‘Acquire, Neglect, Obscure, Demolish’

Brown University’s relentless march to the sea continues with Brook Street in the crosshairs once again. The Fox Point Neighborhood Association has been rallying opposition to two proposed dorms on either side of Brook Street. Seen here is the Bagel Gourmet plaza and (below) the buildings on Charlesfield Street, all of which will be razed to make way for a 5-story dorm on the west side of the street. However, one issue stands in their way:

While Brown has already obtained permission from the City to build these structures, a portion of the dorm proposed for the west side of the street is located in the local Historic District and is therefore subject to approval by the Historic District Commission. Brown appeared before the Commission in February, but met with such disapproval from neighbors and from Commissioners that it requested a “continuance” in order to regroup and try again later this Spring.

(The Historic District Commission (HDC) held a virtual meeting on March 8. Go here to see images from Brown’s presentation — click on Case 21.011.)

Aware that only a small portion of the plan comes under the purview of the HDC, the Providence Preservation Society (PPS) has nonetheless issued a statement on the entire proposal. Among their objections is this one concerning the Bagel Gourmet side of the street:

Despite the architects’ stated intentions, the massing appears monumental, and we suggest that the volume and height of the western building be concentrated at the center of the block and/or towards Charlesfield and the rest of campus with a more deferential setback of upper floors at the southern end. Greater variation in the facade design can help to minimize the massing.

The title of this piece is taken from College Hill’s Grim Reaper by Brown Daily Herald staff writer John Wrenn in which he describes how Brown’s history of demolitions, from the1950s to present, all conform to this four-word strategy that has enabled Brown to reconfigure our streetscape to suit its own needs, destroying the charm of the very neighborhood that attracted so many of its students to Providence in the first place.

The playbook of progress is simple: acquire, neglect, obscure and demolish.

This article is fascinating. Mr. Wrenn also focuses on the school’s current efforts to exclude five of their buildings from a historic district proposed by the Providence Preservation Society. We will cover that separately.


College Hill Neighborhood Association meeting via Zoom — 7pm, April 5

Fox Point Neighborhood Association meeting via Zoom — 7pm, April 12


Charlesfield Street

3 thoughts on “‘Acquire, Neglect, Obscure, Demolish’”

  1. Violeta White

    All construction that has been carried out by Brown in the last ten years is horrendous. They get their mouths full about reparations for the bad past of Brown in the nineteenth century and they want to remove a couple of statues from the campus, as if those were the important things while they do not pay any attention to this systematic lack of respect for our environment. Beauty and character counts.

  2. Brown U. got away without paying taxes to Providence; now that they are paying taxes, they get privileged parking spaces. Providence taxpayers don’t get that. We residents are second class citizens here. Brown U. and RISD, that art school, has destroyed beautiful artful structures and replaced them with banal structures. They are like a virus in the city. First came the builders in the 1800’s, then came the destroyers. The banner on their construction sites shouldn’t read “Brown is building.” it should read “Brown destroys.” It destroys the historic quality of this city. Contrast Brook Street to Thayer Street. Faceless buildings have been erected on Brook Street that kill the chance of renewing the sidewalk life that Thayer Street has. They don’t build mindfully and they don’t build like they live here. The majority of Brook street is a pass-by. There is nothing interesting that would attract people to linger there, not the rectangular glass and stainless steel building near Louie’s Restaurant. They just suck out the potential for vitality when they destroy and build. We live in this city; we don’t want our neighborhoods to look like a fleeting memory for temporary passers-by. We like the historical character of our city; we don’t need outsiders lke Brown and RISD to transform our city into something that resembles a Jetson cartoon.

  3. Will Jackson

    Thanks for the notice. I was appalled when I visited the area last week for the first time in a year or so. What a bloody mess, construction-wise. Area parking is impossible (dozens of streets reserved for Brown faculty only from 8-10 a.m., when did that occur??). Thayer Street is torn-up, unnavigable; and in fact, it is a dreadfully uninteresting district at this point. The day they come for Louis Restaurant is the day we take to the streets (half-kidding)….looks like they’re almost there already.

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