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Rhode Island’s Best Communities 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

 

What is Rhode Island's best community?  According to GoLocalProv's 5th Annual Rhode Island's Best Communities, Newport takes the top honor for 2014, for the second year in a row. 

Number two?  Providence, who recently received an outstanding achievement award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors for "most livable" cities in the country. 

SLIDES:  See RI's Top Communities 2014 BELOW

The rankings, based on taking into account criteria including affordability, safety, schools, arts and culture, recreation and nightlife, provide a snapshot into where the top cities and towns in the state are to live if you're a young single, starting a family, or entering retirement. (See Methodology HERE).

While the Newport Chamber of Commerce spoke to the city as having "a strong economy creating jobs and an environment that encourages investment and entrepreneurship," Executive Director Jody Sullivan addressed the challenges Newport faces, like any other community.

"The greatest challenges facing Newport are climate change/sea level rise, we are an unique colonial seaside community and water and resiliency are extremely important issues.  We also face constant pushback from neighborhoods/residents that make it very difficult for businesses to expand and grow jobs,"  said Sullivan.  "Finally as Newport becomes more and more of a second home, retirement community we are losing our families and not investing enough in our schools and educational system which ultimately will change the fabric of our community."

Community Growth -- and Preservation

Can technological advances make for better communities?

Scott Wolf with Grow Smart RI spoke to how advances in data gathering -- and data analysis -- were helping communities make more informed decisions for economic development and community growth.

"More and more municipalities are converting all sorts of municipal data (zoning, land-use, infrastructure, land value and ownership, natural and cultural resources, soil type, etc., into a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) format," said Wolf. "This is allowing state officials to aggregate municipal data into comprehensive statewide maps that can be used for advancing economic development, open space and recreation planning across  municipal boundaries."

Wolf noted the role that technology played in helping advance urban communities -- and transportation in particular. 

"Advances in RIPTA’s transit technology are improving the ease of using our state’s mass transit network, as well as its performance," said Wolf.  "Real-time bus information on smart phone applications and devices on buses that hold a green light for faster trip service are two examples of technology playing a greater role in urban communities where transit service is especially important and extensive."

As for statewide, Wolf touched upon Grow Smart's perspective as how individual communities could address land-use to improve "community." 

"Each community ought to identify its highest priority Redevelopment District or planned activity center and develop plans for these targeted areas that can improve the quality of life for entire communities with some focused efforts , e.g. Olneyville Square (Providence), Harrisville (Burrillville), North End Redevelopment District (Newport), The Link (Providence--Knowledge District), Warwick City Centre District (adjacent to Green Airport), Downtown Pawtucket, Branch Village (North Smithfield), East Providence Special Waterfront District, Arctic Village Redevelopment District (West Warwick), Westerly North End District, etc," said Wolf.  "These districts are in economically strategic locations but have certain current  liabilities, e.g., underutilized or vacant buildings and lots, environmentally contaminated properties, inappropriate, overly constricting zoning, etc.  that can be addressed  and  turned into community assets for the benefit of all."

And while Wolf spoke to growth, the Providence Preservation Society's Brent Runyon spoke to the need of preservation in the role of community.

"Historic Preservation is about a lot of things and is often misunderstood as a philosophy. At the base level, it is about preserving a sense of place, which is accomplished in part  by preserving those elements that cause people to care about a place. Those elements include beauty and craftsmanship, the history of people who lived or worked in a building or park, and the way a particular place contributes to the overall feel of a neighborhood. Historic Preservation is also an environmental movement, in that we seek to reuse (first) and recycle (last) materials that are simply not available today, such as old growth wood that was used in construction," said Runyon.

"The outcome of historic preservation activities should be a place that is unique, representative of that place's own history (the good and the not-so-good), that preserves history as embodied in buildings or landscapes (as opposed to museums or libraries). PPS believes it has contributed mightily to that outcome in Providence for nearly 60 years," Runyon added.

Top Communities Perspectives

A major decision is on tap for the community of Newport on the 2014 ballot -- the proposed rendering of improvements to Newport Grand, if table games are approved.

Sullivan spoke to the role that the business -- and Naval -- communities have in Newport as fostering growth in the City by the Sea. 

"The Chamber works closely with the City of Newport on a variety of projects.  We currently have a public private partnership with the City on a Federal Economic Development Administration Grant Application in to create a Technology Transfer Incubator/Accelerator in one of the City’s vacant schools, the Sheffield School on Broadway," said Sullivan.  "Partnerships like this will allow us to be prepared to diversity and keep the high technology skills currently within the defense community as DOD is forced to downsize.  We also administer Grant Funds to preserve and expand the Defense Economy in Rhode Island.  The presence of Naval Station Newport is a major economic driver for our community -- we also recently completed an economic analysis for the industry in RI."

While the state's capital city took the number two spot in this year's rankings, resident Cheryl Simmons expressed her hope that the city could better address one important factor -- crime.

"The increased communication between residents, both through crime alert listservs and local crime watch groups, has  had a positive impact," said Simmons, who oversees a listserv on the East Side.  "I think the city needs to find a way to get more police officers back on the streets.  The budgetary constraints which led to the cutbacks in the Providence Police Department in 2010 has to be carefully reassessed.  Spikes in crime often correlate with economic downturns, and reducing funding for the PPD during such a period can only compound the problem.  The police we have are doing an excellent job, but there simply are not enough of them out there.  I hope that our elected officials recognize and support the need for more funding for the PPD on a citywide basis."


 

 

Related Slideshow: Rhode Island’s Best Communities 2014: #39 to #1

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#39 Central Falls

At one time called Chocolateville because of a chocolate factory located in its center, Central Falls is the most densely populated city in Rhode Island. Emerging from municipal bankruptcy in 2012, Central Falls has struggled to bring up its standard of living for many immigrants who call it home.   

