Greater City Providence

Now a Brown Way

Street signs marking certain streets on the East Side as “Not a Public Way” have begun going up. This is part of the City’s agreement with Brown to give the University exclusive rights to certain streets in exchange for making larger payments in lieu of taxes.

Reader submitted photo.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • How ironic. The street sign reads Benevolent, but Brown grabbing that Street is anything but that.

  • Brown is not “grabbing” these streets. This is an AGREEMENT with the city/state. It also makes these streets safer for the students living there–there have been multiple instances over the past years where cars have hit pedestrians in crosswalks and throughout campus. It will also help relieve congestion around the area from cars who may not realize they are driving through the campus. Yes, the signs may not be the most effective way of designating the streets as such, but this in no way calls for the animosity of these comments.

  • Jack, I don’t really see how Brown acquiring these streets is a bad thing for anyone. The City will no longer be responsible for their upkeep (City saves money), Brown will be able to do whatever it wants with them, which it basically could do anyway because they own all the property surrounding these streets. And these are not high traffic streets, and the little traffic that does go on them is mainly Brown related. This will mean fewer conflicts between the City and the University. That sounds like a good thing to me.

    I suspect the signs had to go up for purely legal reasons. No one actually expects people to avoid the streets just because they are private. If Brown decides to close them to through traffic, I’m sure they will put up Do Not Enter signs.

  • I wonder if I can now park on them without fear of being issued a parking ticket by the City? I disagree these are not heavily traveled streets. They are busy with commuters who park in this area.

  • I thought they were just getting free parking, not whole streets.

    Alex, there are multiple instances of cars hitting pedestrians across the city, it’s not something that specific to Brown (and my gut feeling is it’s probably far worse in the parts of the city with larger roads). The way to reduce that is not to hand over control of roads to Brown, but to relieve the pressure for the need of cars. That’s a much larger issue, and requires a more direct solution. Brown’s campus is wherever Brown owns property. It needn’t (and shouldn’t) be further shielded from the city it inhabits.

    I think the animosity stems from the fact that Brown continues to expand into the city, and eats away at the surrounding neighborhood. Handing over control of streets often seems like a way to eventually eliminate streets entirely; and it seems unlikely that once Brown gains control over something, it’s going to give it up.

  • “One block on Olive Street between Thayer Street and Brown Street; two blocks on Brown Street between George Street and Charlesfield Street; and one block on Benevolent Street between Brown Street and Magee Street.”
    These blocks are basically smack dab in the middle of residential college areas. I don’t understand how this might become an inconvenience to anyone in anyway?

  • Jef, are you referring to my comment? Or Alex’s?

    John, it was widely reported back in the spring that those streets were some of the lowest trafficked streets on the East Side. I could probably find the newspaper articles, but I would honestly rather see the original data from the City (as I’m sure you would as well). I know Boston has such data (more or less) publicly available through their Access Boston Transportation Factbook, but I don’t (yet) know where such data is available from Providence or Rhode Island. If I do find it, I will post the link here.

    As for the argument that giving up these streets doesn’t discourage Brown from eating more of the neighborhood surrounding, I don’t buy it. If anything, Brown having these properties gives it *more* flexibility to expand inward.

  • So if it isn’t a ‘public’ way does that mean PPD won’t patrol? Parking enforcement?

    That should be interesting.

  • Maybe Brown is planning to bollard up the entrances to the streets so they become pedestrian/bicycle only thoroughfares?

  • Are the sidewalks still public? It would seem from looking at these signs that they are not.

  • My guess:

    The streets will still be public through-ways, but the city ‘No Parking 8-10AM’ signs will come down and ‘Brown Parking Only- lot XYZ’ parking signs will go up.

    Like it or lump it, Brown has a parking waiting list YEARS long. Any other employer that was coming to Providence with 4,000 middle-class jobs would have the red carpet rolled out for it. Heck, we’d BUILD them a garage, like we did with the Mall.

  • I thought that they were Brown-only parking for the first part of the day… not all day. Or did I miss something, or mis-understand it?

  • Several attempts to build garages were denied by the neighborhood because somehow that would create more traffic than the tons of circling for parking does.

    My guess is Brown will eventually use the land to build inward as they expand housing in the next 20 yrs.

  • If the streets were “abandoned” in the usual process of petitioning the city, going through the City Plan Commission and then the City Council, then the streets are now owned by the university and they will pay for their upkeep. What happens regarding side of street parking is anyone’s guess.

  • I remember the parking shuffle back when I worked for Brown in the early 1990’s. When you got into the office you’d announce where you were parked, that way at 10:30AM everyone would leave the office and trade spots on different streets.

  • I think it is very “BENEVOLENT” of the City to extend an “OLIVE” branch to the folks up at “BROWN”

  • I always thought “Not a public way” meant “dead end,” but that might be because the one place I routinely saw it was a stub off Thayer Street.

    Why do they use this confusing terminology instead of putting big Do Not Enter signs with “Except authorized Brown University traffic”?

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