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University proposes ‘green wall’ for local residents

University, community discuss neighborhood privacy concerns at Wednesday meeting

University representatives presented a plan to build a “green wall” on the south end of the Erickson Athletic Complex to members of the Stimson Ave. Neighborhood Association during a meeting Wednesday night.

The plan suggests turning an existing path next to Dexter Wall, which runs between Nelson Fitness Center and Terrence Murray Baseball Stadium, into a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees as well as small shrubbery. The proposal, designed by Joe Wahler of the Cambridge-based STIMSON landscape architecture studio, would provide a barrier to block light and noise from the Erickson Complex while also closing off the current path that leads to fields. Those walking to the fields from Hope Street would have to traverse a new path that avoids the Dexter Wall. The Dexter Wall and several chain fences are the only barriers between the complex and residents’ backyards.

Al Dahlberg, assistant vice president of government and community relations for the University, said the proposal came as a result of community concerns. At the community discussion Wednesday night, residents were generally receptive to the plan, though apprehensive about the University’s overall relationship to the community.

“The University can be a good neighbor, but I find that they don’t think about the neighbors first,” said Michael Marino, chairman of the Providence Historic District Commission and resident of the neighborhood. “Ultimately, they come around, and today is a good example of that.”

Residents living near Brown’s athletic facilities had long complained about bright lights at stadiums late at night, as well as incidents of trespassing from local residents traveling over the wall to the complex. At the meeting, one resident discussed removing his garbage from next to the wall after a trespasser used it to climb the fence; another pointed to wind created from the open field space, telling the story of a glass table in his backyard being blown against his house and shattering.

“We still have a material amount of light and, of course, noise,” Marino said. “We have to have shades in all of (our sons’) rooms because it would be too much light when they’re going to bed.”

Some residents voiced doubts about the University’s commitment to the neighborhood.

“I think they’ve made an attempt to contact the neighborhood, but at times I wonder how quickly they can act on some of the things that they promise,” said Laura Samit, a Stimson Ave. neighborhood resident who has been a regular at neighborhood association meetings for two years.

Others were particularly concerned about the use of large machinery in the construction process — describing previous construction as “six weeks of earthquakes.” 

The University aims to finish the project within a three to four month period, which could begin as early as this spring. Dahlberg stressed the importance of preserving Dexter Wall in the construction process, which has existed since 1824, when Providence socialite Ebenezer Knight Dexter had the city construct a stone wall around his property.


Ben Glickman

Ben Glickman was the 132nd editor-in-chief and president of The Brown Daily Herald. He previously served as a metro editor and oversaw the College Hill and Fox Point beat, in addition to writing and editing about city politics, COVID-19 and the 2020 election. He is the co-creator of the Bruno Brief, The Herald's first news podcast. In his free time, he is passionate about birds (also tweeting) and eating way too spicy food. 


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