Greater City Providence

Letter to the campus from P.C.’s President regarding their PILOT agreement

This letter was sent to the Providence College campus by college president Rev. Brian J. Shanley regarding the college’s agreement with the City to acquire public streets in exchange for payments in lieu of taxes:

A Message to the Providence College Community:

Providence College is, and always has been, mindful of the significant role that the city of Providence plays in the decision our students make to attend this institution. Providence is a vibrant city with rich history, great restaurants, and myriad tourist and cultural attractions. It is both an alluring and attractive setting for our students and their families. As the leaders of all of Providence’s higher education and major healthcare institutions have noted on multiple occasions, a financially sound city of Providence is critical for the continued prosperity of each of our organizations going forward. With that in mind, I am pleased to announce that the College has reached an agreement with the City that will benefit both parties. The College has agreed to pay the City $3.84 million over a 10-year period to purchase portions of three City streets: Huxley Ave., which runs through the eastern end of the College campus, and both Wardlaw Ave. and Cumberland St. which are part of the northwest border of the campus across from Alumni Hall. (Specifically, the College will purchase Huxley Ave. from Eaton St. to Ventura St., Wardlaw Ave. from Lucille St. to Cumberland St., and Cumberland St. from Wardlaw Ave. to the property line at 30 Cumberland St.)

The College proposed the purchase of these streets in response to the City’s request for additional payments in lieu of taxes. As you may know, the City reached similar agreements of mutual benefit with Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Johnson & Wales University earlier this year. Mindful of the City’s willingness to structure these agreements on a quid pro quo basis, and knowing that they were hopeful of striking some type of arrangement with all of the major non-profit institutions in Providence, the College felt this was the appropriate time to seek the purchase of these streets.

The immediate gains for PC will be a more unified and well-connected campus, as well as better safety and security for our students, faculty, and staff, all of which are of utmost importance to the College.

The acquisition of those portions of Wardlaw Ave. and Cumberland St. will allow us to better secure that corner of our campus, as well as expand parking capacity, while presenting a more aesthetically pleasing campus border to our neighbors in that area.

I am particularly excited about the purchase of a portion of Huxley Ave. as it will allow us to better unify our campus and to develop a more complete vision for that significant entryway to the College. Huxley Ave. bisects the College’s main campus and the part of campus that the College developed after acquiring the former Chapin Hospital property in the early 1970s. In the years since first acquiring the Chapin property, the College has constructed several residence halls, renovated a number of classroom buildings, designed and built a new quad, and opened the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Predictably, we have seen increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic to and from that end of campus with each new development. Having control over this portion of Huxley Ave. will allow us to better protect our students, faculty, and staff.

In addition, the Huxley Ave. purchase is a fine complement to the capital plans involving the addition to Schneider Arena, the construction and/or relocation of several athletic fields, and the plans to turn Dore Hall into the new home for the Providence College School of Business. We now have the ability to totally transform the look and feel of this important approach and entrance to our campus and to make it safer and more secure as well as more attractive.

It is important to note that no operating funds (i.e., tuition dollars, funds that might otherwise have been used for financial aid, etc.) are being used to fund this purchase.

I also want to stress that this agreement preserves the principles of the College’s legal status as a tax-exempt institution and reaffirms the terms of the existing 2003 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City that the College signed along with our sister non-profit institutions of higher education in Providence. Providence College has been making – and will continue to make – annual payments in lieu of taxes to the city of Providence under the terms of that MOU, which expires in 2023.

The Providence College Board of Trustees has authorized the transaction. The Providence City Council will review and approve the agreement as well.

There will not be any immediate changes to the streets in question. We will need time to develop revised vehicular and pedestrian traffic plans as well as proposed scenarios for RIPTA busses and additional parking. Once we have them, an appropriate forum will be convened to present those plans and solicit feedback from students, faculty, staff, and residents of the surrounding neighborhood. That feedback will be considered and factored into additional planning before we are ready to announce any definitive changes.

I want to thank the team of John Sweeney, senior vice president and chief financial officer; Marifrances McGinn, vice president and general counsel; and Steve Maurano, assistant vice president for public affairs and community relations, who handled the discussions and negotiations with the City which stretched over several months.

The College will provide additional information about the processes involved and any changes to the existing pedestrian and vehicular traffic patterns over the coming months. Meanwhile, I am pleased to announce the purchase of these streets with an eye toward unifying our campus and making it a safer and more secure place for everyone while continuing to move the College forward in line with our Strategic Plan. In addition, I am pleased that the College’s partnership with the city of Providence is further strengthened by this agreement and I look forward to a continued relationship of mutual respect and cooperation with Mayor Angel Taveras and his administration.

Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P.

