University News

257 Thayer diversifies student housing

Students split on whether 257 Thayer will result in economic divide, despite steep rent prices

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, December 5, 2014

The opening of 257 Thayer, a luxury student apartment complex, will mark a major development in College Hill living next fall. Currently under construction, the four-story complex will house 267 tenants, mostly students, in furnished apartments with single bedrooms, private bathrooms, living rooms and flat-screen televisions, said Heather Rojas, manager of 257 Thayer. The building will also include an exercise center and a 1000-square-foot retail space.

When asked by a Herald poll conducted Oct. 22-23 whether they would be interested in living at 257 Thayer, nearly 20 percent of students said they would be, about 43 percent said they would but that the complex was too expensive, 5 percent indicated they are not interested in living at 257 Thayer, 18 percent said they would not be interested regardless of price and nearly 14 percent indicated they were not familiar enough to answer.

To determine how much more expensive a space in 257 Thayer would be as compared to other off-campus housing options, The Herald compared off-campus housing rates to those of 257 Thayer. The calculations found price disparities indicating that the complex is relatively expensive for the area.

At 257 Thayer, 23 floor plans offer different configurations for one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom spaces, Rojas said. These plans differ in price based on square footage, shared or private bathrooms and views, among other factors. At a per-person rate, one-bedroom apartments cost approximately $1,900 and two-bedroom apartments around $1,350. Three-bedroom apartments cost approximately $1,085 and can go up to $1,319 for their largest floor plan —the C7 triple— which is “the size of a small house,” she said.

The University Auxiliary Housing website and a sampling of Craigslist off-campus rental averages, on a per-person basis without utilities, reveal that one-bedrooms go for around $1,123.48, two-bedrooms for around $613.71, and three-bedrooms for around $548.72.

In comparison to other off-campus housing, one-bedrooms in 257 Thayer are slightly more than one and a half times more expensive, two-bedrooms are slightly more than two times more expensive, and three-bedrooms are almost twice as expensive, discounting the C7 triples.

257 Thayer’s marketing team provided The Herald with a sheet that compares 257 Thayer’s pricing to nearby off-campus homes. They calculated the per-person cost, without utilities, of living in a two- or three-bedroom house in the Angell, Waterman and Thayer Street area, to be $900, and placed this number alongside 257 Thayer’s base rent of $1,085 — the per-person cost of their cheapest three-bedroom floor plan. According to the sheet, adding the costs of furniture, utilities, high-speed internet, cable television and other amenities provided by 257 Thayer, $900 jumps to $1,130, which is higher than 257 Thayer’s all-inclusive $1,085 base rent. But how 257’s marketing team calculated these per-month additions — which comprise $10 for a flat screen TV, $20 for a private bathroom and $10 for access to a fitness center — is unclear. “Our marketing team took from places around the area that were not apartments or complexes, that were houses,” Rojas said.

Students interviewed said they do not fully believe the complex is competitively priced with a significant portion of off-campus options, as 257 Thayer claims to be.

“The kind of rates that they are creating that they think are comparable to off-campus housing assume that you’re living with certain privileges that not everyone is going to live with,” said Naryan Murphy ’18.
“By comparing (257 Thayer) to this type of home, it makes it seem like it’s competitively priced, but if you consider the other places you can live in Providence near campus, its not really a fair comparison,” said Mal Skwron ’18.

Skwron said she is unsure if 257 Thayer will perpetuate a socioeconomic divide on College Hill. “There are lots of ways that an economic divide is already prevalent on campus, and I don’t know if it will contribute that much to it, but it will definitely be interesting to see what type of student chooses to live there.”

Other students said they believe that the opening of 257 Thayer could instigate some sort of campus divide. “There’s a certain amount of privilege required to rent an apartment at 257 Thayer, so it’s a possibility,” said Liz Bixler ’18.

257 Thayer is marketed toward people who can afford the high prices, Shawn Verma ’18 MD’22 said. “I think the students who end up renting there will probably be of more means, so I think it could accentuate a divide in that sense.”

While many students who do not live in 257 Thayer said they have a view of 257 inhabitants as being more wealthy than the average student, a few of 257 Thayer’s soon-to-be residents said that they are misunderstood on these grounds.

David O’Connell ’16 will be living in a triple at 257 Thayer next year and said “price was definitely something that mattered to me,” adding that he compared 257 Thayer’s rates to other off-campus options, taking into consideration the extra services and amenities included in the complex’s flat rate. “I really, really hope that there’s no effort to associate a certain image or establish any sort of divide.”