Central Falls by the numbers

Established: 1730
Population: 19,376
Median household income: $29,268
Median housing price: $76,383

2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 39
Affordability ranking: 18
Education ranking: 39
Economic condition: 38
Safety ranking: 33
Arts & Culture ranking: 30

Famous people

Lincoln Carter Almond, governor
Michael Breault, game designer, editor and author
Francis Condon, congressman
Viola Davis, actress
Carl Russell Fish, historian
Roland Hemond, baseball executive
Jack McGee, aviator
Glyn O'Malley, playwright
Charles Risk, congressman
John Robitaille, politician
Michelle Siwy, Fashion Designer

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#38 Woonsocket

A lively, ethnically diverse community, rich with a history of Indian influence, Woonsocket has a legacy of industrial riches evident in its architecture. The origin of the city's name has numerous theories, but the translation “thunder mist” from the falls on the Blackstone may be the most popular. A city that relies on manufacturing as its primary form of income, Woonsocket continues to struggle with a myriad of challenges, from poverty to educational opportunity for its youth.

Woonsocket by the numbers

Established: 1867
Population: 41,186
Median household income: $38,356
Median housing price: $123,900

2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 38
Affordability ranking: 32
Education ranking: 36
Economic condition: 39
Safety ranking: 36
Arts & Culture ranking: 7

Famous people

Greg Abate, musician
Rocco Baldelli, baseball player
Latimer Whipple Ballou, congressman
Bryan Berard, hockey player
Brian Boucher, hockey player
Marcel Desaulniers, chef
Eddie Dowling, actor, screenwriter and songwriter
Allen Doyle, golfer
Draco and the Malfoys, wizard rock band
Denise Duhamel, poet
Eileen Farrell, opera soprano
Ernest Fortin, theology professor
Stuart Gitlow, physician
Brian Harnois, paranormal investigator
Gabby Hartnett, baseball player and manager
Ambrose Kennedy, congressman
Clem Labine, baseball player
Nap Lajoie, baseball player
Catherine J. Lanctot, law professor and legal scholar
Neil Lanctot, historian and author
Francis Leo Lawrence, college president
William C. Lovering, congressman
James McAndrews, congressman
J. Howard McGrath, politician
Dave McKenna, jazz pianist
Edwin O'Connor, radio personality and novelist
Aram J. Pothier, governor
Duke Robillard, blues guitarist
Christopher Robinson, congressman
Mathieu Schneider, hockey player
Bill Summers, umpire

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#37 Pawtucket

Known for the historic site where Samuel Slater constructed and operated machines for spinning cotton yarn at Slater Mill in 1793, Pawtucket is the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. This city faces challenges of struggling schools, depressed economic conditions, and high crime levels per capita, but certainly has its bright spots (like a popular winter Farmer's Market at Hope Artiste Mill and vibrant arts at the downtown's Armory).

Pawtucket by the numbers

Established: 1671
Population: 71,148
Median household income: $40,383
Median housing price: $125,000

2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 37
Affordability ranking: 23
Education ranking: 37
Economic condition: 37
Safety ranking: 39
Arts & Culture ranking: 13

Famous people

Adam J. Barlow, basketball player
Willard L. Beaulac, diplomat
Don Bousquet, cartoonist
Jon B., singer and songwriter
Ernie Calverley, basketball player
Wendy Carlos, composer and electronic musician
Aram Chobanian, cardiologist
Ruth Clifford, silent film star
Mike Cole, actor
Jim Connors, radio personality
Thomas Gardiner Corcoran, presidential advisor
Michael Corrente, independent film director
Alice Drummond, actress
Jack Duffy, actor
Joseph L. Fisher, congressman
Joel Garreau, journalist, editor and author
David Hartman, television personality
Raymond Hood, architect
Galway Kinnell, poet
Armand Lamontagne, sculptor
John LaRose, baseball player
Irving R. Levine, journalist and foreign correspondent
Kevin Lima, film director
Peter Manfredo, boxer
Rosario Mazzeo, clarinetist
Louis Monast, congressman
Abraham Nathanson, developer of the game Bananagrams
Morris Nathanson, architect
Chet Nichols, Jr., baseball player
Sam Patch, daredevil
Gerry Philbin, football player
Red Pollard, Jockey
David Rawlings, musician
Charles Reilly, novelist
Al Rockoff, photojournalist
Ken Ryan, baseball player
Walter Schroder, author and lecturer
Samuel Slater, industrialist
Hank Soar, football player, baseball umpire
Samuel Starkweather, politician
Minton Warren, scholar
Craig Watjen, assistant treasurer at Microsoft
Tim White, professional wrestling referee
Gary Whitehead, poet and painter
Jeff Xavier, basketball player
Les Pawson, 3-time Boston Marathon winner

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#36 West Warwick

The most recent community in Rhode Island, West Warwick established itself as a separate entity from Warwick in 1913. The community has a proud heritage and a noble tradition based on immigrant influx and milling. Its continuous educational growth, rapid industrial expansion, and boost from immigrant influxes since the 19th century all contribute to its pride.

West Warwick by the numbers

Established: 1648
Population: 29,191
Median household income: $51,309
Median housing price: $136,000

2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 36
Affordability ranking: 12
Education ranking: 33
Economic condition: 34
Safety ranking: 31
Arts & Culture ranking: 31

Famous people

Ann Hood, novelist
Saint Andre Bessette, builder of St. Joseph's basilica in Montreal, canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010

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#35 Johnston

Does a Rhode Island town ever outgrow its Big Hair reputation? Johnston might have had a chance, but the skyscraper stylings of its best-known local boy, Pauly D, have kept the big coif rep intact. Therefore, it is no surprise that 46.7% of Johnston residents identified themselves in 2000 as being of Italian heritage. In fact, the town has the highest percentage of Italian Americans of any municipality in the country. That's a lot of character (and delicious local restaurants).

