EDITORIAL: Brown’s Demolition Strategy, Where is Antoinette Downing?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


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Brown University's love of the wrecking ball is taking its toll across the historic buildings of Providence’s East Side. At a record pace.

In the past few years, Brown has demolished numerous historically important structures -- more than two dozen in the past two decades.

Historic mansions, carriage houses, and, ultimately, Providence’s history are all being smashed down for Brown’s building boom. Much of Brown’s newer construction has claimed a vast array of Providence’s most beautiful buildings.

And while modern architecture can be a boon to a diverse mix of design, Brown has littered Providence with some hellacious structures — the Brown Science Library and others are monumental examples that Brown cannot be left to its own decision-making.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Brown attempted to tear down much of College Hill. It was the efforts of Antionette Downing — a fierce woman who relentlessly fought to protect and preserve the historic legacy of Providence. Her efforts have made Providence a wonder of the preservation world in America.

Brown’s plan to destroy four historic building is misguided at best. The opposition is not petty preservationism — it is smart city planning and in the best interest of Brown University itself.

The plan to demolish the historic structures and replace them with a mammoth, out of scale performing arts center without any solution for parking is another example of Brown expansionism at any cost.

The proposed project would not only create a usage with a significant influx of cars, but would also require Brown to eliminate a number of existing parking lots. An increase in vehicle demand and a decrease in supply means a decline in quality of life for people who live, work and visit the Thayer Street and College Hill area.

There are lots of options for Brown for a performing arts center - the Jewelry District, 195 land and a number of other locations including near Trinity Rep — a creative partner to Brown.

The Brown/Trinity Rep joint program includes the M.F.A. programs in Acting and Directing. "Students in each of the disciplines have opportunities to study and work with fellow students from other areas, including the M.F.A. playwrights and the Ph.D. students in Brown’s Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies," according to the program. 

Seems like a downtown location would be strategic, smart and future-oriented.


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