Arnold Buffum Chace, Jr. (Buff) is a real estate developer, a preservationist, a conservationist, and a community activist, whose vision and forward thinking helped spur a transformation of Downtown Providence starting in the 1990s. The transformation continues to this day.
Raised on the East Side of Providence, he attended Moses Brown before prep school in South Carolina and St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire. Buff eventually enrolled in the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, studying to become a writer. Instead, he found himself in Cambridge, MA making documentary films.
Buff moved back to Providence in 1984 to assist his aging father and to administer his family’s real estate on Cape Cod. Buff engaged planner and architect Andres Duany to assist him in the redevelopment of a shopping center in Mashpee, utilizing the public charette process to facilitate its planning and development. The result was the Mashpee Commons, a national award-winning mixed-use town center.
Buff’s efforts in Providence began when he and a group of community leaders established the Coalition for Community Development to create a plan to reuse the mostly vacant buildings along Westminster St., formerly Providence’s retail core. His real estate development firm, Cornish Associates, was tasked with creating a redevelopment plan for this district. Buff, the coalition members and Andres Duany utilized a community charrette process to gather valuable ideas that would lead to the transformation of this downtown district. As he had hoped, this collaborative effort served as a catalyst for the further revitalization and redevelopment of Downtown Providence.
Buff and his team helped inject energy into the downtown economy through the addition of housing, restaurants, and retail uses in 16 historic buildings. This effort, combined with the efforts of many others, established a thriving downtown neighborhood. He continues to work to make the city more vital and attractive for investment, development, and social gathering.
Buff’s efforts to revitalize the city go beyond real estate development. He served as Chairman of the Board of Trinity Repertory Company for ten years, leading a successful capital campaign to bolster the theater’s operations.
He belongs to several boards and organizations that work to enhance the Downtown Providence community. He is chairman of the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy, a governing board member of The Providence Foundation, and a fellow of the Congress for New Urbanism. He also was a founding member of Grow Smart RI and a member of the board of the Providence Preservation Society.
Most recently, Buff helped found the Providence Resilience Partnership, to identify and address the effects of climate change on Providence and its infrastructure.
Buff’s love for the City of Providence has translated to a lifetime devoted to its revitalization and development and the formulation of partnerships to ensure that these efforts continue.
He now joins three illustrious ancestors, Arnold Buffum, Elizabeth Buffum Chace, and Elizabeth (Chace) Wyman in the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. Buff has four children: Sarah, Ben, Nathaniel, and the late Lilly. He has five grandchildren: Ben, Evy, Nori, Jeanne, and Rene.