Greater City Providence

Robert Azar named Acting Director of Providence Planning Department

Thom Deller recently left his long standing post as Director of Planning and Development for the City of Providence to become the Economic Director for Hartford, Connecticut. Today, the Mayor appointed Bob Azar as the Acting Director while the City conducts a nationwide search for a permanent director:

Mayor Taveras Names Robert E. Azar Acting Director of Department of Planning & Development

PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Angel Taveras announced today Robert E. Azar of Providence will immediately assume the post of acting Director of the Department of Planning and Development for the City of Providence. Azar will lead the department while a nationwide search for a permanent director begins.

“Bob Azar is a highly-regarded professional with extensive experience in community planning. He has witnessed and played an integral role in the revitalization and development of Providence,” said Mayor Taveras. “Bob led the effort to complete the recently-approved Downtown Zoning Plan and zoning re-write for the I-195 surplus land. He is a professional with a deep understanding of the complex issues affecting development in Providence today. I am confident that Bob will provide the necessary stability during this period of transition.”

Azar will report directly to James S. Bennett, the Director of Economic Development. The position had been held by Thomas E. Deller who recently left Providence to assume a similar position in Hartford, Conn. Azar is a veteran city planner and visiting professor of Urban Studies at Brown University. He joined the Department of Planning and Development in 2000 and has served as the Director of Current Planning since 2007.

In the new position, Azar will manage a department with 42 full-time employees, a $4.729 million budget (FY13) and numerous federal grants, including the Community Development Block Grant program and US Housing and Urban Development Section 108 loan program.

Azar is married and the father of two public-school students. He has a Master of Community Planning from the University of Rhode Island and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and American Planning Association.

Greater City Providence

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  • Planning in Providence has for too long been a game for well-connected insiders driven by political calculation. The city should make a clean break with the past. It needs a planner who has the mind of an artist, not simply a bureaucrat. One who can thoughtfully balance the city’s past with its future potential. We need an honest nationwide search and not a fake search that begins and ends in Little Rhody. Otherwise, it will be more of the same.

  • God help the planning dept. A more egotistical, power hungry person never walked the planet.

  • Congrats to Bob, but more to the point, congrats to the City for knowing that sometimes the best choice is, in fact, the obvious choice. In spite of crackpot views to the contrary, Bob is the consummate professional, and remarkably modest for someone who knows as much and works as hard as he does,. Let’s hope that the city 1. realizes that they can save the money that they would otherwise spend on the search and just appoint Bob, and 2. supports Bob during this interim period and doesn’t micro-manage his tenure!

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