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New heights for RISD

Workers turn 10 stories into housing for students

BY LYNN ARDITI

Journal Staff Writer | December 9, 2004

Rhode Island School of Design's annual student housing lottery begins next month with something new in the mix: 500 beds in loft-style rooms in a former Providence bank.

Renovation of the 12-story Rhode Island Hospital Trust building at 15 Westminster St. is scheduled to be completed by August, just in time for the fall semester.

The project, which began last spring, is aimed at alleviating a shortage of student housing that RISD officials say typically leaves 100 or more students on waiting lists at the lottery's end.

School officials already have begun to circulate information about the new loft apartments, which will be available to upperclass and graduate students, said RISD spokeswoman Ann Hubner. (Freshman are required to live on campus, she said, and thus are not eligible for the loft apartments.)

The school's student body numbers about 2,100, including graduate and undergraduates, but the college has campus housing for fewer than 800. RISD announced a year ago that it was undertaking an ambitious plan to transform 10 stories of the historic bank building into student apartments.

The renovation dovetails with plans announced in early 2002 that the building's owner, then FleetBoston Financial Corp., was donating the building's first two floors to RISD for use as a library. (Fleet was sold last year to Bank of America.) Renovation of the first two floors, where the library will be located, has not begun yet.

The cost of the student-housing renovation, a private project by Gilbane Properties and Gilbane Building Co., is not being disclosed, said Gilbane spokesman Wes Cotter.

Yesterday, construction workers began replacing windows on the building's fifth floor, Cotter said, with new versions of the existing windows. The crews, who already have replaced windows on floors 2, 3 and 4, will continue to work their way up to the 12th.

Demolition work on the interior continues, with crews working from top to bottom, Cotter said, tearing down existing walls and framing new ones. So far, he said, crews have framed and installed wallboard on floors 3, 4 and 5 and are now plastering.

One major part of the project recently completed is a new heating and cooling system. The "loop system," which uses a hot water heat pump, involved the installation of a giant boiler room on the 12th floor. The system will be heated by natural gas.

RISD-HTrust.jpg

Journal photo / Bob Thayer Gilbane is renovating the old Hospital Trust building downtown, constructing loft-style dorm rooms.

The work crews also have begun to install new stairwells that will serve as fire safety exits. Construction involves drilling holes through the structure and installing steel support beams, Cotter said.

The building also will have new elevators, to be installed next month.

Prices for the apartments will range from about $533 per month per student for a furnished, three-person apartment with the beds in alcoves for privacy, to $1,300 per month for a spacious loft for a single student or couple, RISD's director of residential life, Brian A. James, said when the project was announced last year. (Prices may vary somewhat depending on the rental market when the building opens next summer.)

From The Providence Journal

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RISDHospitalTrust.jpg

Photo by Brian McDonald RISD students wll soon occupy several floors of the former Fleet building at 15 Westminster St.

Downtown buildings lure university tenants

Brown, RISD, J&W among the schools now investing heavily in the capital city

By Laura Ricketson, Staff Writer | January 1, 2005

The migration of colleges into commercial real estate in Providence

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Project to bring 500 students downtown

By Laura Ricketson, Staff Writer | 01/29/2005

When 500 Rhode Island School of Design students move into their new digs at 15 Westminster St. this fall, it will signify the end of a multimillion-dollar project to light a once dark and obsolete office building and presumably bring new life to Providence

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I see only postive things with this move. The area is so heavly on office usage that come 5:00 everything is closed and slient. Add 500 youth and it will bring nothing but life to that section of town.

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I see only postive things with  this move. The area is so heavly on office usage that come 5:00 everything is closed and slient. Add 500 youth and it will bring nothing but life to that section of town.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree. I don't know what this guy's talking about.

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Additionally it means RISD security will expand its area of protection more downtown.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Yup.

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Agreed and Agreed.

Any steps toward making downtown more mixed/residential are steps in the right direction.

As to the beer & pizza budget, that's bull. Many RISD and Brown students come from well-off families and therefore actually have MORE disposable income than, say, an office worker supporting a family. Who, by the way, lives out in North Providence anyway because that's the closest place he can afford and that's where he spends his disposable income - not downtown.

Look at Thayer Street. Yes, there's a high turnover rate, but very ittle long-term vacancy. The fact of there being a vibrant retail and restaraunt presence there, including a number of independent shops, is due entirely to the proximity of college students.

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Glad to see that the universities are taking more of an interest in downcity. Though I will take exception to the idea that Brown and RISd kids can afford to patronize upscale restaurants on a regular basis. No one I knew could afford to go to Pot Au Feu, Cappricio, etc. etc. unless maybe the parents were visiting. I think the Pot Au Feu guy is just worried that a bunch of vulgar students hanging around will ruin his yuppie atmosphere. He's right too.. but oh well, can't say I'll shed any tears for him.

