Greater City Providence

PBN: Roger Williams University more than doubling downtown presence


One Empire Plaza. Image from Google Streetview

Bristol-based Roger Williams University is planning to renovate and lease One Empire Plaza, more than doubling its presence downtown for adult learners when it opens in May of 2016.

The new location will provide expanded space for RWU’s School of Law, School of Continuing Studies and growing array of outreach and engagement programs, including the Latino Policy Institute, HousingWorks RI and the Community Partnerships Center.

It was remarkable how much energy was added to Empire Street for the short time 38 Studios was there, and how it evaporated when they left. It will be nice to have that vitality back.

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.


  • This is terrific news! The only thing worse than a parking lot downtown is a vacant building…

  • Glad to hear that building we be back in use, and adding some more people to the area. What might help, in the short term, would be to replace the lighting on Empire Street – 3 streetlights are out and there is no special sidewalk lighting anywhere around the Pell-Chaffe theatre, the bus kiosk, and so on. As evening sets in, the street takes on a dark and unsafe feel about it.
    I was just like this last summer, when we walked in the Pride parade, and it is still the same now, 6 months later.

  • Such a great move for RWU and to hopefully open up the location on Washington Street to more activity (perhaps a build-out of the surface lot in back?).

    I anticipate seeing students studying on the lawn adjacent to the Empire Street building come warmer months which will further activate this area. Exciting!

  • Funny to see people celebrating another building being taken off the tax rolls. Don’t think they won’t get a sweet tax deal to occupy this monument to a financial debacle.

  • Yes, because a better solution would be to let it sit empty for god knows how long, like the bazillion other vacant offices downtown.

  • Also, they are LEASING the building, meaning it is still privately owned, and still on the tax rolls. It seems like the Projo is leaking trolls again.

  • Anyone besides academic institutions going to fill in vacant buildings/create development?

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