Letters to the Editor, Opinions

Letter: Destroying the UEL would betray the community

Thursday, February 8, 2018

To the Editor:

I fully understand the need for a larger, upgraded performance space. I lobbied for years with success to build a new performing arts space in Greenwich, Connecticut, for public school students.

However, consider this experience of a P’14. I did not pursue Brown in the late 70s because Providence and parts of College Hill were so ugly, only to return around 2009 or 2010 to a historically preserved city and campus — so much credit goes to Providence preservationists and a relatively cooperative Brown development plan.

Of course, the Hill now feels a tad overbuilt, but there are respectful renovations and glimpses of the diverse land use and structures of the Hill’s distinguished past. The cluster of buildings and open garden space around the Urban Environmental Lab provides exactly that glimpse — delightful space staking a hold to the past as it’s been reused, recycled, renewed and restored over time. It is a physical embodiment of what conservation and preservation has meant to students, neighbors, gardeners, visiting parents, historic tourists and to the landscape of Brown. The loss of this area would be an affront beyond the removal of building materials and the destruction of the harmony of this neighborhood; a super structure in this footprint is not context-sensitive design, and Brown owes that to neighbors, students and preservationists.

I encourage those professional preservationists of Providence to team up with motivated students to get a national or state registration nomination in place; I’ll help support the legal battle if Brown is foolish enough to pursue that. And no, my child was not an environmental studies major.

Laurie Heiss P’14

One Comment

  1. Brent Runyon says:

    Please shoot me an email at brunyon at ppsri.org. The Providence Preservation Society is engaged with Brown on this in numerous ways and we invite your support. Also, the five buildings are, in fact, contributing structures to the College Hill National Register Historic District, and have been since the 1970s. They are not in a City of Providence Local Historic District, however, affording them little legal protection from demolition.
    Brent Runyon
    Executive Director
    Providence Preservation Society

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