Date June 1, 2023
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Brown to publicly present plans for life sciences building, athletics practice facility in June

Pending approval from the City of Providence, the University plans to build a new laboratory space for cutting-edge life sciences research and boost its athletics program with a proposed new indoor training facility.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — After key approvals by its governing board in late May, Brown University will present plans for a new life sciences building and athletics practice facility during a series of public meetings in June.

The Corporation of Brown University at its recent business meeting approved the site for construction of Brown's planned integrated life sciences building, announced in 2022. The selected location for the 300,000-square-foot, seven-story research facility will be on Richmond Street in the heart of Providence's Jewelry District, across from Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School near Ship and Elbow streets.

With state-of-the-art laboratory space for scientists working on pressing health challenges, the building will serve as a new focal point in a neighborhood becoming a nexus for biomedical innovation. It will contribute to the vitality and energy of the streetscape with publicly accessible interior spaces on the ground floor and incorporated green spaces on site.

A separate Corporation vote paved the way for the University to move forward with selecting an architect for an indoor practice facility planned at the Erickson Athletic Complex on the northeast corner of the College Hill campus. As envisioned, the 76,000-square-foot facility would replace the current Meister-Kavan Field, moving existing activities to an enclosed building and mitigating noise impacts on neighbors. The building would also advance Brown's capacity for varsity, intramural and recreational sports activity.

"Our goal is to move forward with two projects that advance University goals for research and for athletics in a way that simultaneously aligns with the aspirations and needs of the State of Rhode Island, the City of Providence and the College Hill and Jewelry District neighborhoods."

Russell Carey Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy at Brown
Russell Carey at podium

Brown leaders will detail plans for both projects in meetings with local residents, neighborhood associations, community groups and elected officials through the end of June. Input from those discussions will inform project plans and an Institutional Master Plan that Brown will submit to the City of Providence. The city requires a formal master planning process preceding new phases of physical development for higher education and health care institutions across Providence. 

“As part of our broader commitment to being a good neighbor, Brown’s planning process is open and iterative with ample opportunity for input from members of the local community,” said Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy. “Our goal is to move forward with two projects that advance University goals for research and for athletics in a way that simultaneously aligns with the aspirations and needs of the State of Rhode Island, the City of Providence and the College Hill and Jewelry District neighborhoods.”

The University prepares a new Institutional Master Plan at five-year intervals. While Brown Corporation decisions mark key institutional milestones for the projects, Brown’s planning efforts are carefully coordinated with the City of Providence. Brown most recently submitted a full IMP in 2017, and updated it with amendments to account for plans developed in the intervening years. 

University leaders expect to submit a new plan for review by Providence’s City Plan Commission in August, outlining the integrated life sciences building and athletics projects in detail.

State-of-the-art life science labs and publicly accessible spaces

The Corporation’s site approval moves Brown one step closer to realizing a long-held vision to create an integrated life sciences building with state-of-the-art laboratory space for researchers in biology, medicine, brain science, bioengineering and public health. Dr. Mukesh K. Jain, senior vice president for health affairs and dean of medicine and biological sciences, said a modern facility with the lab space, technology and infrastructure to enable cutting-edge research will enable the University to make an even greater positive impact, while advancing Rhode Island’s growing presence in the life sciences sector.

“The life sciences at Brown continue to grow at a robust rate, and this building meets a critical infrastructure need that ensures our research and discovery will continue to grow and thrive, and impact communities in meaningful ways,” Jain said. “By developing the laboratory capacity of Brown and our partners, we can also help propel Rhode Island forward as a center for biotech research and innovation.”

The facility will be located directly between Brown’s medical school building at 222 Richmond St. and Laboratories for Molecular Medicine at 70 Ship St. The location will offer scientists the opportunity to collaborate with researchers and physicians at Brown's Warren Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health and affiliated hospital partners. The facility — which will be made possible, in part, by donor funds — will replace University-owned buildings at 233 and 261 Richmond St., providing ample space for Brown research centers to grow and to flourish, said University Architect Craig Barton.

“The Richmond Street site meets all of our key considerations for the integrated life sciences building,” Barton said. “Situated near the medical school and other labs, the location will encourage new opportunities for integrated and collaborative engagement among Providence’s growing biomedical research community, while also offering the space and flexibility we’ll need for emerging, cutting-edge research activity and growth.”

Architects from TenBerke and Ballinger are working with Brown leaders and key stakeholders to design the facility, which will support research teams from Brown’s Division of Biology and Medicine, School of Engineering and Carney Institute for Brain Science, among other units. As outlined in early schematic designs being developed (which include overall building layouts, rough design sketches and preliminary plans for programming), the building will feature open labs, offices and collaborative spaces, all designed with the flexibility to meet the shifting research needs of scientists over time.