Johnston by the numbers

Established: 1636
Population: 28,769
Median household income: $56,803
Median housing price: $155,500

2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 35
Affordability ranking: 17
Education ranking: 30
Economic condition: 36
Safety ranking: 29
Arts & Culture ranking: 25

Famous people

Anthony Paul Cerbo, singer
Samuel Ward King, Governor of Rhode Island during the Dorr Rebellion
Pauly D, DJ and featured performer on The Jersey Shore and star of The Pauly D Project
Joe Polisena, former member of the Rhode Island Senate and mayor of Johnston

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#34 North Providence

North Providence may be one of the state’s smallest communities, but has the eighth-highest population of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns. Formed on June 13, 1765, after separating from Providence, this small town likes to celebrate its intense Rhode Island culture. North Providence also embodies a bustling residential area with most of its residents working outside of their community.

North Providence by the numbers

Established: 1636
Population: 32,078
Median household income: $50,939
Median housing price: $149,900

2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 34
Affordability ranking: 19
Education ranking: 34
Economic condition: 32
Safety ranking: 30
Arts & Culture ranking: 19

Famous people

Ernie DiGregorio, former NBA player
Jim Gilchrist, founder of the controversial Minuteman Project
Danielle Lacourse, Miss Rhode Island USA 2007, first runner-up at Miss USA 2007
Zellio Toppazzini, NHL - AHL hockey player, Rhode Island Reds Player of the Century, Providence College Head Coach
Bob Giammarco, former Providence radio talk show host and elected official in Cranston

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#33 Scituate

Incorporated in 1730, Scituate lies just to the west of Providence and just beyond the outer reaches of Johnston. The town is most popular for its scenic landscapes, comprised of vast woodlands, stone walls, quaint farms, and colorful apple orchards. During the Fall season, the vibrant art festivals and delicious apple orchards attract thousands to its roads from all over New England.

Scituate by the numbers

Established: 1636
Population: 10,329
Median household income: $82,140
Median housing price: $217,500
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 33
Affordability ranking: 20
Education ranking: 14
Economic condition: 35
Safety ranking: 7
Arts & Culture ranking: 33

Famous people

Ezekiel Cornell, delegate to the Continental Congress
Esek Hopkins, Naval figure in Revolutionary War
Stephen Hopkins, Governor of Rhode Island, signer of the Declaration of Independence
Armand LaMontagne, prominent wood sculptor
William West, Revolutionary War General, Lt. Governor of Rhode Island, Chief Justice of Rhode Island

James Burrill Angell, President of the University of Michigan, University of Vermont
Alice Howland, first librarian in Scituate; donated the land that is now the Hope Recreational Park
Robert Capron-Rowley Jefferson in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid film series
 

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#32 East Providence

East Providence has beautiful neighborhoods, historic cemeteries, vibrant immigrant culture, and surprising waterfront properties. A growing city nearly surrounded by bodies of water, East Providence is the state’s 5th-largest city and home to the fastest-spinning carousel in the state and a bikeway that brings thousands of Rhode Islanders together.

East Providence by the numbers

Established: 1812
Population: 47,037
Median household income: $49,545
Median housing price: $157,500

2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 32
Affordability ranking: 24
Education ranking: 32
Economic condition: 31
Safety ranking: 34
Arts & Culture ranking: 11

Famous people

Claudia Jordan
Rebecca DiPietro, 2006 WWE Diva Search Contestant & ECW Vixen
Meredith Vieira, television journalist/host
Davey Lopes, former Major League Baseball player
Estes "Buddy" Rodgers, former Maryland Terrapins football running back
Arunah Shepherdson Abell, apprentice on the Providence Patriot, later publisher of the Philadelphia Public Ledger and the Baltimore Sun
Jamie Silva, NFL safety for the Indianapolis Colts
Pedro Braz, Professional Soccer Player
Ron Wilson, US Olympic Hockey Coach, coach of Toronto Maple Leafs
Kevin Robinson, Professional BMX Biker

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#31 Warren

Known by few Brown grads as where their alma mater was founded as Rhode Island College in 1746, Warren continues to grow in population and industry. With suburban, safe Barrington to the north and historic postcard-perfect Bristol to the south, this East Bay small town is often overlooked like a middle child. As a town that has enjoyed a diverse and vibrant history, Warren maintains a more genuine sensibility amidst the wealth and publicity surrounding it.

Warren by the numbers

Established: 1620
Population: 10,611
Median household income: $54,609
Median housing price: $205,400

2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 31
Affordability ranking: 29
Education ranking: 25
Economic condition: 29
Safety ranking: 19
Arts & Culture ranking: 22

Famous people

Lou Abbruzzi, NFL football player
Pat Abbruzzi, All-Star Canadian football player, RI football legend
Luther Blount, Started Blount Marine, American Canadian Caribbean Cruise Lines and Bay Queen Cruises
Hezekiah Butterworth, author and poet
Jo-Jo Morrissey, Baseball player
Mark Portugal, Former Boston Red Sox Pitcher
Brett Quigley, Professional Golfer

Prev Next

#30 Foster

Home to the highest point in a state, this western Rhode Island town is also home to farmsteads, mill ruins, and quiet country life. And what is more emblematic than being home to one of the only two covered bridges in Rhode Island? Known for having the oldest government meeting house in the US, Foster remains sparsely populated with most of its land covered with hills or forests.

