Brown’s Expansion Plan Relaunched

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


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Brown University went back to the drawing board for a new, major construction project on campus.

Brown University has put forth a new plan for a performing arts center on the East Side of Providence, after a proposal introduced last year drew opposition as it would have demolished four historic properties owned by Brown and moved one to accommodate the new facility. 

Now, Brown says a newer, smaller arts center -- situated between Angell and Olive Streets -- would only require one historic building to be moved, but, according to Brown, could require a partial street closure just off of Thayer Street. 

"I've never seen [Brown] moderate its wishes to this degree and it is quite fascinating," said former State Representative Ray Rickman, who was a vocal opponent of the first plan. "They have to know their original proposal was...wrong-headed."

Rickman spoke to the university touting only needing to move one historic structure -- the Sharpe House -- to a new location. 

"The Sharpe House is on two of the most important cross streets [on the East Side]. Moving it lessens the historic district," said Rickman. "Thousands [of people] saw it before, hundreds might see it now. The out of town tourists won't see it."

"If this was a football game, we'd been seen as having a win," said Rickman. "But this is an 80% win. This is about the protection of a historic community." 

Previous Plan Shelved

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The Lucien Sharpe Carriage House was in jeopardy under the previous plan; it would be retained at its current location under the new one.

As GoLocal reported in December, "Brown Students and Faculty Join Community in Opposition to Plan to Demo Historic Buildings:"

Neighbors, preservationists, urban planners, Brown faculty, Brown students, and alumni voiced their opposition to the proposal to demolish four historic buildings on Providence's East Side. The criticism of the plan came during a meeting of the Providence Plan Commission which saw some of the top experts in Rhode Island soundly criticize the proposal to build a new performing arts center.

VIDEO: See Meeting Footage HERE

"There needs to be a wake-up call that [Brown's Institutional Master Plan] fails to protect the residents and taxpayers," said neighbor Christopher Tompkins. "College Hill is one of the best attributes they have -- and we're not being appreciated."

Brown announced their changes on Tuesday:

"The original plan for the facility situated the building on a plot between Angell and Waterman streets on the west side of The Walk, a series of linked green spaces that intersect campus. The site encompasses six structures — one that would have remained, one that would have been relocated and four that would have been demolished," stated Brown in a release. 

"The revised plan reduces the above-ground footprint of the proposed building and shifts the building north to a smaller plot on The Walk between Angell and Olive streets, facing the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts," added Brown. "The shift in site will require the relocation of only a single structure (Sharpe House on Angell Street) and no proposed demolitions. And because there is no bus tunnel beneath the smaller site, more of the programming space can be moved underground."

“We’re pleased that this revised plan will preserve structures on the selected site and reduce the footprint of the proposed building, while at the same time meeting the University’s academic goals for a central campus hub for the performing arts,” said Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy.

Preservationists Reviewing Proposal

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The one visual Brown released Tuesday.

In December, Ted Sanderson, the recently retired Executive Director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, spoke to the role that the targeted buildings, as a group, play in making College Hill a historic district.  

"College Hill is important not just for individual buildings, its a place," said Sanderson. "The surviving historical buildings will be isolated and under greater jeopardy...this is a serious assault on the historic district."

On Tuesday, Sanderson reacted to the new plan.

"Brown’s new plan for the performing arts center is a welcome alternative to demolishing or moving five historic buildings.  The PAC will still be a large structure, and I look forward to seeing how the new building design fits the site and surrounding area," said Sanderson. 

Brent Runyon with the Providence Preservation Society similarly said they would similarly review the proposal. 

"We applaud the fact that Brown is responding to community feedback. We have not reviewed their full proposal, but we look forward to evaluating how the new plan will impact the College Hill neighborhood," said Runyon. 


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