Greater City Providence

PBN: JWU purchases former Club Karma for $1.6M


Image from Google Streetview

Johnson & Wales University has purchased the former Club Karma at 101 Richmond St. for $1.6 million.

The actual use of the building is not yet clear but will be either to accommodate JWU’s expanding academic programming or for student life services, the university said.

The developers of proposed student housing on the 195 Land Parcel 28 had proposed tearing down this building. Those developers have backed out of the deal to purchase that property however. Hopefully, Johnson & Wales will keep the building standing and find a good ground-floor use for it.

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.


  • Remove the billboard for starters, and while they are at it…ban billboards from places not within a specific footage to the highway. What’s up with the one near the JWU campus in that parking lot?

    Whatever the use is, hopefully it is something that is an active use with pedestrian traffic early in the morning and later in the evening. Adding a JWU security command center is not a bad idea either, there is a bad element in that area.

  • Anyone know what the tax implications are? Every time I hear about J&W or Brown buying buildings I am happy for the reuse but worry about how much less in tax revenue will be coming to the city. Given it’s adjacency to the 195 corridor this would have been prime real estate for private development down the road.

    I am also wondering if, given the recent purchase of Victory Place by LifeSpan, if the non-profits who have the money are not “land banking” key parcels outside the purview of the 195 Commission to get them off the tax roles. Is there policy in this city regarding the purchase of private property by non-profits?

  • If business is going that well for LifeSpan, and they need growth, I wouldn’t hate a “Longwood area in Boston” type of medical and academic district. the new South Street Landing nursing school in Davol Square would link this area to the Brown medical and molecular medicine buildings, and then JWU’s campus is right around the corner. It would certainly be a value-add to the City. They also wouldn’t need to extend the streetcar as far… not sure if that is something that could make the first phase of the streetcar a more viable option. It has the third advantage of adding to daily ridership potentially.

    Either way, if LifeSpan developed that Victory Place parcel, they’d be an even larger player in the Jewelry District and they’d have more of an interest inside 95, which would be a great thing for the City. The more large employers that consider Providence home, the better. Hopefully, they’d co-locate some residential high-rise on the property so more people can choose to live where they work, and the City can keep those dollars earned internal to the City and its businesses.

  • I should have mentioned that a PawSox stadium at Victory Place would have a similar benefit of adding to ridership on a streetcar line, and probably completes the “taking the train into the City to see a PawSox game” vision, since visitors wouldn’t have to walk from the train station to the Eddy/Allens fork.

  • As a current JWU student, I always joke that JWU is slowing taking over the city of Providence as they continue their expansion plans into the future. As far as tax breaks go, I don’t think people realize JWU has really saved the city of Providence by pouring money back into it on their own dime. That’s probably why Providence is so lenient on giving us these buildings for cheap.

  • It’s a transfer of wealth from the taxpayers of Providence to the JWU/Brown/RISD/URI/RIC/PC institutional endowments…and its wrong. The City is subsidizing the cost of tuition for students. The tuition needs to reflect the property taxes and the real cost of city services. The colleges should not be allowed to collect the spread if the tuition already does reflect that cost.

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