Foster by the numbers

Established: 1636
Population: 4,606
Median household income: $81,316
Median housing price: $257,000

2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 30
Affordability ranking: 21
Education ranking: 13
Economic condition: 22
Safety ranking: 4
Arts & Culture ranking: 38

Famous people

Theodore Foster, U.S. Senator, the town's namesake
Solomon Drowne, physician, author, close friend of Foster who lived on a farm called Mount Hygeia
Nelson Aldrich, U.S. Senator, father of Abby Rockefeller
Lucinda Landon, author of the "Meg Mackintosh" children's book series
H. P. Lovecraft, author
Mark Picard, author of the Ultraquest series

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#29 West Greenwich

It is not always easy to think of Rhode Island communities being truly rural, but this quiet enclave of just more than 6,000 people is truly that. A landscape of woodlands covers much of more than 50 square miles, the 7th largest place in Rhode Island, in terms of land area, and living is quiet and unassuming in West Greenwich. Its sprawling woodlands and charming countrysides makes the town popular for its natural trails and scenic views.

West Greenwich by the numbers

Established: 1639
Population: 6,135
Median household income: $80,764
Median housing price: $236,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 29
Affordability ranking: 14
Education ranking: 12
Economic condition: 21
Safety ranking: 6
Arts & Culture ranking: 39

Prev Next

#28 Lincoln

In previous years, this Blackstone Valley town grabbed the national spotlight as a desirable place to "Live and Launch," as CNN/Money Magazine put it in 2008, when it placed Lincoln in its Top 100 nationally. Nowadays, the coverage of this rural/suburban hybrid up Route 146 from Providence has centered on the future of gambling. With Twin River officially a full casino, it's anyone's bet as to what financial winds may buffet this up-and-comer.


Lincoln by the numbers

Established: 1650
Population: 21,105
Median household income: $75,445
Median housing price: $240,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 28
Affordability ranking: 22
Education ranking: 18
Economic condition: 27
Safety ranking: 25
Arts & Culture ranking:18

Famous people

Edward Harris, industrialist, builder of the first public library in RI, state representative and anti-slavery candidate for Governor
Clem Labine, Major League Baseball relief pitcher

Prev Next

#27 Burrillville

Burrillville is a pleasant residential community with most of its townspeople working out of town. In addition to its agricultural past, the community has thrived on the series of waterways, which imbue the town. Built in the faraway corner of northwest Rhode Island, Burrillville offers terrific affordability in though economic times, a low crime rate, and the state’s most beloved chicken dinner restaurant.

Burrillville by the numbers

Established: 1730
Population: 15,955
Median household income: $66,575
Median housing price: $189,500

2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 27
Affordability ranking: 9
Education ranking: 28
Economic condition: 23
Safety ranking: 13
Arts & Culture ranking: 16

Prev Next

#26 Tiverton

This town is the perfect destination for a summer getaway or a weekend daytrip. Tiverton embraces a breathtaking waterfront, four-corners-style retail village, and a renowned clam shank Evelyn’s and Gray’s Ice Cream. This beautiful stretch of waterfront land also has great history from its role in the Revolutionary War as it was an asylum for Americans fleeing from British influence and occupation.  

Tiverton by the numbers

Established: 1694
Population: 15,780
Median household income: $68,706
Median housing price: $182,500
 
2014 Best Communities rankings
Overall ranking: 26
Affordability ranking: 6
Education ranking: 27
Economic condition: 24
Safety ranking: 22
Arts & Culture ranking: 26

Famous people

Robert Gray, merchant sea-captain and explorer
Russell Warren, architect
Paul Di Filippo, science fiction author
Mika Seeger, ceramic artist
Shane Palmer, marine biologist

Prev Next

#25 Hopkinton

The previous hub of Rhode Island life when it was a stagecoach center, this quiet, old-fashioned town shows off numerous fresh water fishing areas, campgrounds, and parks–attractions that make it a desirable vacation spot for locals and tourists alike. And along with these pleasant activities, Hopkinton has excellent public schools. It’s mostly a rural town but the community still shows a great pride in its history. 

Hopkinton by the numbers

Established: 1669
Population: 8,188
Median household income: $66,728
Median housing price: $185,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings
Overall ranking: 25
Affordability ranking: 8
Education ranking: 5
Economic Condition ranking: 26
Safety ranking: 10
Arts & Culture ranking: 35
 
Famous people

John Wilbur, Quaker minister
Prudence Crandall, taught first desegregated classroom in USA
Billy Gilman, youngest country western star
Both the Aldrich and the Rockefeller families built small mansions in Hope Valley before the families merged. The Rockefeller house now serves as the rectory for St. Joseph's Parish
 

Prev Next

#24 Coventry

Named in 2011 as a community on the move, this town of just over 35,000 in Kent County has rural, historic roots and a legacy of its 8 once-vibrant mill villages. Interestingly, the east and west side of the town have different features. While the western half of Coventry remains mostly rural in nature, the eastern half is one of the fastest growing communities in Rhode Island.

Coventry by the numbers

Established: 1639
Population: 35,014
Median household income: $65,607
Median housing price: $165,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 24
Affordability ranking: 3
Education ranking: 26
Economic Condition ranking: 25
Safety ranking: 32
Arts & Culture ranking: 17
 
Famous people

Henry B. Anthony, notorious anti-Catholic newspaperman, later became a United States Senator and Governor of Rhode Island
Henry P. Baldwin, served as the governor of Michigan from 1869 to 1873 and as a U.S. Senator from 1879 to 1881
General Nathanael Greene, general during the American Revolutionary War (his homestead still stands on Taft Street)
Desiree Washington, Miss Black America contestant whom Heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson served prison term for raping
Mike Stefanik, NASCAR driver
HM3 Joshua T. Chiarini, awarded the Silver Star for actions in Iraq in 2006
Karl Wilhelm Ludwig Pappe, South African botanist

Prev Next

#23 Westerly

Lying in the southwestern corner of Rhode Island, Westerly has a rich and storied history. Along with her fellow Rhode Island vacation enclaves like New Shoreham and Little Compton, this gracious town draws visitors from around the world to its beautiful beaches. The community is a prime vacation sport mainly due to spectacular Watch Hill and its Victorian architecture. 

