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Distributed May 16, 2005
Contact Mark Nickel

Rebecca Barnes Named Director of Strategic Growth at Brown University

Rebecca G. Barnes has been named director of strategic growth at Brown University. She will begin her duties in mid-June, overseeing and coordinating the University’s potential expansion beyond its College Hill campus.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons announced today that the University has hired Rebecca G. Barnes, currently chief planner for the City of Boston, as its first director of strategic growth. Barnes will oversee and coordinate the University’s potential expansion beyond its historic College Hill campus. She will begin at Brown in mid-June.


“As a member of a University advisory council, Rebecca Barnes has been involved in discussions about Brown’s plans for growth beyond College Hill,” Simmons said. “Her professional experience as an urban planner and her involvement in complex public-private development projects will be immediately helpful as the University develops its plans for long-term strategic growth.”

In February 2005, the Brown Corporation endorsed a committee report on strategic growth, including recommendations that the University undertake a major initiative to secure options for campus expansion beyond what is available on College Hill. The Corporation encouraged the administration to continue gathering information, testing assumptions and working with government and community leaders to develop mutually beneficial public-private partnerships.

“Brown’s historic campus cannot fully accommodate the University’s plans for its future,” said Richard Spies, Brown’s executive vice president for planning, to whom Barnes will report. “By working closely with representatives of the city, state and business communities, we hope to ensure that Brown’s growth will benefit all of Rhode Island. In this newly created position, Rebecca Barnes will help ensure the success of those efforts.”

Rebecca Barnes

In a career that has taken her from New England to the Pacific Northwest and then back to New England, Barnes has developed expertise in public policy, project development and public-private partnerships. She graduated from Brown in 1971, with an academic concentration in American civilization and a focus on urban studies. After studying at the Boston Architectural Center and then earning her Master of Architecture degree at the University of Oregon in 1976, she returned to Providence, where she worked on downtown planning and preservation in the Mayor’s Office of Community Development.

From 1979 to 1988 Barnes was in Seattle, working as an urban designer for two firms and then for the Seattle Department of Community Development. In 1991, after three years in Boston working on urban design and facilities planning issues, she returned to Seattle as manager of the city’s comprehensive growth management plan, Towards a Sustainable Seattle.

In 1995, Barnes returned to Boston and has been involved with a variety of urban planning issues from transportation to community building to combating urban sprawl. Appointed the City of Boston’s first chief planner in 2001, she oversees a staff of 45 involved in design and development review, community planning, zoning, infrastructure planning, and mapping with 3-D and GIS technologies. She coordinates public planning for the 27 acres of new waterfront land that constitute Boston’s new Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and leads the Crossroads Initiative, a streetscape program of improvements to the network of streets that cross the greenway.

“Providence is one of the great small cities – a rich city in terms of its buildings, public places, people and institutions,” Barnes said. “I am really looking forward to returning to a place I love and to joining the conversations about the future of Brown University and the city itself. I'll be listening and learning, and then I hope to contribute to the Brown and Rhode Island traditions of quality place-making.”

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