Colleges and universities often donate infrastructure to the towns in which they reside as a way to contribute to their community and offset their tax exempt status. Providence recently created a new position, filled by Jenn Steinfeld, director of strategic partnerships and economic advancement, who will work with colleges and universities and hospitals to ensure that all parties get their needs met. Steinfeld and I recently spoke about her new role.
Come Together: Jenn Steinfeld is bringing Providence assets together for everyone’s benefit
Emily Olson: Can you tell me a little bit about your new position?
Jenn Steinfeld: Essentially, what I’m doing is working with higher education and hospital systems in the city. They’ve all made really substantial investments in the city — pilot agreement, construction, research, etc — but they’ve all been doing that according to their own plans. They haven’t been doing that together or in a unified way. This helps us leverage their strengths, so we can think more about economic advancement and how we can help our city thrive.
EO: Has collaborative projects like these been done in the past?
JS: There’s the South St Landing Project — two schools of nursing and Brown did a major rehabilitation project and education initiative. None of those people could have done those projects on their own.
EO: What kinds of projects do you have in the works?
JS: We’re looking at two geographic areas of the Woonasquatucket Corridor, which has not gotten a lot of attention from higher institutions even through RIC and PC are close. That area is very focused on park and food innovation and starter and maker spaces. We’re also looking at the jewelry district and creating a knowledge district in that area. And the proximity to the park and the water means there’s opportunity for renewable energy. The last thing is looking at Smart Cities initiatives and building in existing community assets and community voices in these projects.
We’re looking at all of this through an equity lens so we can serve all of our citizens, because one of our assets is the multicultural aspect of our state.
EO: How will you ensure equity?
JS: We brought in a vendor called Venture Cafe and they proposed partnering with a lot of existing communities. If there are ideas sparking up in one area, then we’re making those assets available across the city. I’m going to be doing a lot of listening this year.