Westerly by the numbers

Established: 1661
Population: 22,787
Median household income: $59,008
Median housing price: $285,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 23
Affordability ranking: 35
Education ranking: 24
Economic condition: 15
Safety ranking: 23
Arts & Culture ranking: 14

Famous people

Dr. Joshua Babcock, physician, American Revolution general, RI Supreme Court Justice
Samuel Ward, Royal Governor, Chief Justice of RI
Ruth Buzzi, television star and actor
Eddie Sawyer, former major league baseball manager
Dave Stenhouse, former Washington Senators pitcher
Frankie Frisch, player-manager of the St. Louis Cardinals' famous "Gashouse Gang"
Elisson "Tarzan" Brown, marathon runner

Prev Next

#22 North Smithfield

A northern mid-sized community that embraces a number of mill villages, North Smithfield was a central stop on the Great Road's stagecoach route. Even though it faces challenges with economic growth, housing affordability, and education improvement in, this Blackstone Valley town has been redesigned into residential, industrial, and recreational use forming a pleasant suburban identity.

North Smithfield by the numbers

Established: 1730
Population: 11,967
Median household income: $77,008
Median housing price: $240,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 22
Affordability ranking: 13
Education ranking: 20
Economic condition ranking: 9
Safety ranking: 21
Arts & Culture ranking: 34
 
Famous people

Peleg Arnold, delegate to the Continental Congress and Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court
Jeff Jillson, National Hockey League player
David Rawlings, musician, singer/songwriter
 

Prev Next

#21 Glocester

This small town in the quiet western flank of Rhode Island took its name from Frederick Lewis, the Duke of Glocester after dividing from the Town of Providence in 1730. One of the town’s most popular events is the Ancients and Horribles Parade, held every Independence Day where crowds gather to the tune of about 10,000 people.

Glocester by the numbers

Established: 1639
Population: 9,746
Median household income: $80,077
Median housing price: $187,445
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 21
Affordability ranking: 1
Education ranking: 15
Economic condition ranking: 20
Safety ranking: 3
Arts & Culture ranking: 29
 
Famous people

Charles J. Fogarty, politician
 

Prev Next

#20 Smithfield

The combination of a suburban ethos and still-operational farms that decorate the landscape and draw tourists characterizes this large Blackstone Valley community, which is also home to one of Rhode Island’s top universities, Bryant. Agriculture is still important to the town, which is apparent from its fond nickname of “Apple Country" or "Apple Valley" for its numerous apple orchards. In the same way, industry is still a force as there are numerous ultra modern factories. 

Smithfield by the numbers

Established: 1636
Population: 21,430
Median household income: $72,546
Median housing price: $215,000
 
2013 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 20
Affordability ranking: 11
Education ranking: 17
Economic Condition ranking: 18
Safety ranking: 20
Arts & Culture ranking: 21
 
Famous people

Cyrus Aldrich, United States Congressman from Minnesota
Ronald K. Machtley, former U.S. Representative
Peleg Arnold, delegate to the Continental Congress
Daniel Mowry, Jr., delegate to the Continental Congress
Arthur Steere, politician, businessman
Don Orsillo, commentator for the Boston Red Sox on New England Sports Network(NESN)
David Wilkinson, machinist, co-builder of Slater Mill
Elizabeth Buffum Chace, influential American activist in the Anti-Slavery, Women's Rights, and Prison Reform Movements of the mid to late 19th century
 

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#19 Richmond

Richmond is a profoundly rural town that is 60% uninhabited woodlands. Its location near the water allowed for water powered mills to advance the textile industry of this old-fashioned community in South County. The town also hosts one of Rhode Island's most popular old-style entertainments, the Washington County Fair in August.  

Richmond by the numbers

Established: 1669
Population: 7,708
Median household income: $82,468
Median housing price: $214,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 19
Affordability ranking: 5
Education ranking: 4
Economic Condition ranking: 14
Safety ranking: 5
Arts & Culture ranking: 36
 

Prev Next

#18 Cumberland

Formerly known as Attleboro Gore, Cumberland was one of 5 towns to be received from Massachusetts by Royal Decree. Located near the Blackstone and Abbott Run Rivers, industrial advancement and mining contributed greatly to the town’s development during its fledgling years. Based on the motto of “Great History, Bright Future,” this Blackstone Valley town has a vibrant Portuguese community and continues to grow from manufacturing and retail trade. 

Cumberland by the numbers

Established: 1746
Population: 33,506
Median household income: $73,340
Median housing price: $219,500

2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 18
Affordability ranking: 10
Education ranking: 21
Economic condition: 12
Safety ranking: 28
Arts & Culture ranking: 20
 
Famous people

William Blaxton, Cumberland's first European settler
Jemima Wilkinson, 18th century evangelist, was born and raised in Cumberland
Tim White, former WWE referee
The Farrelly Brothers, filmmakers
David Macaulay, author and illustrator
Aaron Fricke, gay rights activist
Brad Adamonis, current PGA tour golfer
Richard Jenkins, Academy Award Nominated actor
Rocco Baldelli, MLB Free Agent outfielder
Brian Lawton, the first American ice hockey player selected #1 overall in the NHL entry draft
Cory Pesaturo, world champion accordionist
John Capron, Sr, textile pioneer
 

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#17 Portsmouth

This community on Aquidneck Island has a very rich history since its settlement in 1638. It was here where British Commander-in-Chief, General Prescott, was captured by the daring Rhode Island colonel William Barton during the Revolutionary War. Portsmouth is also the site of Rhode Island’s lone battle in the Revolutionary War: an American victory against the British on Butt’s Hill. Today, Portsmouth is a fully developed community with shops, hotels, golf courses, and numerous marinas. 

