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Brown students express opinions on new residence hall plan

Students lament the uncertain future of Bagel Gourmet, East Side Mini-Mart

Students expressed mixed reactions to the University’s Feb. 18 announcement of a plan for a new residential community on campus.

Adding close to four hundred beds to the inventory of housing available to students, the new residence hall will help ensure that the University can continue to provide housing in accordance with the six semester on-campus living requirement, The Herald previously reported. The plan calls for two buildings to be built on Brook Street between Charlesfield Street and Power Street at the current site of a parking lot and several businesses frequented by students.

Students on campus lamented the conditions of existing dorm buildings and questioned why the University is not prioritizing renovations of existing structures. “It bothers me a little bit that they’re focusing resources on building a new dorm when I feel like a lot of the dorms we currently have aren’t in super great repair,” said Anna House ’20. House, who lived in Graduate Center her sophomore and junior years, said that the dorm is in need of extensive renovations to improve living conditions for students.

“I haven’t really thought about (the new dorm) too much,” said Amory Tillinghast-Raby ’21.5. “As a junior, I won’t really have the chance to take advantage of the building. Taking some pressure off of the Providence housing market is a good thing though, and from what I understand, this dorm will do that.”

The plan quickly drew backlash on Dear Blueno — a student-run Facebook page that solicits and posts anonymous submissions — with many commenters expressing concerns about the proposed residence hall’s effect on small businesses and the appearance of the neighborhood.

The future of Bagel Gourmet, an eatery close to residence halls on the south side of campus, sparked concern among students. One of Bagel Gourmet’s locations currently occupies space in a building that is set to be demolished to make way for the new residence hall. 

“It’s a great initiative because Brown definitely needs more new housing,” said Lucy Spahr’ 22.5. “On the other hand, I think it’s really unfortunate that they’re taking down Bagel Gourmet, but there’s another one on Thayer (Street), so it’s not too bad,” she said.

With an estimated completion date of fall 2022, current sophomores and upperclassmen will have already graduated before the residence hall’s opening. “I am a little disappointed that it won’t be ready until after I graduate,” Spahr added.

Though no building design has yet been created for the new dorm, some students also expressed concern that the dorm might not fit with the rest of campus in reaction to photos posted on Dear Blueno of the Deborah Berke Partners architecture firm's previous work. “I’m totally a stickler for the traditional architecture on Brown’s campus,” said Dorrit Corwin ’23.

University student group Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere expressed admiration for the planned residence hall, forecasting that it would drive down rent prices on College Hill. “We applaud the University’s recognition that relieving the University community’s impact on the surrounding housing market is an important responsibility of University leadership,” wrote HOPE Director Will Gomberg ’20 in an email to The Herald.

Lucas Gelfond ’23 echoed the sentiment expressed by HOPE, displaying excitement for the new residence hall and the impact it will have on the community. “It’s really awesome that Brown is being thoughtful in the way that we impact the Providence community at large regarding housing prices,” he said.

Correction: A previous version of this article quoted Dorrit Corwin '23 as reacting to photos of what the new residence hall would look like. In fact, no design or photos of the new residence hall yet exist, and Corwin was referencing photos of the Deborah Berke Partners architecture firm's previous work. The Herald regrets the error.

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