Proposed Dorms Causing Storms?
By mid-spring of this year, representatives from Brown University had met twice with the Fox Point Neighborhood Association to share plans for two new residence halls on Brook Street between Charlesfield and Power streets, at the edge of campus. Each time, university liaisons took questions from neighbors and pledged to honor community feedback on the plans.
Yet also by mid-spring, many neighbors did not feel satisfied that their comments on these proposals had been heard. The buildings, which were slated to hold hundreds of students, were not only too large in scale to harmonize with a quiet residential neighborhood, wrote neighbors in a May letter to Brown President Christina Paxson, but were out of keeping with the character of the historic district. The dorms would “tower over abutting properties,” they wrote, creating a “cavern” on Brook Street. What’s more, residents decried the proposed demolition of three nearby historic houses and the displacement of popular local businesses like the popular Bagel Gourmet and East Side Mini Mart.
Since then, the coalition of neighbors, which includes the Fox Point Neighborhood Association, the College Hill Neighborhood Association, the Mile of History Association, the Providence Preservation Society, City Council John Goncalves, and individual neighbors whose homes abut the site, circulated a petition that acquired upward of 1,100 signatures. And while Paxson’s June reply to the group acknowledged its concerns, members say they were disappointed to see only superficial adjustments to the plans. University architects altered the rooflines, for instance, and moved the west building northward to edge it out of the historic district. But the group has felt largely rebuffed.
“We felt our requests were legitimate,” commented one neighborhood association board member. The group had hoped that Brown cared about cultivating a good relationship with neighbors, she said. “In reality,” she continued, “we feel dismissed and steamrolled by the Goliath on the hill.”
Photo, Amy Mendillo.