In the past, I would have suspected that my alma mater (Brown) would shy away from investing in downcity. It's a good 10-20 minute walk away from other parts of campus, with a steep hill, and no decent transit in place. Plus, downcity is just freaking BRUTAL during the winter. The financial district becomes a dark cold cavern of 50mph wind gusts! An indication of this reluctance is that Brown has owned several buildings on South Main St. for years, but most of them are either administrative or empty.

However, College Hill residents' increasingly incoherent NIMBYism has finally pushed Brown past the breaking point. During my last semester (spring 04) I heard several administrators, particularly from the med school, openly discuss how sick they were of the Eastside neighbors. Apparently, they wanted to aggressively pursue property in the Jewelry district. Unfortunately, they indicated that the local government (of course) was still rife with corruption. Apparently, officials are manipulating who will get a hold of the I195 land, and trying to direct it to their cronies. Typical.

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Brown recently opened a BioMed lab in the Jewelry District, and I beleive they have a claim on a parcel under 195 across the street from it. J&W is also eyeing a big chunk of land under 195.

Brown & RISD have a shared shuttle service called safeRIDE, the Brown route serves the Jewlery District and the RISD route serves downtown because RISD already has space on Weybosset Street.

I think the Pot Au Feu guy should not be discounting the parents visiting their restaurant. And I think the fact that there will be people on the street at night will encourage his targeted clientele to come out at night. I woudln't discount RISD and Brown student's spending ablility, they are very expensive schools, you either need to be very talented and get good scholarships, or have a daddy with deep pockets to pay for these schools. Not all RISD students fit the starving artist mold, many have quite a bit of accessible cash. Though dining at Pot Au Feu may not be their bag, they will be spending money Downcity, retailers just need to anticipate the market.

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I think the Pot Au Feu guy should not be discounting the parents visiting their restaurant.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

He really shouldn't. I spoke with the owner of Cafe Romanza in the fall and he said that it's pretty much impossible to get a table there on a weekend between Parents' Weekend & Christmas due to college students and their visiting families.

I've also seen the same phenomenon in Northampton, MA - where Smith, a school on par with Brown in most ways including price tag - is located. NoHo's a little further along in its revitilization (at least of Main St) than PVD, so it also had an influx of weekend shoppers, but the students and our parents definitely helped support a number of restaurants of an upscale variety.

Plus, the bistro is pretty reasonable, the kind of place I think many college students could afford to splurge on now and then for special events.

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He really shouldn't.  I spoke with the owner of Cafe Romanza in the fall and he said that it's pretty much impossible to get a table there on a weekend between Parents' Weekend & Christmas due to college students and their visiting families.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Exactly, all the colleges have many events throughout the year that attract people that would patronize Downcity's high end restaurants.

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Apparently, they wanted to aggressively pursue property in the Jewelry district. Unfortunately, they indicated that the local government (of course) was still rife with corruption. Apparently, officials are manipulating who will get a hold of the I195 land, and trying to direct it to their cronies. Typical.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

City has a crack at the new land before private developers do... of course the City's going to try to figure out how it should be used. And is going to try to encourage development that pays full taxes in perpetuity.

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City has a crack at the new land before private developers do... of course the City's going to try to figure out how it should be used.  And is going to try to encourage development that pays full taxes in perpetuity.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree here. As much as I love Brown, J&W, and RISD, it would be a tax disaster if they got most of the use of the 195 land.

- Garris

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The Jewelry District's plans for the 195 land includes a new college neighbourhood near where Chestnut Street passes under 195. Chestnut Circle would be the Harvard Square of J&W. University land use will attract tax paying property owners and businesses to the area, just as Brown has Thayer Street today. I think the city needs to maximize the tax potential of the new land, but at the same time, the Universities are probably the largest economic engines in the city. Something will have to drive development on the 195 land if it is not to remain vacant for decades like Capital Centre. There's plenty of developable land in the area of 195 that could be creating better tax revenues.

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AWESOME pictures!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Thanks, I think you can see I was more there for what was outside the windows than what was in the building. :lol:

The rooms and apartments are going to be spectacular though, I want to live there!

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Makes me miss Providence. Supposedly before the building was offered to RISD, Gilbane and several other developers had the opportunity to convert the building to market rate condos but they didn't believe the market could support it.

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Makes me miss Providence.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Are you Buddy Cianci posting from prison? :silly:

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Lol, no. I'm a senior at Cornell in the Department of City and Regional Planning. I will be returning to Providence in June to start my career in real estate development working for Buff Chace and Cornish Associates. And P.S. I used to work for Buddy in high school.

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working for Buff Chace and Cornish Associates.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Oh good, so you can get us all discount rent on Westminster Street. :lol:

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Lol, no.  I'm a senior at Cornell in the Department of City and Regional Planning. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Hey AriPVD, I went to Cornell for Architecture School, class of '99! How's the Green Dragon treatin ya? I've been reminiscing about Ithaca lately... its kinda like a mini-version of Providence in alot of ways, similar layouts, Ivy League college up on the hill, slightly rougher downtown, blah de blah...

But anyway, the photos are great, Cotuit. I'm with ya, if I was at RISD, I'd kill for one of those rooms!

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