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TheBostonian

Colleges and vitality

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Do colleges in Providence bring vitality to the city in ways I would expect? I mean, are there neighborhoods that have used book and CD stores, small music venues with open mic nights and thrift stores that seem to be there as a result of the schools? Is there the kind of bohemian, politically charged vibe that you find in Cambridge and Northampton, MA?

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Do colleges in Providence bring vitality to the city in ways I would expect?  I mean, are there neighborhoods that have used book and CD stores, small music venues with open mic nights and thrift stores that seem to be there as a result of the schools?  Is there the kind of bohemian, politically charged vibe that you find in Cambridge and Northampton, MA?

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I would have to say that the colleges bring a ton to the table here in Providence. This answer could be long-winded, but it's Friday & I'm about to leave work so it's gonna be quick....

Each college brings different things - with RISD (Rhode Island School of Design), there's the whole arts culture - they have a nice museum, tons of public sculpture, lectures, etc. Plus the student body is very diverse, creative, etc.

And with Brown & RISD so close to each other, you definitely get the types of neighborhoods that you mention - Thayer Street is one example, it's full of hole-in-the-wall stores, ethnic foods, CD stores, etc.

Also, Brown has great athletics that are open to the public, so that's another bonus (as does PC, especially their basketball team). Brown is also known to be very liberal, especially for an IVY, so there is that vibe you mentioned.

Johnson & Wales has part of their campus right downtown, and I'm sure a lot of their students employ many restaurants, as they have a great culinary program.

The city has a lot of great small music venues, I wouldn't say that they're supported entirely by the college croud, but I'm sure students are a factor.

The colleges definitely play a big cultural role in the city, especially since there are so many for a small area (PC, Brown, RISD, J&W....RIC, CCRI, & Bryant are more on the outskirts)

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Are there residential neighborhoods dominated by students?

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Areas around Brown and RISD on the East Side have very high student populations, as does the area around PC in Elmhurst. Great trash picking every May on the East Side, when the students move out! The enormous "APARTMENTS FOR RENT- STUDENTS WELCOME" banners on three-family houses around PC let me know I wasn't interested in living there when I first moved to town. Many Johnson & Wales students live in the part of Federal Hill that is closest to the downtown campus, but I definately would not say the neighborhood is dominated by students. My impression is that the student population in Federal Hill is growing, though.

I would say that the feeling in Providence is artistically charged, because of the influence of RISD, rather than politically charged like places around more liberal-arts based schools. Providence is very politically charged, but in different ways than schools bring about. Also, I would have to say there is really fantastic food in Providence (not as many choices, but better than Boston, if you ask me, and I lived in Boston for a long time), I think partly because of the influence of the J&W culinary school, which is one of the best in the country.

The West End, especially Broadway and the part of Westminster closest to Downtown, is developing as a new "bohemian" center, with more restaurants, record stores, funky boutiques, etc. starting to pop up. Again, I think this is more because of the large artist and arts-related presence than specifically because of students.

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Are there residential neighborhoods dominated by students?

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There aren't neccesarily entire neighborhoods dominated by students, but there are certainly large areas of them that are. I used to live off of hope (near hope high) and I think my wife and I were the only non students on our street. It was living hell. Right before we moved in a girl had fallen out of a window at a party next door and died in our driveway. After that we moved close to PC and were also on an almost exclusively student street, and again it was a year and a half of being kept up all night with students screaming in the street, lighting off fireworks, peeing in our yard, etc.

Liam (starts to get antsy when he sees college kids in the Armory)

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Eaton Street area-lots of PC and RIC students. Nothing like the "student ghetto" in midtown Albany though...where drunken students have trashed the neighborhood for years and years.

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I think I know what TheBostonian is getting at here. Having lived in Brighton for about 7 years, I know all about Boston student ghettos! I have lived in Providence now for a couple years and have not seen the likes of the Alston/Brighton student ghetto here.

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I think I know what TheBostonian is getting at here. Having lived in Brighton for about 7 years, I know all about Boston student ghettos! I have lived in Providence now for a couple years and have not seen the likes of the Alston/Brighton student ghetto here.

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Ha! When I think "student ghetto," I think of Southwest residential area at Umass Amherst. I'm not all that familiar with the Allston/Brighton side of Boston. Though it seems like most young Bostonians that I know live there, or in Jamaica Plain. What I was seeking in posting this was for all you PVDers to affirm my own belief that colleges enrich an area.

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There's really no Allston/Brighton equivilent in Providence (I lived in Allston Village for a few years, PVD has nothing on that as far as student ghettos go). The areas around Northeastern in Boston are also more student dominated than anywhere in Providence. I think there are far more students per capita in Boston than Providence.

As for the student driven retail scene, it seems to be going through an upheaval, In Your Ear records on Thayer closed, Garment District couldn't make it on Thayer... It seems the student retail is trying to re-establish itself on the West Side. In the years to come I'd expect Westminster on the West Side and Olneyville to take the place of Thayer in the student retail scene. Though Thayer will continue to have a big restaurant and nightlife presense for Brown and RISD.

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In addition to parts of the West Side and Thayer, Wickenden St has some of the alternative college vibe that you mention and so does downtown around Empire Street with AS220.

