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Brown disregards pleas, moves forward with demo for new dorms

As many Fox Point residents know, The Fox Point Neighborhood Association (FPNA) joined a coalition of neighborhood leaders last spring and summer to send letters of concern to Brown University President Christina Paxson regarding the university’s plans to build two large dormitories on Brook Street – and in doing so, demolish three historic homes and displace several local businesses. The coalition also circulated a petition that was signed by over 1,100 neighbors. The result? The university will proceed with the project largely as planned. While the coalition acknowledged early on that Brown would likely move ahead with construction, the group had hoped for concessions in order to reduce the scale of the designs, save the homes, and retain the businesses. While Paxson and other university leaders listened to neighbors at an in-person meeting last September and made minor adjustments to the designs of the dorms, by and large they did not compromise. The university has since broken ground on the project.

Coalition leaders responded with a flurry of public missives. Nick Cicchitelli of FPNA, Brent Runyon of the Providence Preservation Society, and City Councilor John Goncalves have all published opinions admonishing Brown’s handling of the matter. Neighbor Liz Mauran expresses, “It is disheartening to see how Brown University treats our diverse neighborhood as though it doesn’t matter.” Vincent Buonanno, a lifelong College Hill resident, Brown alumnus, and trustee emeritus, describes Brown’s behavior as “arrogance.”

While the coalition’s pleas with Brown did not end how neighbors had hoped, leaders at FPNA say they are pleased with the visibility of the public statements. And they plan to continue this advocacy in the months to come, particularly regarding the related topics of historic protections and zoning.

PPS continues efforts toward preserving Prince Hall Masonic Temple

December 25, 2021 marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic fire that burned South Providence’s Prince Hall Masonic Temple, and the cause of said fire remains under investigation. Originally built in 1898 as the Eddy Street School and later renamed after Revolutionary War veteran Prince Hall, the building acquired much of its current significance through its association with Providence’s Black community.

The temple served as a central meeting place for the local neighborhood, as many held birthday and wedding celebrations there, while also being the base for the Masons’ charitable work, which included voter registration and toy drives. Until recently the temple was also the home of Providence’s chapter of the NAACP, as well as hosting the Acacia Club in its basement, which featured local jazz musicians. The role of the freemasons and civil rights are embedded in the building itself.

The Providence Preservation Society added the Prince Hall Masonic Temple to their 2021 list of Most Endangered Properties to call attention to the destruction caused by the fire, the rich history of the building, and to bring awareness to fundraising efforts towards rebuilding. This work is ongoing today; PPS participates in twice monthly meetings with the rebuilding team and experts to support their work and has secured a small grant.

As research into the building’s history continues and rebuilding proposals are being evaluated, PPS maintains its work with development consultants to identify additional sources of much needed funding. PPS is hopeful that grant funding will help to ensure an outcome that includes preservation and reuse of the historic structure, to the benefit of the community and the important civic and cultural institution it represents.

Improvements coming to Locust Grove Cemetery in Elmwood

On November 17, the Providence Parks Department hosted a Zoom meeting about proposed improvements to Locust Grove Cemetery, which was attended by Elmwood Neighborhood Association members. As per the proposal, the main entryway on Elmwood Avenue will include new posts with placards containing historical information, a metal archway with the name of the cemetery, and lighting. The gateways on both Elmwood Avenue and Melrose Street will differentiate vehicular and pedestrian access, and the walkway through the cemetery will be improved, with luminaires replaced or repaired. Chain-link fencing along Potters Avenue will be replaced, overgrown trees trimmed back, and more trees planted. Construction is due to begin in late spring or early summer.

Locust Grove is the City’s second-largest cemetery after North Burial Ground on North Main Street. A welcoming gateway at Locust Grove would match the gateway already installed at North Burial Ground.

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