Jesse Siegel ’16, who will also be living in a triple at 257 Thayer, said that senior housing always has to potential to bring up uncomfortable conversations about people’s economic circumstances.

“It’s like not like everyone (at 257 Thayer) are the most wealthy people in the school,” he said. “I don’t think people will see it as a divide.”

Houses in the 257 Thayer area are known for being more expensive off-campus options, said Vicky Ding ’17, who will be living in a triple at 257 Thayer. “Even all of the houses that are close to campus near Thayer are expensive, so everyone knows that anyways,” she said. “I don’t think it’ll create some type of social tension.”

“I think the divide already exists,” said Simon Rubin ’16, who will also be living in a 257 Thayer triple. “I don’t think (257 Thayer) will add to it in any which way.”

Even though 257 Thayer will be an additional option for future students looking to live off campus, landlords who own off-campus properties said that 257 Thayer will not affect their business.

“I don’t think it will affect the market,” said Chase Hogoboom ’03, a landlord of three $500 to $600 per-person units on the corner of Governor and Williams Streets. Brown’s student body is expanding every year, he added, and “as a result of that growth, there will be continued demand for other off-campus offerings.”
Sheba Cronin, a landlord who owns various one- to four-bedroom spaces in the Ives and Arnold Street area, with per-person prices of one- and two-bedroom prices around $1,000 and one room in a four-bedroom space around $500, said he was “not necessarily concerned that it’s going to affect the business that we have.”

257 Thayer is a great option for people who are interested in continuing to live in dorms, but there is great demand by students who want to live independently from the University in a true off-campus environment, Hogoboom said.

Living in a building with 270 students is a very different experience than living with a few close friends, Cronin said. “There is still going to be a market for people who want to live with three other people,” she said. “Are you going to want to go from a dorm room to a glorified dorm room?”

Ed Bishop ’54 P’86 P’91, a realtor who owns spaces within two blocks of central campus, said that students who do not choose to live in 257 Thayer look for an off-campus experience where they will be able to live intimately with a small network of friends.

Cronin said the hype surrounding 257 Thayer’s newness will eventually fizzle out. 257 Thayer “is going to be the hottest new thing like the iPhone 5,” she said. “Everybody has to have it, then everybody will be like, ‘Eh, whatever, it’s just an apartment.’”

  • Guest

    Sounds elitist 257 Thayer St…a place for the top 1% richest students!

  • TheRationale

    Envy is not a virtue.

  • ’09

    “I think the divide already exists,” said Simon Rubin ’16, who will also be living in a 257 Thayer triple. “I don’t think (257 Thayer) will add to it in any which way.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Comparing 257 thayer to average providence apartments or even average college hill apartments is flawed anyway. In real estate it’s location, location, location. Thayer street apartments/those within 1 block of it have always and will always be significantly more expensive. Additionally, 257 thayer offers a convenience that many parents – particularly wealthy parents – covet: the ability to have their child be individually liable for their portion of the rent. That’s a convenience that certainly can carry a bump in price.

    Rich people buy stuff poor people can’t afford. Do Brown students no longer go on vacations together where students have differing budgets and need to reconcile how to handle it?

    I genuinely can’t believe this building is getting as much ink as it is.

  • Evan

    the rents at 257 are no more expensive than the previous student housing units that were at this location. There were 52 students living there which rented at $900-1,100 per bed, per month. These units were unfurnished, no utilities were included, no washer/dryer no internet. The houses were 90 years old an in terrible shape.
    257 units are $1,150 per month. These units are brand new, come fully furnished, all utilities included with washer/dryers in each unit, private bedrooms, private bathrooms, full kitchens and living rooms with 42″ tv and 70 free channels. Bldg has a community room, group study room, fitness center, landscaped garden and full time management
    257 has the primo location, on Thayer, across from the bookstore, one block from Nelson Fitness Center
    Real estate is all about location and amenities. Comparing 257 with some fleabag, rat infested rental 12 blocks away is just poor reporting. The highest off campus rents have always been around the 257 location. Brown just bought the site across the street and vacated the 42 units there which rented from $850/month/bed unfurnished and without any utilities
    Even the on campus apts at The Minden rent for $940/month/bed. Students rent them for 8 months (2 semesters) and during the summer Brown rents them out for their summer program ($5000).