A “friendly rivalry” between neighboring cities is sure to ignite, as Cranston looks poised to overtake Warwick as the second largest city in the state.
“The mayor would certainly take pleasure in knowing we’ve surpassed [Warwick]. It wouldn’t make a huge difference. It’s more just something we can brag about,” cracked Mark Schieldrop, Executive Assistant to Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.
Jokes aside, Schieldrop, Fung, and the city are serious about acknowledging Cranston’s growth. The most current Census data available shows about a 500-person difference in population in the city (this data is from 2015, and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian reports the difference as 900), and Fung expects the gap will continue to narrow, while Avedisian said the city is on track to remain the larger of the two cities.
“I’m very excited to see our growth continuing in Cranston and there is no sign that it will be slowing down anytime soon. People are flocking to our city because we offer a great quality of life, good schools, nice parks, wonderful restaurants, great shops and fantastic services,” Fung said. “All of these qualities make people want to live here – after all, we are one of the top 50 cities to live in America!”
Indeed, Schieldrop said, Cranston is on an “upward trajectory” – he cites schools that are steadily improving, a central location, proximity to Providence, a stable tax rate, neighborhood feel, business-friendly climate, public safety and great parks system as reasons why the city is a desirable place to live. He believes a lot of the growth is occurring in the western part of the city, where there are new subdivisions and housing developments.
But the eastern side is seeing growth too, he said. Garden City is there, a number of buildings have been converted into apartments and properties have expanded.
Another interesting growth Schieldrop noted was that of the Asian American population. The Chinese population over the last 10 years has doubled, he estimates. In 2000, the city had 622 Chinese residents and 848 between 2009-2013, according to the American Community Survey, he said. In 2015 that number got to about 1,400, he said. The city has also seen an increase in the Latino and Hispanic population, he said.
As for schools, Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse notes that Cranston is already the second largest district in the state, behind Providence. According to data collected by RIDE, there were 10,415 students enrolled in Cranston public schools in October 2016, and 9,124 in Warwick public schools. Citing a strong collaboration between the administration, school committee, union and parents, Nota-Masse said the district has successfully created and executed the transition plan that allowed Hope Highlands to open as a middle school in the fall of 2016 and that the district is ready to face the future.
Schieldrop said the numbers will be clearer soon, as Providence County, which Cranston is a part of, will be one of the counties participating in a test Census in 2018, so they’ll have a full count and more accurate numbers sooner than the 2020 full census.
“We’re excited about that because the more accurate info we have will trickle down to planning, zoning, budgeting and seeing how things shake out,” he said. “We stand to benefit from having that data early.”
However, Warwick, home of T.F. Green Airport and recently the state’s months-old Office of Veterans Affairs, has its own developments in the works that might keep the city in the number two spot, Avedisian said.
“If the new data shows that we are closer than before, then I have five years to get the residential units in City Centre and Pontiac Mills to become a reality and get people moved in,” he wrote in an email. “I expect that we will still be the second largest city after these developments take place.”