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New student apartments proposed for Thayer

Gilbane Development Corporation has proposed the construction of a four-story luxury apartment complex on Thayer Street between Meeting Street and Euclid Avenue. The building would be modeled after others built around the country near college campuses, said Robert Gilbane '71 P'02 P'05, chief executive officer and chairman of the company.

The complex would consist of 102 furnished apartments, housing a total of 277 students in single bedrooms, each with a private bathroom and connected to a living room with a 42-inch plasma screen television, Gilbane said. Residents would have access to yoga studios, fitness clubs, group study rooms, an underground parking lot, bike storage and an interior courtyard encircled by the building complete with barbeque pits.

"We're developing the next level of student housing," Gilbane said. He estimated that rent for these "luxury" apartments would cost between $1,000 and $1,400 per month. Gilbane said the rate was comparable to rents at other buildings in the area, particularly considering that the estimates reflect 2014 price levels and include heating, cooling, electricity, cable and wireless Internet. "What the students are getting is a higher-quality apartment," he added.

Gilbane said he hoped the complex would help Thayer Street merchants by bringing students closer to their businesses. "A bunch of the merchants on Thayer Street have been struggling," he noted.

Gilbane embarked on the project nine months ago. He said he was discussing his apartment developments near colleges across the country while receiving a haircut at Squires Salon, and the barber suggested he build a similar complex for Brown students. While lecturing to a group of Brown students for the Entrepreneurship Program, he described his complexes near other campuses and asked how many students would be interested in living in similar apartments. "One hundred percent of students raised their hands," he said. "We think it would be a big hit."

"It's an upgrade for the street, for the neighborhood," said David Schwaery, owner of Squires Salon and the property on which the apartments would be built.

In addition to installing an underground parking structure, the company would repave the sidewalks, plant new trees and install historic streetlamps, Gilbane said.

The building's main entrance would be located on the corner of Euclid Avenue and Thayer Street, where Sahara is currently located, and the apartments would be located within the block behind the Thayer Street fronts. Mark Najib, owner of Sahara, was unaware of the proposal before speaking with The Herald and declined to comment on the proposal before discussing it further withSchwaery.

"That building will fit in perfectly with the Thayer Street neighborhood," Schwaery said. Gilbane and his architects studied the East Side's architecture to plan a building that would complement the area.

Schwaery currently rents to about 15 students. "I see how dangerous it is for open homes, the way they are now," he said, noting that the enclosed nature of the building would create a "safety envelope" for the students.

Schwaery said though he is excited by the prospect of the complex, he is also cautious — the proposal will need the Providence City Council's approval before work can begin.

If the plan is approved, construction would begin in June 2013 and be completed in time for the 2014 school year, Gilbane said. The company has reached out to make the University aware of its plans, but it is building the complex independent of the University as a purely private enterprise.

"Brown welcomes projects and activities that strengthen the character and offerings of the Thayer Street district and that are consistent with what we understand to be in the interests of the College Hill Neighborhood Association and others with a stake in the success of the area," wrote Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, in an email to The Herald.

Gilbane Development presented its proposal at a recent College Hill Neighborhood Association board meeting. The group is still reviewing the proposal and declined to comment on it.


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