Portsmouth by the numbers

Established: 1638
Population: 17,389
Median household income: $73,308
Median housing price: $292,500
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 17
Affordability ranking: 27
Education ranking: 9
Economic Condition ranking: 10
Safety ranking: 14
Arts & Culture ranking: 15

Famous people

Mike Cloud, NFL running back for the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, and New York Giants
Chris Cosentino, American chef and cast member of "The Next Iron Chef"
Helen Glover, cast member on Survivor: Thailand and host of the Helen Glover Show on TalkRadio 920 WHJJ
Patrick Kennedy, former U.S. congressman for Rhode Island's First district
Ronald Machtley, former U.S. congressman, President of Bryant University
John Robitaille, Republican nominee for Governor of Rhode Island in 2010
Ryan Westmoreland, baseball player, Boston Red Sox prospect
Ade Bethune, liturgical artist and Catholic Worker
Julia Ward Howe, author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"
Anne Hutchinson, founded colony of Rhode Island in 1638
Betty Hutton, American film actress and singer
 

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#16 North Kingstown

North Kingstown is one of the few communities in Rhode Island that combine small waterfront villages and military/industrial sites with historic homes. This South County community is not only the birthplace of perhaps the most famous early American portrait artist but also the town where you’ll find the state's most famous doughnut shop. Known as a sea town for its natural harbor, North Kingstown is famous for its sailing culture and summer resorts with old churches and nostalgic shops. 

North Kingstown by the numbers

Established: 1641
Population: 26,486
Median household income: $80,102
Median housing price: $284,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 16
Affordability ranking: 26
Education ranking: 8
Economic Condition ranking: 13
Safety ranking: 24
Arts & Culture ranking: 12

Famous people

Gilbert Stuart, portrait artist
 

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#15 Middletown

This Aquidneck town was named in the 18th century for its middling location. A place where you can pick strawberries with postcard views of Narragansett Bay, the community has an agrarian component and a diverse landscape made up by sand dunes, scenic beaches, and a rocky coastline. Surrounded by water on three sides, Middletown is a scenic ocean town with active practices of fishing, boating, and swimming.

Middletown by the numbers

Established: 1639
Population: 16,150
Median household income: $70,766
Median housing price: $279,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 15
Affordability ranking: 28
Education ranking: 22
Economic Condition ranking: 16
Safety ranking: 17
Arts & Culture ranking: 9
 
Famous people

Nicolas Cage, former owner of "Grey Craig" mansion
Charlie Day, actor, in the TV show, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
John Huston, Oscar winning film director
Obadiah Holmes, an early colonial Baptist minister, and an ancestor of President Abraham Lincoln
Edwin Booth, actor and brother of John Wilkes Booth

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#14 Bristol

Surrounded 15 miles by Narragansett Bay coastline, Bristol has ample areas for sailing, fishing, and swimming with shipbuilding and sailing being an integral part of the local community. Home to the nation's oldest Fourth of July parade, Bristol is not only an emblematic New England town but also a mixed and vibrant community with historic homes, bustling waterfront, and a red-and-white-stripe Yankee Doddle Dandy of a Main Street. 

Bristol by the numbers

Established: 1680
Population: 22,954
Median household income: $60,934
Median housing price: $262,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 14
Affordability ranking: 31
Education ranking: 23
Economic Condition ranking: 17
Safety ranking: 15
Arts & Culture ranking: 6
 
Famous people

Benjamin Bourne, lawyer, jurist, and politician
Pat McGee, singer, songwriter, musician
John Saffin, best known for his A Brief and Candid Answer to Samuel Sewall's The Selling of Joseph (1700), over the issue of slavery
William Bradford, physician, lawyer, and United States Senator
Jonathan Russell Bullock, jurist and legislator
Ambrose Burnside, railroad executive, industrialist, politician, and Union general
Jonathan DeFelice, President of Saint Anselm College
James De Wolf, slave trader and United States senator
Nathanael Herreshoff, yacht designer & builder
Ira Magaziner, former senior adviser for policy development to the Clinton Administration and chairman of the William J Clinton Foundation Initiatives
Ethel Barrymore Colt, actor and lyricist
Samuel P. Colt, entrepreneur, politician, lawyer, gentleman farmer & philanthropist
Anthony Quinn, actor
William Thomas "Billy" Andrade, PGA Tour Professional Golfer
Edward L. Leahy, United States Senator and federal judge
Norman Rene, theater and film director
John Saffin, merchant and author (A Brief and Candid Answer to Samuel Sewall's The Selling of Joseph, 1700)
Todd Santos, meteorologist for The Weather Channel
 

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#13 Charlestown

With a strand of preserved beachfront creating arguably one of the most beautiful shorelines in Rhode Island, the smallish South County town enjoys open spaces and old-fashioned beachfront life. In addition to vast expanses of conservational and recreational ground, the headquarters to Rhode Island's Narragansett Indian Tribe are located in Charlestown. State parks, wildlife refuges, and beaches also serve to attract visitors and local residents alike.

Charlestown by the numbers

Established: 1669
Population: 7,827
Median household income: $72,786
Median housing price: $292,500
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 13
Affordability ranking: 25
Education ranking: 6
Economic Condition ranking: 6
Safety ranking: 9
Arts & Culture ranking: 28
 
Famous people

Eric Lutes, actor
 

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#12 New Shoreham

A true jewel set just 13 miles off Rhode Island's southern shoreline, this charming, still-rustic island draws sailors, beachlovers, and even celebrities to its verdant hills and hollows. Even though Block Island is nearly 10 square miles of heaven to visit, New Shoreham has problems with affordability. The city still maintains a beautiful scenic view of broad hotels that stand along the waterfront that remind of the love affair with New Shoreham, and Block Island as a whole.

