Demolition for the Brook Street dormitories will begin on or about Oct. 18, according to University officials who spoke at a virtual info session about the residential halls Wednesday afternoon.
The University also presented a more complete timeline for the project: Construction on the dormitory buildings themselves will begin in January or February 2022, and the project will house juniors and seniors beginning in the 2023-2024 school year.
The two residential halls will occupy space on both sides of Brook Street between Charlesfield and Power streets. Construction is pushing forward despite objections from some College Hill residents concerned about the scale of the dorms and the demolition of two historic homes and local businesses on the lot, The Herald previously reported.
The dormitories will house 350 students, and there will be green spaces at the south ends of each residence hall. The street entrance on the west dormitory will feature a large timber walkway, and this building will have one retail space on the first floor. “We are proposing to include about 1,300 square feet of retail,” said University Architect Craig Barton ’78. “We have yet to determine who the tenant for that will be.”
There is also space for a “future proposed residence” diagonally across from the Power Street parking lot, which may be developed in the future but will remain as green space for now.
Paul Dietel, assistant vice president for planning, design and construction, said at the webinar that construction will be from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. He also described noise mitigation strategies to be implemented, including minimized vehicle idling and monitoring noise levels on site.
Kikuyo Shaw ’24 lives in Barbour Hall, a block away from the construction site. “I don’t have particularly strong feelings about the noise since I’m not a light sleeper, although I can definitely acknowledge how annoying or inconvenient it may be to consistently hear construction early in the morning,” she wrote in a message to The Herald.
The sidewalks on Brook Street will also be closed to pedestrians during working hours.
East Side Mini Mart closed after 28 years last month in advance of demolition for the project, The Herald previously reported. On Oct. 3, Bagel Gourmet, a beloved breakfast staple for Brown students, posted on Instagram to announce the closure of its Brook Street location after 25 years.
“Our Brook Street location will be moving to Meeting Street (even closer to Thayer!),” read the post's caption. “In the meantime, there will be a disruption in the bagel production, meaning all locations will not be carrying bagels until we have settled into the new location.”
These businesses have known about the plans for the Brook Street dormitory since February 2020, University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald. “Since then, we have engaged in discussion with each tenant to support their relocation efforts, including discussion about potential relocation to other Brown-owned buildings.”
Toby Arment ’23, University relations director for Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere and chair for ResCouncil, a student group that advises the Office of Residential Life, hopes the dormitory will help to reduce the strain that off-campus student housing puts on the rental market for local residents.
“I am very glad that Brown is taking an initiative to help alleviate the burden that students cause on housing,” Arment said. The impact “is immense, and it really needs to be alleviated.”
The Brook Street dorm is being constructed in order to allow students to live on campus for six out of eight semesters, Deitel said during the webinar.
Arment said he thinks the new dorm will help in that mission, so long as class sizes remain steady. “This will be for absolutely nothing if (the University) uses this as a way to increase enrollment,” Arment said.
“Our goal really is to both complement and reinforce the sense of place of the campus and the neighborhood, and also to make spaces that are universally accessible and sustainable and inviting for use all year round,” said Noah Biklen ’97, a partner of Deborah Burke Partners, an architecture firm that has been overseeing the project.
But throughout the proposal process, several Ward 1 residents were apprehensive about the new dormitories, The Herald previously reported. More than 1,100 residents signed a petition asking the University to change the design to better match the character and look of the community and to preserve historic properties located on the lot.
The Herald previously reported that these requests were largely denied, although retail space was reintroduced per the residents’ request.
Clark previously told The Herald that the buildings’ heights had already been reduced, and that the University has “worked diligently to support the relocation of the three residential houses, partnering with local community organizations and elected officials.” The University has also offered $75,000 per house to go toward potential relocation costs.
In a Sept. 29 op-ed for the Providence Journal, Executive Director for the Providence Preservation Society Brent Runyon and President of the Fox Point Neighborhood Association Nick Cicchitelli detailed their continued concerns with the University’s response to community complaints and their unwillingness to preserve the homes on the property.
“In recent months, Brown has largely refused to downsize its designs to align with the scale of nearby College Hill and Fox Point,” they wrote. “In September, we asked the University to save several nearby historic homes in order to retain some of the charm and livability of our neighborhood. Again, Paxson refused.”
They concluded the piece by writing, “University leaders need to demonstrate that they value the community in which they exist.”
Through conversations with multiple community groups, "we’ve addressed questions, gathered feedback and considered input from community members who hold a variety of views on the project’s elements," Clark previously wrote in an email to The Herald.
Arment stressed that the University has a significant role in shaping the community. Students, he added, should be aware of that reality.
“I hope that Brown students continue to be conscientious about our impact on off-campus housing and the community that we inhabit,” Arment said.
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.