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See also:

gcpvd: If you could buy a city street, what would you do with it?
RINPR: Does Providence College pay enough to Providence?[/alert]

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.


  • The City’s Press Secretary used the word “abandon” to describe what the City was doing with the streets in question. This is bothersome for two reasons (well, two main reasons, I’m sure there are others).

    1.) The City is disposing of a highly valuable asset, namely its streets, in return for a minimal one-time cash infusion. There is nothing saying that at the end of this agreement that PC or the other schools have to continue with the PILOT, and if the City actually is “abandoning” these streets to these institutions, than the streets are a resource that is now gone forever.

    2.) The privatization of Huxley and PC’s reputation for barring non-PC people from their campus creates a massive superblock which tears the community in half, forcing pedestrians (and drivers) to make a massive detour to move north-south through their community and around PC.

  • I am quite concerned about the privatization of Huxley, in particular. The other 2 streets are basically 1 block that is pretty much owned by the college anyway. Huxley, however, is a major road through the neighborhood connecting 3 major neighborhood streets – Admiral, Eaton, and Smith that is heavily used by cars, pedestrians, and RIPTA. I have heard that they might make a “grand” entrance at Huxley and Eaton. If this means that they put a gate there, I have doubts RIPTA will still go through there, and it means that people won’t be able to just easily walk through there or drive through, forcing traffic to drive around the campus up River or Douglas. If I lived on River, I would be sure to fight to keep Huxley accessible to all traffic.

  • Press release from the Mayor’s office regarding the agreement with P.C.:

    Mayor Taveras and Fr. Shanley Announce Providence College Will Contribute $3.84 Million to City Over Next Ten Years

    Taveras Administration secures nearly $48 Million in additional contributions from all major tax-exempt institutions

    PROVIDENCE, RI – At a press conference today in the Mayor’s Office, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Providence College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. announced that the City of Providence and Providence College (PC) have reached an agreement that will bring the City $3.84 million in new revenue over the next 10 years.

    With this announcement, the Taveras administration has secured contributions from all seven major tax-exempt institutions in Providence, totaling nearly $48 million in additional revenue over 11 years.

    As part of the agreement, the Taveras administration will abandon sections of three streets that abut the PC campus – Huxley Avenue from Eaton Street to Ventura Street and the sections of Wardlaw Avenue and Cumberland Street immediately adjacent to the college on the northwest corner of the campus.

    Providence College will make an initial $1 million payment to the City once all approvals for the street abandonments have been secured and then contribute approximately $316,000 annually through 2021. PC already contributes approximately $264,000 annually under the terms of the 2003 memorandum of understanding it signed along with three other colleges and universities based in Providence.

    “Providence College is an important pillar of our community. I am pleased that Fr. Shanley and the entire PC community have stepped up to share in the sacrifice many have made to position Providence for the future,” said Mayor Taveras. “The City of Providence is stronger because of PC. Providence College students, alumni, faculty and staff make valuable contributions to our creative capital and our economy. By being a part of the long-term solution to put Providence on strong fiscal ground, PC is helping to secure their own future and improve the futures of the thousands of Providence residents their students, faculty and alumni serve.”

    “Providence College is, and always has been, mindful of the significant role that the City of Providence plays in the decision our students make to attend this institution. Providence is a vibrant city with rich history, great restaurants, and myriad tourist and cultural attractions. It is both an alluring and attractive setting for our students and their families. As the leaders of all of Providence’s higher education and major healthcare institutions have noted on multiple occasions, a financially sound Providence is critical for the continued prosperity of each of our organizations going forward,” said Fr. Shanley. “I am pleased to join Mayor Taveras in announcing this agreement and the College’s purchase of these streets. PC’s immediate gains from this agreement will be a more unified and well-connected campus, as well as better safety and security for our students, faculty, and staff, all of which are of utmost importance to the College. In addition, I am pleased that the College’s partnership with the City of Providence is further strengthened by this agreement, and I look forward to a continued relationship of mutual respect and cooperation with Mayor Angel Taveras and his administration.”

    Providence College is the only college or university in the United States administered by the Dominican Friars. The Catholic liberal arts college has an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 3,900 students and offers degrees in 49 academic majors. Providence College has consistently been ranked among the top five regional universities in the north according to U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” and was the first higher education institution in the nation to offer a bachelor’s degree in Public and Community Service Studies. In the 2011-2012 academic year, over 2,000 PC students contributed more than 60,000 community service hours, much of it in the City of Providence.