To create an integrated landscape that promotes pedestrian activity and reduces stormwater and heat island effects, the University plans to create new urban green spaces that strengthen connections between Richmond, Elbow and Ship streets while providing outdoor seating and gathering areas for public respite and enjoyment. The building is also expected to include a ground floor café and community spaces, offering publicly accessible event rooms and exhibition space. Brown is also exploring the potential for a teaching space.

Brown will seek approval from the city for a seven-story, 130-foot building. This will match the height of a nearby building at 150 Richmond Street being developed by Ancora L&G that will house a new public health lab for the State of Rhode Island as well as laboratory space for Brown and other academic and commercial life science entities. The massing approach will include setbacks and architectural shaping at the building’s top and bottom to ensure it feels nestled into the surrounding neighborhood.

Jain noted that the ILSB is one instrumental priority as Brown makes new investments in space, staffing and infrastructure to support its Operational Plan for Investing in Research, a roadmap to propel research across all fields of study to new levels of excellence. The project will add to a series of major Brown investments in the Jewelry District, now home to significant academic, research, administrative and residential space. The expanding array of life sciences activity prompted by Brown’s presence has helped to attract new development from private partners including Wexford Science + Technology, Ancora L&G and CV Properties, among others, supporting economic vibrancy in Providence and supporting city and state workforce development goals.

As the University completes its Institutional Master Plan and works through city reviews, an ILSB project team with representatives from Brown, TenBerke, Ballinger and Shawmut Design and Construction will launch an extensive pre-construction phase to refine building programming, advance design concepts and assess building materials and systems. While a target timeline for the full project will emerge and be refined during the planning, and with continued progress in fundraising, the University estimates construction completion in the range of three to four years.

Indoor practice facility for Brown Athletics

The approval to proceed with selecting an architect for a new indoor practice facility to replace an existing outdoor field marks the first step in planning for a Brown Athletics resource that will help student-athletes compete at the highest level. The facility would enable coaches to optimize training for teams, and engage more campus community members in club sports, intramural activities and wellness initiatives.

Architect selection for the athletics project is expected to take three months, kicking off a process toward planning, designing and building the facility, pending additional approvals. The University expects the project to be funded in its entirety by donors.

“Our strategic plan started with foundational beliefs that all students should have access to wellness programs, which is important not just for physical well-being, but for mental and emotional well-being,” said Vice President for Athletics and Recreation Grace Calhoun. “An indoor field house will transform the types of programs we can offer and the quality of the everyday experience for students — everyone from the casual weekly visitor to the most competitive varsity student-athlete who wants to compete for a national championship.”

Brown’s current Meister-Kavan Field, an outdoor practice field for varsity teams, is envisioned as the proposed site for the 76,000-square-foot indoor facility. The site is located within Brown's athletic complex directly behind the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center. The project would replace the outdoor practice field with an indoor facility featuring a 52,000-square-foot turf playing surface, an entry lobby, restrooms and space for equipment storage. 

The new building seeks to address a critical infrastructure need for Brown Athletics — a lack of indoor training space for field sports. Given weather conditions in New England, Brown’s baseball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, rugby, soccer and softball teams have insufficient time for outdoor training from November through April. This puts teams at a competitive disadvantage compared with schools in different climates or with indoor practice facilities. An indoor field house would provide a controlled environment for year-round training, regardless of weather.

The facility would also allow Brown to expand intramural sports programs and grow undergraduate participation in recreation, creating a new space for year-round wellness activities ranging from soccer and kickball to flag football, ultimate frisbee and group fitness classes. Brown Athletics administrators note that there is high demand for physical fitness activities, and new intramural programs made possible by an indoor facility could more than double the number of student participants to 2,500.

Moving current sports activities from Meister-Kavan Field to an indoor facility would mitigate noise and other impacts to nearby residential neighborhoods. And because the building will not be a spectator venue, Brown leaders anticipate no increase in traffic or parking congestion.

A recent study by transportation planning company VHB assessed parking and traffic conditions near the Erickson Athletic Complex with a focus on patterns related to athletic events. The findings indicated sufficient area parking: Of the 2,044 on-street and lot parking spaces within an 8-minute walk of the complex, roughly 60% were occupied in peak times, on a sample of Saturdays throughout the spring sports season. The study also identified underused Brown parking lots, which the University expects to use in new ways to expand general parking capacity in the area — for example, redirecting visiting teams to these lots.

Pending additional approvals, construction for the indoor practice facility is targeted to begin in Summer 2024 and last approximately 18 months.

[Editor's Note: This story was updated on June 9, 2023, to include information about funding for each project.]