NARRAGANSETT–As Robert Leaver set up the bulletin boards across the assembly room, Narragansett business owners quickly learned that this was not a typical public forum. Leaver, spearhead of the New Commons consultancy firm, conducts public forums as innovative brainstorming sessions. Wednesday evening was an opportunity for local business owners to develop ideas about making Narragansett a more economically profitable town.
“Towns don’t engage the public,” said Leaver. “My job is to get people to re-engage and to make sense of this information to everyone.”
“This forum is a conversation and we want people to speak from the heart,” he added.
Business owners sat around a collection of tables on which pens and sheets of paper were placed. Leaver directed everyone to discuss and write down their ideas according to 13 different subject headings. These topics were based upon issues that have troubled Narragansett in the past, such as the development of a distinct town center or the relationship between student renters and residents.
“I am not going to sell my house and come to live in the center of craziness because when I was a kid, there were neighborhoods,” said town councilwoman Susan Cicilline-Buonnano referring to the problem of student rentals. “But we know the value that students can add to the community.”
Leaver also invited those present to think about defining Narragansett’s sense of ‘place’. Business owners suggested that an associative logo for Narragansett placed on everything from official correspondence to restaurant menus would give consumers a positive awareness of the town.
The town’s infrastructure was an important topic, with many recognizing a need to make places such as the pier area more attractive for year round activities. A bike path through Narragansett and a creation of a cliff walk down to the Point Judith lighthouse were among the many ideas brought forward.
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