By DANIEL KITTREDGE Plans for a revitalization project in Knightsville got a boost from the state level Monday. House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi of Warwick, Rep. Jacquelyn Baginski of District 17 in Cranston and Mayor Ken Hopkins, along with members of
Plans for a revitalization project in Knightsville got a boost from the state level Monday.
House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi of Warwick, Rep. Jacquelyn Baginski of District 17 in Cranston and Mayor Ken Hopkins, along with members of the City Council and other local officials and community leaders, gathered at the Knightsville Gazebo for the presentation of a $10,000 legislative grant in support of the effort.
“I consider Knightsville really the heart of Cranston … It already means so much to me and the residents here, but we can really make it so much better,” City Council President Chris Paplauskas – whose Ward 5 includes Knightsville – told those in attendance for the brief speaking program.
The Knightsville project is the third neighborhood revitalization effort undertaken by the Hopkins administration thus far, following previous work on Rolfe Square and in Pawtuxet Village.
The prior projects have involved paving, sidewalk cleaning and repairs, installation of new lighting, creation of new stamped asphalt sidewalks and replacement of ailing trees.
The Knightsville project is more ambitious. In addition to many of the same components involved in the first two projects, it will involve the creation of a new “pocket park,” which was first proposed by Paplauskas and endorsed by the council via resolution in 2019. The council has also approved a zoning change in the area of the new “pocket park,” making it open space rather than commercial.
Hopkins previously told the Herald the creation of the new park will involve clearing the existing park, including the gazebo. A new gazebo will be erected, while other planned features include a pergola, bocci court, fountain and benches. Paplauskas on Monday noted that the current gazebo is in tough shape, making plans for a new enclosure and gathering space particularly welcome.
Hopkins said the design for the improvements is based in large part on features from Cranston’s sister city of Itri, Italy, which is the ancestral home of many local families and the namesake of Knightsville’s famed square. On Monday, three poster boards were displayed to provide a glimpse of what’s in store and how Itri inspired the design.
The mayor previously told the Herald that the Knightsville work will cost roughly $2 million, a figure that includes a significant federal grant secured with the assistance of U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin.
During Monday’s gathering, Hopkins said the project will help realize a “vision of a vibrant Knightsville business district with outdoor dining, entertainment and festivals.” He also said the revitalized square will serve as an homage to the Italian roots of many Cranstonians.
“This gazebo represents a generation of hard-working immigrants who came to Cranston … to create a better life for their families,” he said. “They sacrificed to build a community that continues to be deeply rich in that Italian culture.”
The mayor also praised Paplauskas for his dedication to the Knightsville improvements.
“It all started with the vision of our council president,” he said.
Shekarchi praised Baginski for her work on the grant – one of the largest awarded by the Assembly this year, he said – along with the rest of Cranston’s state legislative delegation, including Reps. Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, Brandon Potter, Charlene Lima, Art Handy, Edward Cardillo and Joe McNamara. Baginski in particular, he said, was “a real inspiration and a real catalyst to making sure that this grant got done.”
“We all work together for the good of the state, and certainly for the good of Cranston … We try to work very hard on issues that matter to everybody. This issue matters to the Cranston delegation,” the speaker said.
Baginski, drawing a smile from Hopkins, told those gathered: “You know mayor, Rolfe Square is nice and all, but for many Cranstonians whose families emigrated here from Itri, it’s all about Knightsville. So I’m very excited to hear about your plans to refurbish and give this gem in our community a much-needed facelift.”
Others on hand for the gathering included St. Mary’s Feast Society president Matthew Volpi, City Council members Nicole Renzulli and Richard Campopiano, Chief of Staff Anthony Moretti, Finance Director Robert Strom, Public Works Director Ken Mason, Planning Director Jason Pezzullo and Economic Development Director Franklin Paulino.
Work on the Knightsville project is slated to begin early next year. Paplauskas said after a year off due to the pandemic, one final holiday tree-light ceremony will be held at the current gazebo this year. That event is scheduled for Dec. 1.
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