attract more tourists to the North End neighborhoods.

“I think the intention is to encourage residents to be walking through their residential neighborhoods. There are going to be other facilities that are geared more toward tourists,” said Herlich. “I think we fully recognize that those different groups of users residents versus tourists will be using this network in very different ways. And we’ll be trying to accommodate that and make sure that the one the tourists do not negatively impact the other.”

The consultants said the plan was drafted after conducting many conversations with community groups and receiving nearly 150 responses to a feedback survey. They plan to submit the recommendations in late August and get them before the city’s Planning Board, where they will go through a public hearing process.

Antonia Ayres-Brown can be reached at aayresbrown@ripr.org