The University has revised its plan for the two-building residential hall on Brook Street in an effort to incorporate input from Providence residents and to reduce the impact of the dormitory on the surrounding community, according to an April 5 announcement.
The two residential buildings will face one another on both sides of Brook Street between Charlesfield and Power Streets, on the southern side of campus. The new plan reduces the size of the buildings by 16,000 square feet, moves the buildings outside of the Providence Historic District boundary by adding green spaces and removes a proposed rental retail space that would have been on the first floor.
Construction on the residence hall is expected to begin in October 2021 with the goal of housing junior and senior year students by fall 2023.
The original plan, approved by Providence’s City Plan Commission in June 2020, included an 80,000 square foot building and a 50,000 square foot building, which in total would have housed 375 undergraduates. The revision has lowered the number of students that would be housed in the two buildings to 350 and reduced the height of the structures, but “maintains Brown’s commitment to increasing its on-campus housing inventory,” according to the announcement.
Community concerns about the impact on of expanded on and off-campus student housing on nearby residents drove the plan’s revisions. The concerns include designs that do not correspond with the neighborhood’s character and increased rental prices that could push out community members, The Herald previously reported.
“This revised plan enables us to advance that goal (of mitigating impacts of student housing), strengthen the undergraduate residential experience and do so with an approach that reduces the scale of the project, transforms two gravel parking lots into new green spaces, on both sides of Brook Street and preserves and respects the character of the surrounding streets,” said Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey '91 MA'06 in the announcement.
To create green space and to house additional students, the University will also purchase 126 Power Street, a historic district property that includes a residential home.
The Herald previously reported that some students were concerned that local businesses currently on Brook Street, such as Bagel Gourmet and the Eastside Mini-Mart, would be demolished once construction on the new dormitory begins. The Providence Police Department will also be vacating that lot to accommodate the new residence halls, The Herald previously reported.
These buildings and businesses are still set to be vacated and demolished so that the new residence halls can be built.
“The University began working with the tenants in the commercial building at 250 Brook St. in early 2020, when we selected an architect for the residence hall project and began moving forward with project planning,” University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald. “We have engaged in discussion with each of those tenants to support relocation efforts and expect that existing tenants will vacate the current spaces this summer.”
The Providence Preservation Society supported the University’s intention to expand student housing but had concerns about maintaining the historic character of the neighborhood. The University plans to meet with the PPS April 7 to discuss the revisions, at which time it will release a public statement, according to Brent Runyon, executive director of PPS.
The addition of the green spaces and landscaping will “create a more natural transition to the sidewalks and streets, addressing both the scale of the neighborhood and recognizing the edge of the University’s campus,” according to the announcement.
The design of the buildings intends to complement that of the surrounding community, and “the building entry points and services are purposefully positioned at the north side to reduce the impact of student foot traffic on local neighbors,” said Craig Barton, University architect and professor of the practice in architecture, in the announcement.
“As the design process for the green spaces begins in the coming weeks, the University is committed to creating them as publicly accessible spaces that welcome members of both the Brown and Providence communities,” Barton said.
Community members will be able to provide input on the revised plan, including during an upcoming virtual community meeting hosted by Ward 1 Councilman John Goncalves ’13 MA’15 on April 8. The panel will include several University representatives, and residents will have the opportunity to ask questions and voice any concerns.
Katy Pickens is the managing editor of newsroom and vice president of The Brown Daily Herald's 133rd Editorial Board. She previously served as a Metro section editor covering College Hill, Fox Point and the Jewelry District, housing & campus footprint and activism, all while maintaining a passion for knitting tiny hats.