New Shoreham by the numbers

Established: 1664
Population: 1,051
Median household income: $90,789
Median housing price: $1,448,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 12
Affordability ranking: 39
Education ranking: 19
Economic condition: 2
Safety ranking: 1
Arts & Culture ranking: 24

Famous people

William Stringfellow, attorney and radical Anglican theologian
Kenneth Bacon, Department of Defense spokesman who later served as president of Refugees International
Jens Risom, Danish-American furniture designer
Christopher Walken, American actor

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#11 Jamestown

With its small Main Street area hosting a handful of restaurants and bars, Jamestown is another Rhode Island slice of heaven. An island that has developed into a residential area, this enchanting region lies in the middle of Narragansett Bay. As you head toward the Newport Tolls, cast one look down that tidy Main Street, or hop off before leaving Conanicut Island to ogle some of the most beautiful properties in the entire state.

Jamestown by the numbers

Established: 1639
Population: 5,405
Median household income: $85,337
Median housing price: $472,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 311
Affordability ranking: 36
Education ranking: 16
Economic condition: 3
Safety ranking: 8
Arts & Culture ranking: 23

Famous people

Luke McNamee, four-star admiral and Governor of Guam
Jack Reed, US Senator

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#10 Warwick

The state's 2nd-largest city combines industry, commercial zones, and varied residential neighborhoods both wooded and waterfront. It is situated a short way from the capital and is easily accessible through the highway system. Warwick’s location in the center of the state also makes it a prime location for T.F. Green Airport, which has undergone expansion and improvements in recent years. Its easy accessibility and central location make Warwick an area ripe for continued industrial, commercial, and population growth.

Warwick by the numbers

Established: 1642
Population: 82,762
Median household income: $60,980
Median housing price: $148,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 10
Affordability ranking: 2
Education ranking: 29
Economic condition: 28
Safety ranking: 38
Arts & Culture ranking: 4

Famous people

Bill Almon, MLB Baseball player
Rocco Baldelli, MLB Baseball Player
Will Blackmon, NFL player
Damian Costantino, NCAA record holder with hits in 60 consecutive games
Sara Decosta, US Women's Hockey Goalie
George Sears Greene, Civil War general
Nathanael Greene, Revolutionary War general and second in command to George Washington
Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, paranormal investigators, founders of The Atlantic Paranormal Society, and hosts of Ghost Hunters
Michaela McManus, actress
Walt Mossberg, technology editor for the Wall Street Journal
Raymond Nels Nelson Bureau Chief of The Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin
Craig Price, notorious alleged murderer from Buttonwoods
Chris Terreri, NHL goalie
Dan Wheeler, Major League pitcher attended Pilgrim High School
Doug White, former NBC 10 News Anchor
James Woods, actor

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#9 Narragansett

This strandlike town on the Bay may be the closest thing to California surf culture anywhere in New England, much less Rhode Island. With two of the state's largest, most wave-driven beaches, Narragansett defines itself more than anything by surf, sun, and playing in both. From grand homes in Saunderstown to funky vacation cottages in Bonnet Shores, and with the old-style culture on the Great Salt Pond, this town of just under 16,000 is truly Bay-driven. 

Narragansett by the numbers

Established: 1888
Population: 15,868
Median household income: $67,240
Median housing price: $370,000
 
2013 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 9
Affordability ranking: 37
Education ranking: 7
Economic Condition ranking: 7
Safety ranking: 16
Arts & Culture ranking: 8
 

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#8 Exeter

This quiet rural community is known not only for being the home of Rhode Island’s only ski area but also for having good business of educating children and providing safe, affordable places to live, work, and raise families. Surrounded by a quaint and sprawling countryside, Exeter is mostly a rural, residential area. The town’s natural beauty complemented with wooded hills, crystal streams, and large population of wildlife make it a pleasant and quiet place to reside.

Exeter by the numbers

Established: 1641
Population: 6,425
Median household income: $95,260
Median housing price: $279,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 8
Affordability ranking: 7
Education ranking: 11
Economic Condition ranking: 4
Safety ranking: 26
Arts & Culture ranking: 32
 
Famous people

Mercy Brown, alleged vampire
 

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#7 Little Compton

Proud, small, distinctly Yankee and remote, populated by both old-money families and longstanding rural families with little more than their land, Little Compton defies the momentum-based lifestyle that has taken over most of the state's communities. A prime vacation destination with the nostalgic mood of New England, Little Compton may be Rhode Island’s most small-town small town with a legacy of insularity that makes residents practically family. 

Little Compton by the numbers

Established: 1862
Population: 3,492
Median household income: $91,319
Median housing price: $468,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 7
Affordability ranking: 33
Education ranking: 10
Economic condition ranking: 1
Safety ranking: 2
Arts & Culture ranking: 37
 
Famous people

Awashonks, female sachem of the Sakonnet tribe
Sydney Richmond Burleigh, artist
Captain Benjamin Church, father of American ranging
Christopher R. Hill, former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and current United States Ambassador to Iraq
Henry Demarest Lloyd, muckraking journalist
J. William Middendorf, diplomat, civil servant, and artist
Arden Myrin, cast member of MADtv
Elizabeth Pabodie, daughter of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, recognized as the first white girl born in New England
Abel Head "Shanghai" Pierce, a rancher and cattleman in Texas
John Simmons, clothing manufacturer and founder of Simmons College
Henry Tillinghast Sisson, Civil War hero, Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island, and inventor of the three-ring binder
Charles Edwin Wilbour, journalist and Egyptologist
Isaac Wilbour, Governor of Rhode Island, member of the United States House of Representatives, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island
Paul Suttell, current Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court
 

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#6 East Greenwich

The 8th oldest community in the state, East Greenwich is the West Bay heavyweight with a quaint main street and its own underappreciated waterfront. Geographically located in the center of Rhode Island, the town provided a protected port in Narragansett Bay and became a center for fishing and shipbuilding. Today, East Greenwich remains a thriving town with a distinct and unique flair.

