When I enter the West Broadway Neighborhood Association (WBNA), practically situated right on Westminster St in a former gas station, the first thing to greet me isn’t a human, but a massive dog. He’s some sort of mastiff mutt, a gentle giant whose overly large body holds up an impossibly larger head that nearly reaches my sternum. I laugh as he nudges my hand upward, and his owner comes around the corner into the sliver of an office space that is the first room of the WBNA.
Kari Lang has been with the WBNA for 20 years. When she tries to remember how long it’s been, she stares off into space for a few moments, counting the memories and tallying the moments. Almost shocked at the span of two decades, she smiles brightly. She professes love for the neighborhood and the work she does.
The WBNA has been around since 1983, but in 1997 it moved into its current space, which again, is a relic of an old gas station, still sporting a vintage gas pump as a colorful lawn ornament. The board consists of 19 members and the location itself has two permanent staffers, Lang and Rod Mortier.
Fertile Underground Grocery, the cooperatively owned local grocery store located across the street from the WBNA, was part of another WBNA initiative just three years ago. It’s only one example of the WBNA’s efforts to work with local businesses to improve the overall community.
Local residents can attempt to get a plot at one of two community gardens on Parade St. and Bridgham St., where restaurant-bar North has two small plots. There’s also a compost program run out of the Almy St. School, where a local urban farmer will take anyone’s compostable materials.
“The area wasn’t always known as family-friendly,” Lang said. “But it’s definitely become that over time.”
Throughout July, the WBNA offered free concerts in conjunction with a farmer’s market on Thursdays, complete with beer gardens for adults and different weekly activities for youngsters. And in the autumn, look out for a potential Narragansett Beer Neighbor Days Annual Block Party that occasionally happens in Luongo Sq, right in front of The Avery.
Arguably one of their “greenest” initiatives the WBNA offers is a program through local vendor Sol Power to get solar panels installed on homes and businesses in the area. Recently, even Mayor Jorge Elorza received a quote for $12,000 system that could stand to pay for itself in energy savings over the course of seven years, especially when you factor in the accompanying tax credit. Currently, over 33 locations are signed up with 16 of those already fully operational with panels leased to own after the next 10 years.
The WBNA is up to much good, and plans to be for many years to come.
For a complete look at Motif’s neighborhood profile of the West End, click here.