"OnLineRI is pleased to have veteran writer and local real estate broker Nelson Taylor of William Raveis writing a bi-weekly column on everything real estate in Rhode Island."
Two months before 9/11, my wife, Kelly, and I relocated from Brooklyn to Providence. We wanted to start a family and did not want to do it in such an anonymous city. I was a freelance travel writer, and she was an interior designer. We were young, broke and in love and had the dumb luck to be able to choose where we wanted to live.
We’d been in New York City just 5 years. Kelly from Charleston, and me from Dallas. Over coffee and cocktails, countless early hours and late evenings, we mapped small to medium-sized cities across the country. Our goal: to find a more manageable urban experience combined with a kiddo-raising quality of life.
We knew little of New England. We were southerners. But the region seemed to offer so much. Firstmost: a rail system that would be our easy-access artery to the publishing and design centers of Manhattan and Boston. Kelly was drawn to boats and beaches. I skied and flyfished and pushed for the hills. We both revered history--it’s architecture and story. New England is rich on all fronts.
Providence was an obvious mark on our map--our first foray into our hunt for a new home. We knew no one in Rhode Island, had no connections; we were flying blind. Although just 3 hours north on I-95, our first run was interrupted by a blizzard that left us in a hotel along the highway. I remember feeling dizzy that night--drunk from the memories we had not yet made.
We had a list of things we were after, and once the snows subsided, we continued north to get our questions answered.
- Are the neighborhoods pedestrian friendly: We quickly found the East Side, a community of small connected neighborhoods serviced by commercial “squares” and consisting of local shops, restaurants and amenities. In addition, its location skirting the western side of downtown meant the city, its services and entertainment, were within an easy strike.
- Is there a creative culture: Providence is the home to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), which fuels not just the local art scene, but has become the breeding ground for an entrepreneurial addiction that gives birth to many small businesses. Providence has a creative economy--and participation is everywhere.
- Is there a thoughtful population: Brown University, which rides the seem between Downtown and the East Side, was founded in 1764. With such a long history of local erudition, thoughtfulness pulses through the city. There exists a feeling that anything is achievable. And there’s always a group willing to join the conversation.
- Is there a food scene: The first thing one hears about Providence is that the best restaurants in Boston are in Providence. With the Johnson & Wales’ HQ in Downtown, we’re blessed by a cadre of award winning chefs that seems to grow by the year. From food trucks to foie gras to cocktails shaken and not stirred--the local dining culture will satisfy urban palates of every ilk.
- Is affordable housing available: Affordability is relative. So while we certainly didn’t have a savings account to speak of, Providence was (and still is) a far cry from the prices of New York City or Boston. And there are a plethora of options enshrining the city in a wide range of pricepoints, styles and settings.
What we found: an extremely livable, petite metropolis. So in line with our list of must haves, just one visit later we called my parents, borrowed a down payment and bought a bungalow on the East Side. Now, 11 years have gone. We’ve got two boys, a slighter larger mortgage, active lives in the community and memories by the bucketful. It’s us.
The places we choose to live define us--the me, the you. It’s where we work, play, eat, change, learn and love. This column, which will appear bi-weekly, is dedicated to all the places in the Ocean State that have been, are and will become the story of our lives.
Nelson Taylor is a partner in the Rhode Island franchise of William Raveis Real Estate, New England's largest independently owned real estate company. He is also the President of Raveis' Taylor & Company, a progressive top-producing team of sales and leasing professionals based out of the company's Providence office.