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Westminster Street, circa 1950

Saving Broad St. Synagogue: A Community Process

688 Broad St.

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Caroline Stevens, 2015
As it turns out, Broad St. Synagogue is actually pretty difficult to get into these days. After coordinating our calendars through numerous emails, when I finally arrived for my much anticipated tour, the key didn’t work. Adam Bush, my tour guide and a self defined “community navigator, mediator, steward and connector” for the synagogue, didn’t seem all that surprised. He’s been used to the ups and downs presented by the synagogue ever since he became involved in efforts to save and re-purpose the building in 2011 as part of the Broad Street Synagogue Revitalization Project.

Thankfully, I had been lucky enough to tour the building back in November of 2013. Going inside the synagogue was literally the first thing I did upon arriving at the Providence train station. I had come in order to scope out the city to see if maybe I wanted to move here. A friend picked me up from the station and asked if I might be interested in a tour. And it was standing in the sanctuary of Broad St. Synagogue that I decided I’d move to Providence. Clearly this city was full of unexpected surprises and amazing adventures! However, the synagogue I saw was in a terrible state. There were holes in the roof, and the floor was warped beneath my feet.

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Photo Courtesy of Broad Street Synagogue Revitalization Project (pre-restoration)
But Adam tells me that “the building inside looks amazing right now. It’s usable and dry walled, and plastered and mold free, and you can be in there in a way you couldn’t a year ago.” It was purchased by Joe Triangelo in June 2014. He invested a great deal of money in the building’s revitalization. Despite doing a fantastic job cleaning it up, he has decided against being the long term owner and programmer of the building. The synagogue is currently for sale, leaving it once again in a vulnerable state.

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Caroline Stevens, November 2013 (pre-restoration)
For some time now, the Broad Street Synagogue Revitalization Project has been leading a community-based process of determining potential uses for the space. Adam told me, “It was an awesome process, and we’re still in the middle of that process . . . We have continually put at the forefront the messiness of a community conversation. And in some ways that leads to answers and some ways it leads to more questions and this longer drawn out process, which is awesome and beautiful and absolutely messy.”

Listen to my interview with Adam as he tells me more background on the state of the synagogue, some of the ideas that have come out of the community conversation he has helped to lead, and his hopes and concerns for the building:

And I want to hear from you! What are your ideas for re-purposing the Broad St. Synagogue that would benefit the South Providence community in which it stands? Here’s a record of what you’ve said so far; let’s keep talking! Share your thoughts on twitter @pvdpreservation, #mep20.

MAP IT

For more information visit the Broad Street Revitalization Project Website. And to read up on the history of the synagogue, and listen to some great oral histories around the building visit Broad Street Synagogue Memories.

KUDOS to @SouthSidePVD for correctly guessing my whereabouts!

Originally posted on April 25, 2015