East Greenwich by the numbers

Established: 1677
Population: 13,146
Median household income: $97,623
Median housing price: $409,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 6
Affordability ranking: 34
Education ranking: 2
Economic Condition ranking: 8
Safety ranking: 11
Arts & Culture ranking: 10
 
Famous people

Donald Carcieri, Governor of Rhode Island
Suzanne Carcieri, First Lady of Rhode Island
Debra Messing, actress
Mark Zito, radio host
Leeann Tingley, 2006 Miss Rhode Island USA
Robin Kall, columnist
 

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#5 South Kingstown

This varied, beautiful South County gem has pretty much everything you want in a town: unspoiled beaches, historic villages, strong arts and culture, and an ever-growing university culture courtesy of URI. Nearly a third of the town’s land is preserved as open space, and the community has experienced great residential expansion and population influx. In addition to continued industrial growth, South Kingstown continues to be a popular destination for summer resorts. 

South Kingstown by the numbers

Established: 1657
Population: 30,639
Median household income: $73,624
Median housing price: $300,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 5
Affordability ranking: 30
Education ranking: 3
Economic Condition ranking: 11
Safety ranking: 18
Arts & Culture ranking: 5
 
Famous people

Oliver Hazard Perry
Kate French, actress
Erika Van Pelt, American Idol 2012 tenth place finalist
 

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#4 Barrington

If ever a suburb were a town, a town a suburb, a place where everyone moves so children can ride bicycles in cul-de-sacs, and play on soccer teams, and attend top-notch public schools, it's this town. In its earliest days, Barrington was an agricultural society but slowly began to develop a manufacturing industry. In the 19th century, it became popular as a summer resort area and is still today known for its beautiful homes and large country estates.

Barrington by the numbers

Established: 1653
Population:16,310
Median household income: $103,211
Median housing price: $334,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 4
Affordability ranking: 16
Education ranking: 1
Economic Condition ranking: 5
Safety ranking: 12
Arts & Culture ranking: 27
 
Famous people

David Angell, American television sitcom producer
Nicholas Bianco, former member of the Colombo Crime Family before moving to Barrington. Underboss then Boss of the Patriarca Crime Family. Died in prison in 1994.
Thomas W. Bicknell, educator and historian
Christopher Denise, illustrator of children's books, including many in the Redwall series
Brad Faxon, professional golfer
Steven Frazier, CNN anchor
Henry Giroux, world-renowned academic and cultural critic
Spalding Gray, actor, screenwriter and playwright
Scott Haltzman, physician and author (wrote Secrets of Happily Married Men)
Michael S. Harper, poet
Phil Madeira, Nashville songwriter, musician, and recording artist, raised there
Shanna Moakler, model, Miss USA 1995, actress, and reality television star
Jon Land, author and screenwriter of Dirty Deeds.
Dan & Jordan Pious, winners of the Amazing Race 16
 

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#3 Cranston

Settled in 1638 by a few of Roger Williams' acquaintances, the Pawtuxet Purchasers, Cranston is the state’s third largest city and a major commercial and industrial area. Similar to its neighbor, Warwick, Cranston’s early development arose from burgeoning textile and manufacturing plants located along the Pawtuxet River. Cranston became a city with its own city government in 1910.

Cranston by the numbers

Established: 1754
Population: 80,387
Median household income: $58,722
Median housing price: $167,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 3
Affordability ranking: 15
Education ranking: 31
Economic condition: 30
Safety ranking: 37
Arts & Culture raning: 3

Famous people

Cranston's list of famous residents is lengthy and includes the former Miss Universe, Olivia Culpo.

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#2 Providence

Providence is Rhode Island’s biggest community with a tremendous diversity of 25 neighborhoods’ populations. Although the city continues to struggle with crime and education and wealth that is centered in a few neighborhoods, artists and architects alike storm here due to its encouragement of the fine arts. A “Renaissance City” with new buildings, apartments, restaurants, and 6 colleges and universities, Providence is a dynamic city with many facets and a capital with limitless potential.

Providence by the numbers

Established: 1636
Population: 178,042
Median household income: $38,243
Median housing price: $90,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 2
Affordability ranking: 4
Education ranking: 38
Economic Condition ranking: 33
Safety ranking: 27
Arts & Culture ranking: 1
 
Famous people

Like Newport, Providence boasts a list of more than one hundred famous residents.

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#1 Newport

Surrounded by a sprawling waterfront, Newport was fittingly titled the “Birthplace of the Navy.” Since its establishment as a city, this highly visited community has enjoyed a history of progress and success. In fact, Newport has more standing buildings built before 1830 than any other American community. It offers cruises, excursion boats, city tours, golf, and fishing among other things for visitors making it one of the most desired tourist destinations in the country.

Newport by the numbers

Established: 1639
Population: 24,672
Median household income: $57,690
Median housing price: $365,000
 
2014 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking:1
Affordability ranking: 38
Education ranking: 35
Economic condition: 19
Safety ranking: 35
Arts & Culture ranking: 2

Famous people

Newport boasts a long list of more than one hundred famous residents, from early Revolutionaries to contemporary film stars. 

 
 

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