PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University has revised its plans for a new two-building residence hall near the southern end of its College Hill campus, shaped by feedback shared by members of the Providence community in recent meetings.
As originally envisioned on a site approved by Providence’s City Plan Commission in June 2020, the project included buildings of 80,000 and 50,000 square feet, respectively, on the west and east sides of Brook Street between Charlesfield and Power streets. In revising the plan, Brown addressed concerns about building scale, the transition from the neighborhood to the residence hall site, overlap with the Providence Historic District and a planned retail space. The revised plan will:
- reduce the above-ground footprint and overall scale of the western building by 16,000 square feet, and include step-downs from five to three stories on both buildings, in response to local concerns about the Power Street streetscape;
- increase the setback distance between Power Street and the western building’s southern side, moving the structure outside of the Providence Historic District’s boundary line to enable new green space;
- add publicly accessible green spaces at the southern end of both buildings (at the two northern corners of the Brook and Power street intersection), creating transitions from the surrounding community to the residence hall site that complement the neighborhood’s character;
- and eliminate a planned retail space in the western building, addressing concerns from neighbors about new commercial activity and the potential for associated pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
While the revised plan will reduce the number of student beds by approximately 50, the buildings will together house approximately 350 students. The plan maintains Brown’s commitment to increasing its on-campus housing inventory, which not only strengthens the experience for undergraduates, but also alleviates the impact that the demand for off-campus rental units has upon local Providence neighborhoods.
Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy at Brown, said a core project goal is to mitigate challenges associated with students living away from the University’s physical campus. Those can include the effects of rising rents on residents, the range of quality among rental units, and graduate and medical students having to move farther from campus to find available housing.
“We recognize the significant positive impact that a larger inventory of Brown housing can have in alleviating local housing concerns among our neighbors in Providence,” Carey said. “This revised plan enables us to advance that goal, 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.”
Feedback from neighbors and community organizations was essential in informing the revised plan, he said.
“We are committed at Brown in each of our campus projects to meaningful engagement with our local community members,” Carey noted. “We appreciate the concerns expressed about our initial plan for this project, and the core elements of this revision respond to those concerns directly.”