Greater City Providence

ProJo: Brown plans to knock down 7 College Hill buildings for new parking lot

Brown University intends to flatten half of a city block near Thayer Street in the College Hill neighborhood to create a commercial parking lot.

In an amendment to the school’s master plan filed with the Providence Planning Department, Brown officials wrote they want to raze seven multifamily houses that the school owns between Cushing Street, Meeting Street and Brook Street. The amendment document calls the two-unit buildings “unsightly.”

I’m just going to leave this collection of Google Streetview images Frank Mullin posted on Facebook right here.


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.


  • What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty (who want to park and are okay with tearing down buildings to do so!)!

    Maybe it’s just 20-something me rearing his head, but I think Brown should open those buildings to squatters who are willing to make repairs. I saw a lot of stuff get fixed in Philly by the likes of squatting crust-punk kids.


  • This proposal is on the agenda of the January 19th City Plan Commission Meeting. Public comment against the plan can be given there.

    City Plan Commission
    January 19
    4:45 p.m
    444 Westminster Street
    1st floor conference room

  • I encourage people to visit the site. Brown purposefully emptied the buildings at the end of the last academic year and allowed them to decay this winter. While many of the houses are mediocre at best (bad floor plans, cheap mill-work, more or less the Victorian of equivalent of mcmansions), there is a small house with a beautiful veranda nestled squarely in the middle of the block. This tiny shingle style jewel box is largely hidden from view apart from a peek between two of the houses on Brook st. With an elegantly curved roof line sweeping over a wide terrace, the whole house has the effect of being a little garden folly. Do what they want with the rest of those forgettable balloon framed fakes, the little garden house should be protected. I hope other people have seen the little house I’m referring to, it’s the red roofed one at the center in google’s satellite photo.

  • The point here is NOT the architectural quality of the existing buildings themselves, but rather the intended use of the site.

    It disgusts me that the big brains (and deep pockets) on College Hill can’t imagine any solution more creative than a surface parking lot.

  • Maybe if they didn’t hold 30+ parking spots in varying lots for “visitors” and “guests”, there’d be enough room…I worked at the Grad School Admission office for 3 winters (2008-2011) as a temp, and saw their parking lot 90% empty. I asked why the employees weren’t parking there, why they had to get up and move their cars every two hours, and I was told those spots (and there were close to, if not exceeding 30) were held for guests.
    So houses are knocked down or moved to make room?
    What a load of s**t.

  • So I found out that CPC approved the demolition subject to Brown providing more plans about it’s future use for the site. Apparently the businesses on Thayer Street feel that there is a lack of parking and it’s hurting their business. Meanwhile, Providence continues to not learn the mistakes of 20th century urban renewal. Fuck this city.

  • Hub and spoke, hub and spoke, hub and spoke.

    Providence, you fools!

    Why are you giving incentives to drive to work and park in a congested area???????

  • Probably because the residents of College Hill would complain about it.

    The bigger question is, why does the city spend all this money on studies that offer non-destructive parking solutions but still approve these parking lot by wrecking ball projects? It’s a disgrace and I hate the city for it.

  • Was there any discussion at all at CPC level about what a terrible idea this is? Who spoke against it? Anyone?

  • I went to the CPC meeting, and spoke against it. Providence Preservation Society was there, and spoke against. Several people spoke of concerns about the project, but were not as resolutely against it. There was also a significant contingent of businesses for it. The owner of the Flatbread Pizza Company (the building, at least, if not the business itself) spoke for more parking, as well as the owner/operator of the Avon Theater (I’m trying not to be bitter, but it does make me want to go somewhere else for pizza and movies, respectively).

    Councilman Zurier was present, but did not speak.

    Many of the commissioners sounded very skeptical of the proposal–much more so than the audience, I’m sad to say–but today I got an update that the CPC unanimously approved this plan. The parking lot will not be approved as a final measure until it passes through the Zoning Board of Review, and I would suggest that some people go to that to speak against this.

    However, the other issue is that we need to come up with a bigger plan for how to fix parking in Providence, and there does not need seem to be a strong enough awareness that parking itself is not a solution–not surface parking, not garages, not parking of any kind. I would ask people to contact their city councilors:

    These are some policies that I think would help:

    I’m pretty let down. I left after the public comment ended, and felt like the decision was up in the air. It was totally plausible that the measure would have passed, but I would have expected it to pass narrowly. It shocks me that the decision as unanimous, and it makes me feel a bit like all the objections were kabuki theater designed to add tension to a fait accomplis.

    You can use the hashtag #NoNewParking to update on parking policy on Twitter.

  • I’m disappointed too, and though I don’t live in Providence i have felt frustrated by the city bureaucracy at times.. In this case i too feel less inclined to patronize Thayer St businesses. The underlying problem is that the state leadership assumes everybody drives, motorists don;t want to walk even a block to two, and no other transport really matters.

    I found the Zoning board of review unhelpful too when testifying against a variance for a non-conforming billboard along i-95. Scott Wolf of Grow-Smart is on the Zoning Board so maybe he can be an ally. I also struck out with the Planning dept over wasting millions studying a foolish streetcar that was never going to work as proposed, and excessive dispersal of bus stops around Burnside Park.

  • There isn’t any less street parking than there was when I was a student in RI, some 90 years or so ago, , and yet Thayer Street has managed to keep on keeping on without surface parking lots galore.

    We’ve all said it before–Providence doesn’t win “best of” awards every year because of its surface parking.

  • I have been been driving to the Thayer St area to shop and eat for 25 years and I have never *EVER* been unable to find a parking spot within a reasonable walk. This is asinine.

  • I do go to Thayer Street with some regularity, at all times of day, usually driving. I’ve never had a problem parking within a reasonable distance. The people whining about there being “no parking” do so because they can’t park at the front door of the place they want to go. Since this lot will be a whole block off Thayer, the same people who complain about “no parking” still won’t park there – especially if they actually have to PAY for it. Total waste.

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