    Over the last 23 months, the Taveras Administration has taken measures to strengthen the city’s fiscal ground, including forging new partnerships with tax-exempt institutions and reaching a mutual agreement with retirees and active police officers and firefighters that will save the City tens of millions of dollars:

  • I grew up on Huxley near the Smith side. My parents still live there. It would be a HUGE inconvenience to make a “grand entrance” barring those not affiliated with PC through to Admiral. PC is NOT community oriented….in fact, they go out of their way to make things more difficult for the surrounding neighborhood!
    Bit of a tangent, but still a very real issue….As it is, PC students are taking over the area and making it EXTREMELY family UNfriendly. I know many families in the area and they are ALL sick and tired of these disrespectful PC kids trashing their once vibrant and family-friendly neighborhood with red cups, loud music, screaming and yelling in the middle of street at all hours, breaking bottle, etc. My parents are considering moving (out of the state) soon and I don’t blame them (I already did). I recently just graduated college….it is NOT impossible to have a party and respect that there are children sleeping in the houses next to you that have to get up for school in the morning. As a teenager, I’ve called the cops countless times in the middle of the night just so i could get some sleep. Not very conductive for doing well on a test the next day. The infiltration of rich, disrespectful, discourteous, and alcoholic PC kids has got to stop. This “red cup district” can not longer be allowed. The institution itself only makes things worse. I went to one of these “red cup parties” a year ago to see what actually goes down and it is appaling! Complete and utter mayhem ensues, not only in houses, but in city streets! Fireworks are being lit in the middle of streets, people are running around yelling and screaming, trashing the streets, getting into fights and this was over several blocks. A massive block party almost every weekend that is extremely detrimental to the area…who stops it??? Not city police that’s for sure…they tend to have bigger fish to fry. So how about some action from PC????
    PC and the city need to come up with REAL solutions for this. If not, there will be a mass exodus of working class families to not just out of this area, but out of the state. WHY WOULD THEY STAY IN RI?!? With the high taxes and sad fact that it is not very livable or community oriented, where are the incentives to stay? There aren’t any. Oh, I forgot to mention it’s also ranked the 49th state for business…I left and am never going back.
    Sorry for all this ranting, but I lived on Huxley for decades and the problem has only gotten worse and it’s sad to see such a good neighborhood turn to shit.
    Why doesn’t PC just annex the whole neighborhood, that’s what they are trying to do anyway?

  • So, what I don’t understand is… what happens to Huxley when the ten years are up? Does PC retain control of it indefinitely, but not have to continue paying the city?

    I’m kind of confused as to how this whole arrangement works, to be honest.

    (Speaking of confusing… I’m not the same Ryan as the Ryan who made the other comment!)

  • Just for the record, the neighborhood is getting close to 50/50 PC/JWU students. While I’m not saying the behavior is good, it’s not just PC kids. In fact, some of the houses in the neighborhood have become JWU frat houses.

  • If there are no other provisions and the street is abandoned, it means that the street could physically be removed. In Manhattan the city “de-mapped,” (as it is called in New York), West 116th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue for Columbia University. The difference is that the de-mapping or abandonment was only for the surface of the street. It did not include below the road bed (below grade) or the air rights above. For Providence what happens to the below grade utilities (sewer, water, gas, etc.)? A better choice would be to lease the street right-of-way for the term of the cash payment, so that in the future a negotiation could take place when the payment ends.

    Super-blocks are a relic of mid-20th century modernism, which destroys urbanism. It seems that the city has no regard for its physical integrity, whether it’s street abandonment or dated auto-centric zoning that encourages surface parking lots; effectively outlawing three deckers; or suburban minimum lot sizes and coverage maximums. Providence throws away land as if it’s a new western or southern city that’s 20 times its size. Is anyone thinking at City Hall beyond the short term? This is a bad deal!

  • In PC’s letter they state that nothing will change and that the PC community and local residents will be consulted before changes are made. If what others have said, that PC has not been tolerant to outsiders entering their campus continues to be true, if the super-block were to become fortress PC, what are the implications for neighborhood pedestrians and bicyclists?

    The distance of Huxley between Admiral and Eaton is 0.36 miles. If the segment were closed to outsiders, to go around by way of Douglas Avenue is 0.87 miles and by River Avenue is 1.17 miles.

  • What you just said is the implication to pedestrians and bicyclists. It more than doubles the trip. It also sends you either up a bigger hill (River) or in a more traffic heavy area (Douglas), making it not too fun for someone not in a car.

    I hope that what they say is true, that they won’t close off Huxley, but we’ll see what happens when everything is said and done.

  • Another thing that should be mentioned is that Huxley is used for parking by people who either don’t have spaces on campus or don’t want to park at one end of campus in a tiny lot that’s most likely full because the college gives out more parking passes than there are spaces (at least for commuter students and faculty/staff… did I also mention those parking passes are free?). Parking is becoming an issue on campus, which is why they tore down a house for more. What they need to do is encourage more faculty and staff to ride RIPTA by extending the U-Pass program to them. But that’s a different discussion. I would really hate to see Huxley become another parking lot as I’m sure the other 2 streets will.

