For the inaugural meeting of the Wickford Economic Development Advisory Board, members were asked to both introduce themselves and share what they thought should happen in Wickford. The response that garnered the most interest came from Giovanni Feroce, the CEO of Alex and Ani, which owns the Wilson's of Wickford site and has plans to open a Teas and Javas there.
"What's important … is a. identify a date in which you're going to reintroduce Wickford to the world," Feroce said. "Between now and then, how many businesses open? How many change the way they operate, and maybe have a facelift, do whatever's necessary. But you kind of say, ok, we're cutting the ribbon today and here's Wickford."
Several members liked that idea, in particular the target-date aspect.
WEDAB chair Ellen Waxman talked about the need to expand store hours and options to visitors, especially those who come by boat. Waxman said she'd love to see more transportation options for visitors.
Board member Sal Marinosci tempered other comments, noting it was vital to consider Wickford's "limitations," in particular, the town's lack of sewers.
"That's a big big limitation," he said. "With that limitation, it draws a line through a lot of things that can be done."
He also said that the very thing that makes Wickford so appealing – its waterfront – can be problematic, noting the village's susceptibility to flooding.
One suggestion to enlarge sidewalks perhaps at the expense of parking drew concern from shop owner Palmer Beebe.
"We have to be very, very sensitive about parking. Parking is an old, old issue," he said. "We have to be sensitive to residents… traffic will be opposed."
Giving voice to the elephant in the room, Beebe added, "A lot of people want to keep Wickford the way it is."
The panel agreed to meet on the first Wednesday of the month, at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall. Their next meeting will be on Oct. 2.
WEDAB board members include:
Ellen Waxman, WEDAB chair, EDAB liaison, owner of Five Main, an art gallery in Wickford
Martha Pughe, EDAB liaison, head of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce
Scott Gibbs, president of the Economic Development Foundation of Rhode Island in Cumberland
Giovanni Feroce, CEO of Alex and Ani, a Cranston-based company with holdings in North Kingstown
Bjorn Wellenius, North Kingstown consultant on telecommunications policy, regulation, and economics in emerging markets
Eli Beckman, founder of Reckoner Group, a technology and design firm based in Newport
Sarah Tallarico, director of the Wickford Art Association Gallery
Sal Marinosci, member of the Little Compton Planning Board, property developer and owner of Nautika and Blu restaurants on the East Greenwich waterfront
Michael Earnheart, manager of The Clean Bedroom
Palmer Beebe, owner of J W Graham in Wickford, Wickford Village Association president
Stephen Souls, a social media and email marketing consultant
Ex Officio – Curtis Given, Wickford Plan Committee liason, owner of Green Inc. in Wickford, and a real estate agent with Randall Realtor
Ex Officio – David Calwell, EDAB chair, owner of Caldwell Construction based in North Kingstown
Staff Support – Paige Bronk, North Kingstown Economic Development Manager