A recent comment echoed a concern I have had for a while now: Olneyville’s borders are under attack. Various stakeholders — landlords, realtors, business owners — have taken to rebranding their slice of the neighborhood, mostly around the margins.
So what are the recognized borders of the Olneyville neighborhood? There seems to be general agreement with the Google map that it is bounded by Route 6, Route 10, Atwells/Manton along the north, and Riverdale Street on the west, forming a truncated triangle.
I found the identical map in an old Providence Business News piece that had used it courtesy of the Olneyville Housing Corp. I figured that would be the last word on this, only to find that they had since changed their name to One Neighborhood Builders! In fairness, this estimable organization has clearly expanded its focus, so that made sense.
And while there isn’t much wiggle room along the Route 6 and Route 10 boundaries, the “Valley” edge has become a little porous.
I first noticed this rebranding trend a few years ago when writing about new businesses on Cromwell Street who had decided they were in the “West End.” I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure the cops are still calling this “South Providence.” Realtors have a lot to do with this and not just in these “transitioning” neighborhoods. For years they have been trying to roll certain listings with Pawtucket addresses into the “East Side.”
But why not own it? Olneyville has a noble heritage and an exciting present. Here’s a few of our favorites in no particular order: The Dirt Palace (that facade!), the NY System, the Shelter Arcade, What Cheer Flower Farm, the Riff Raff Bookstore and Troop PVD, the Mariluz Party Store (the OG of the OV), Recycle-A-Bike, Fête Ballroom, a swell library, two fish ladders along the reclaimed Woonasquatucket River, and lets not forget that the Atlantic Mills complex which has provided space for scores of artists like Shepard Fairey and Kara Walker.
I say own the Olneyville appellation! A little over a year ago, artist and activist Pippi Zornoza spontaneously extended an invite (she’s fun like that): Stop by the Dirt Palace with a shirt and get it printed with the OV logo. I did just that and I wear it with pride. That’s right — I’m a poser! That’s how cool Olneyville is.