  • As a graduate of PC this past spring, I can sympathize with both sides of the issue. Are all kids living in the neighborhood great neigbors, no. But not everyone are these crazy 24/7 party students. There is truth to the infiltration of JWU and RIC students in the streets off of Eaton east of Huxley. All the problems are not limited to PC Students, but college students in general. While it may in the future be an inconvenience to drive up or down Eaton and around, if PC does close off the street I, as an alum would be for it. It would bring the 2 campuses together and flow better as one solid campus. The rerouting of the RIPTA would be tough to lose, but a lot of changes are being made on campus, and this would only go with their 2017 Vision Plan, making it more aesthetically pleasing of a campus. The issue over parking, it wasn’t free. Had to pay a fee each semester. I love PC and I love Providence, and as someone who spent time in the community and did what I could and try to influence others I lived with not to treat it like a dump, I want to see the relations between town and gown get better, not worse.

  • If the school fully closed the street to outsiders, the description that it would be an “inconvenience” is a gross understatement for anyone who lives in the neighborhood, who doesn’t own a car, not all of whom are students. The attitude of creating a sealed campus completely cut off from its urban environment belongs in the suburbs or an isolated rural environment, not in a city. There are numerous examples of urban colleges/universities whose buildings, grounds, and students intermingle with its host city’s streets, neighborhoods, and people. A few nearby examples: Harvard, MIT, BU, Brown, RISD, JWU, Yale, Columbia, NYU, Pratt, and U Penn. What’s so different about PC?

  • Infiltration of JWU and RIC students? I didn’t know that certain neighborhoods were only supposed to be for certain students. That kind of attitude is what causes many of the issues in our city (and fights in this neighborhood).

    Peter is correct. It would be more than an inconvenience to lose Huxley to the general public. And if that happens, PC might lose RIPTA through campus and along Eaton and students would have to walk to the intersection of Admiral and Huxley to catch the bus because I doubt RIPTA would be willing to reroute it down Douglas to Eaton to River.

  • I will note that when I drove down Huxley today, there were those rubber strips that I assume are to count the number of cars that travel over the section of street. However, instead of just 1 on Huxley, there were 2… there was one about halfway between the entrance to campus and Eaton St and one north of the entrance to campus close to the north end of what the college bought. There was also one going across the entrance/exit to campus. I assume that this is to determine how much traffic that drives up and down Huxley is thru traffic and how much of it is for campus. And I assume the purpose of that is to determine whether or not they will close off that portion of Huxley to the public…

    So… if you care about having that portion of Huxley open, drive up and down it as much as possible (without turning into the college campus) the next few days. 😉

  • So… the college hasn’t removed snow from the sidewalks along Huxley. I wonder if they’ll do a better job once they actually own the street. Students are walking in the street to get to campus from their off campus apartments. Sidewalks also aren’t clear along Eaton or River. I would think the college would care about the safety and well-being of their students.

  • The Providence City Council votes tonight at 7pm on this agreement.

    See item 19


    Transmits the following with Recommendation the Same be Approved:

    19. Memorandum of Agreement between Providence College and the City of Providence, relative to the abandonment of property along Huxley Avenue, Cumberland Street and Wardlaw Avenue.

    Ways and Means Chair Salvatore represents the neighborhood.

  • Email from Councilman Salvatore about tonight’s vote:

    Tonight, the City Council will be voting on the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between Providence College and the City of Providence.

    The agreement will provide $3.84 million in additional revenue to the City over the next ten years, in addition to the $254,000 annual contribution Providence College has made since 2003. The revenue from this agreement, as well as the City’s other PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) agreements with tax exempt institutions, will continue to propel Providence toward a strong and sustainable financial future.

    I will keep you informed of the outcome of the Council vote.

  • Cars were ticketed by Providence Police on that section of Huxley this morning (assuming for being parked overnight). If it’s not public, should the city still be ticketing there? I mean, I’m all for the city getting some revenue (though they’ll probably just go in front of Caprio who will just dismiss them), but that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

  • What I don’t understand is why doesn’t P.C buy the homes on Annie St. ” the ones directly behind the hockey arena” That would make perfect sense for the needed parking and it’s also off the main streets like Admiral, River, etc….I was told they bought one but they should really consider trying to buy the few that are left on that side behind the arena….I’m sure if the college offered the right amount of money, the homeowner would sell….Just makes more sense instead of buying houses on other streets….

  • Buy the homes behind the hockey arena!!!!? Tear them down!!!!! Now you have plenty of parking for the events at the arena and they can charge a fee to park there, also put up a nice iron gate to enter/exit the lot…One solved parking problem!

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