Another part of the West Side where the alterntive buzz is settling in is in the once industrial Promenade District around Monohasset Mill and the Steel Yard and I would expect the same with The Plant (Puente) when that opens. Also Olneyville with the Hive Archive, etc.

.

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I think there are far more students per capita in Boston than Providence.

Almost certainly true...

As for the student driven retail scene, it seems to be going through an upheaval...  It seems the student retail is trying to re-establish itself on the West Side. In the years to come I'd expect Westminster on the West Side and Olneyville to take the place of Thayer in the student retail scene. Though Thayer will continue to have a big restaurant and nightlife presense for Brown and RISD.

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Probably true... I would love to see the area on Weybosset between J&W and the new RISD dorms fit that role too, especially since no one seems to have any idea what to do with the part of that street East of Dorrance... However, my guess is that the presence of 110 Westminster will push things upscale beyond the college retail level, but one never knows...

- Garris

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Ha!  When I think "student ghetto," I think of Southwest residential area at Umass Amherst. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Nice - spent my freshman year in the McKimmie dorm :wacko:

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I'd say that JWales saved DownCity. They saw all those empty buildings, moved their campus there, and gave it new life that Chase et al have built on just recently. Over the last 10 years I watched all the storefronts go from "for sale" to "for lease" to mostly full.

Brown and RISD did the same for college hill. It wasnt so glitzy 30 years ago. It was run down. Now, Thayer is under attack from the landlord association. They want to make it the fancy mall that it's become, with national chain stores and neo-NYC bistros. I dont mind much, as long as the shops spring up elsewhere, but trying to kick out the bikers is going too far for me.

RIC and PC don't have the retail impact that the downtown colleges have, mostly because they are self contained campuses, rather than mixed into the streetscape. Douglas Ave is tough, but I see groups of PC kids walking down the sidewalks at 2am, so they're not intimidated by Chad Brown.

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I'd say that JWales saved DownCity. They saw all those empty buildings, moved their campus there, and gave it new life that Chase et al have built on just recently. Over the last 10 years I watched all the storefronts go from "for sale" to "for lease" to mostly full.

Brown and RISD did the same for college hill. It wasnt so glitzy 30 years ago. It was run down. Now, Thayer is under attack from the landlord association. They want to make it the fancy mall that it's become, with national chain stores and neo-NYC bistros. I dont mind much, as long as the shops spring up elsewhere, but trying to kick out the bikers is going too far for me.

RIC and PC don't have the retail impact that the downtown colleges have, mostly because they are self contained campuses, rather than mixed into the streetscape. Douglas Ave is tough, but I see groups of PC kids walking down the sidewalks at 2am, so they're not intimidated by Chad Brown.

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Does anyone have a copy of the plans or know anything about the city bulldozing many of the buildings downtown during the '60's/'70's? And didn't they plan the same fate for Benefit St? The bikers themselves arn't a problem, it's the noise their bikes make. Too much residential homes near Thayer St. I think some PC/RIC kids make their way to the mall. As far as the PC kids near Admiral St, some of these young adults don't have a care in the world and normally don't consider their safety.

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I'd say that JWales saved DownCity. They saw all those empty buildings, moved their campus there, and gave it new life that Chase et al have built on just recently. Over the last 10 years I watched all the storefronts go from "for sale" to "for lease" to mostly full.

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Good point Lova. J&W doesn't get enough public credit for their role downtown. If not for them, large swaths of Weybosset would be empty...

I would still like them to exert more influence on the retail in their orbit, though. Much of that street still has a "work in progress" feel and, despite your insistence, there are still a lot of "for lease" signs around there (in fact, still more than not, perhaps, including some of the newer ones, like the cell-phone place on the corner... in fact, nearly everything near the corner of Dorrance and Weybosset is empty, save Cilantro...).

- Garris

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"Does anyone have a copy of the plans or know anything about the city bulldozing many of the buildings downtown during the '60's/'70's?"

Were they just plans or did this happen?

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"Does anyone have a copy of the plans or know anything about the city bulldozing many of the buildings downtown during the '60's/'70's?"

Were they just plans or did this happen?

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The document you're referring to is "Downtown Providence 1970", which was prepared by the city Planning Department around 1959. You can find it in some of the local public libraries.

The only large area where the plan was carried out is Weybosset Hill on the western fringe of downtown next to I-95. The centerpiece is Cathedral Square, designed by I.M. Pei, which is now a sterile and desolate plaza.

For the most part, the plan was not carried out because the city was low in funds and because city leaders were slow to take advantage of federal urban renewal money. That 's why Providence now has one of the most intact historic downtowns in the country.

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The document you're referring to is "Downtown Providence 1970", which was prepared by the city Planning Department around 1959. You can find it in some of the local public libraries.

The only large area where the plan was carried out is Weybosset Hill on the western fringe of downtown next to I-95. The centerpiece is Cathedral Square, designed by I.M. Pei, which is now a sterile and desolate plaza.

For the most part, the plan was not carried out because the city was low in funds and because city leaders were slow to take advantage of federal urban renewal money. That 's why Providence now has one of the most intact historic downtowns in the country.

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That story has a happy ending. :)

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