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New apartments unveiled in Jewelry District

University community members have first right to lease 200 units of the new River House Apartments

Glitz with a waterfront view — River House Apartments has debuted in the Providence Jewelry District.

The development, located next to South Street Landing, is a modern structure in a historic, industrial district. Move-in days start June 1, said Development Leasing Specialist for River House Kasai Carter.

The apartments have been marketed to University students and staff through advertisements, fliers and free River House merchandise around campus. The visibility of the new establishment on campus is no coincidence, as the University has a “preferred marketing arrangement” with the building’s developer, wrote O’rya Hyde-Keller, writer for University Initiatives and Student Life, in an email to The Herald. “Brown students, faculty and staff have the first right to lease 200 of the apartments in River House during the pre-leasing period,” Hyde-Keller wrote.

“Residential buildings, such as River House, will help to support the ongoing growth of the Jewelry District as a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood and innovation district,” she added.

River House had its first open house Feb. 13, offering hard-hat tours, a chocolate fountain and a chance to win a Canada Goose jacket at the end of the night. The tours visited furnished apartments fitted with leather couches, induction stovetops, Amazon Alexas and doors you can unlock from your phone. Carter said the building has street access to “first world accommodations, Grubhub, UberEats, DoorDash, Chick-fil-a.”

Rents for the apartments, which are subject to change, run from around $1,895 for a 390 sq. ft. studio, $2,990 for a 763 sq. foot two bed/one bathroom, to $3,750 for a river view-guaranteed 1000 sq. ft. two bed/two bath option, according to their website. Other options with varying floor plans and prices are available. Tenants can choose to rent the apartment without furniture, knocking $100 off of the price. The apartment fee includes utilities, but not electricity.

Interest for the apartments has come from medical students, medical residents and Rhode Island School of Design students as well as “young professionals who have an interest in living in the Jewelry District,” Carter said. “We do understand we’re going to have some interest from international students as well as visiting scholars,” Carter added. At the moment, River House does not offer multilingual support staff, but Carter said “it would be good to have that resource available.”

Some believe that River House’s addition to Providence may oversaturate the high-end market for student apartments. River House joins 257 Thayer in the high-end student housing game. 257 Thayer declined to comment on the story or provide price points for their apartments. In addition to 257 Thayer and River House, the Hope Point Tower project, if constructed, would add luxury apartments to the Providence market, The Herald previously reported.

“I think there’s going to be some oversupply,” said Marty Saklad, a broker at Samson Realty, adding that he thinks “middle-of-the-road” price ranges are more in-demand. “The largest demand is in the middle of the market, people looking for about one grand and twelve to sixteen hundred,” Saklad said, highlighting potential renters from universities and affiliated with the hospital.

“Providence is not in need of additional luxury housing. This city needs commitment, both public and private, to create affordable housing for all residents of the city,” read a statement responding to River House from Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere.

Though some are concerned about the addition of high-end housing, others support the growth in the Jewelry District.

Wexford Science & Technology has developed River House, South Street Landing and an upcoming 744-car garage across the street from the buildings as a part of the effort. Wexford is a company that “deals with startups and scale-ups,” said Sharon Steele, acting president of the Jewelry District Association. Wexford looks for “areas where there’s a high density of high-performing universities,” Steele said, adding that the company seeks out districts with innovation and design talent.

The projects are part of an over-arching goal to develop the sparsely populated district into a community of “like-minded people, … venture capital, insurance types, physical designers, real estate developers. … If you bring all those people together in the right environment, it … allows them to interface,” Steele said.

Development for the Jewelry District is modeled after Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA, a “hub … of innovation technology,” Steele said. The square is also home to another Wexford project, the Cambridge Innovation Center, which houses several start ups and businesses. Steele hopes surplus workers will come from the CIC to new Providence developments. The JDA is also hoping a company will build a grocery store, pharmacy and other business developments.

Construction at River House was handled by Shawmut Construction, which was the highest-compensated independent contractor for the University in 2016 to the sum of $51,133,808, according to the University’s 990 forms of that year. “Pretty much any building at Brown right now, Shawmut has touched,” said Holly Mahoney, project coordinator for Shawmut Construction. The construction company was involved in the building of the Perry and Martin Granoff Center for the Creative Arts and the Engineering Research Center, among other projects.

Brett Swidey and Danny Michaelson, Providence College graduates, attended the open house. “I saw that it was in an up-and-coming area that I liked,” Swidey said. Both work at Medtronic in Plainsfield, MA, and cited the easy commute and relatively cheap rates in Providence as reasons to live in the city.

“The place was nice, I thought the floor-to-ceiling windows were gorgeous. … As the ceilings are concrete, you’re not gonna hear the clomping (above) which is a low-key plus,” Michaelson said. “A place like this is fifteen hundred dollars a month, … if it was in Boston or any other city, a place like this would be $3,000 a month or probably more.”

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Brett Swidey and Danny Michaelson work at Medtronic in Plainsfield, MA. In fact, Medtronic is located in Mansfield, MA.

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