New health and wellness center and residence hall welcomes first undergraduate residents

About 114 Brown sophomores, juniors and seniors have moved into the new building, where they will reside while enrolled for this year’s summer term; the building’s full opening will coincide with the Fall 2021 semester’s launch.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — As students arrived on campus in early May for the start of Brown’s summer term, the University welcomed undergraduates into a new, state-of-the-art residence hall for the first time in 30 years.

About 114 sophomores, juniors and seniors moved into Brown’s newly completed health and wellness center and residence hall at 450 Brook St. during a staggered, socially distanced move-in event from May 9 to 11. The building, between Cushing and Meeting streets, is directly adjacent to green space on Pembroke Field and a short walk to Brown’s Erickson Athletic Complex and (in the other direction) College Hill’s bustling commercial district on Thayer Street.

The residence hall boasts suites with single rooms and standalone singles, single bathrooms, and open common areas that feature bright natural daylight and views of Pembroke Field. It also includes state-of-the-art common kitchen areas, which will be accessible in the fall when the building’s spaces open in full.

Koren Bakkegard, associate vice president for campus life and dean of students, called the new residence hall an outstanding addition to undergraduate student life at Brown.

"We are so very excited to see the opening of the new residence hall,” she said. “This beautifully designed and constructed residence will provide highly desirable housing for upper-division students including single rooms with ample community space and shared kitchens in one portion of the building and comfortable four-person suites in the other. When the programmatic elements are launched in the fall, students will benefit from an extraordinary immersive living-learning experience at Brown.”

This week’s student move-in marks the first stage in opening the new health and wellness center and residence hall, which will fully realize its vision at the start of the fall semester. The University broke ground in November 2019 and one year ago celebrated the completion of its exterior structure in an event featuring project leaders from Facilities Management, Shawmut Design and Construction (construction management), William Rawn Associates (architecture and design) and other partners. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the building remained on schedule; its first residents are enrolled for Brown’s summer term, the last of three “de-densified” semesters in the 2020-21 academic year to allow for reduced occupancy on campus during the pandemic.

By next fall, the building will bring together in the same space services and programs instrumental to students’ physical and emotional well-being — including Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, Brown Emergency Medical Services and BWell, the University’s health promotion program. It will also welcome a cohort of more than 162 students who share a deep commitment to sustaining healthy lifestyles and promoting health in the Brown community and beyond.

The building was constructed with generous financial support from two lead gifts — a donation from the family of the late Duncan MacMillan, and a gift from Barry Sternlicht and Mimi Reichert Sternlicht — which enabled Brown to advance the project from a vision into a completed project.

“The new health and wellness center and residence hall presents Brown with an extraordinary opportunity to be innovative in how we support the health and well-being of students,” said Dr. Vanessa Britto, executive director of health and wellness at Brown. “By bringing together many of the services and programs that focus on health and wellness, the center will create a campus-wide environment that guides all students as they learn how to care for themselves physically and emotionally.”

She added that the chance to welcome student residents this summer in advance of the health and wellness cohort’s move-in next fall will allow for the mission of the new space to begin to take root among the broader student community.

“This is going to be an inclusive space that makes a statement about how fundamental the health and well-being of all of our students really is,” Britto said. “Welcoming summer residents is really an opportunity for us to articulate and expand this message to the full Brown community.”

Rising senior Maria Zou, who will serve as a summer residential coordinator in the new building, said the students on her floor have had an “overwhelmingly positive” response to their first days in the space. “Everyone feels very lucky and grateful to be here this term,” she said.

Zou said she was struck by the smell of fresh paint and the openness of the common spaces located on each floor when she arrived last Friday, a few days ahead of the summer residents with whom she’ll work.

“Instead of a traditional dorm, where oftentimes common spaces are sectioned off in separate rooms, the common areas are an open, integrated space,” she said.  “It makes the space feel a lot bigger. I could definitely see myself sitting there and spending a lot of time in those common spaces.”

Zou also noted the abundant natural light and scenic views in the hallways and common areas.

“There are floor-to-ceiling windows that open right out onto Pembroke Field, and when you look out, it just feels like you’re in the right place,” she said. “It’s just beautiful.”