Brown University Dorm Buildings
Topping-Off Ceremony Celebrates Future Brook Street Residence Hall
Since late 2021, heavy machinery and road detour signs have marked the signs of something exciting happening at the southern end of Brown’s campus on Brook Street between Charlesfield and Power streets: the site of a new residence hall designed to provide an innovative residential educational experience for third- and fourth-year undergraduate students.
On a sunny, breezy afternoon on Monday, July 11, construction crews hoisted the final steel beam — adorned with signatures and well-wishes of University leaders, construction workers and community members involved in the project’s planning and development — atop the structure. In the spirit of topping-off tradition, an American flag and small pine tree sat atop the beam as it moved into position.
“I love the tradition of the beam signing and topping-off, because it’s a time when we don’t just celebrate the fact of what this building is going to do, we celebrate the people who made this building possible,” said Brown President Christina H. Paxson.
At the ceremony, Paxson was joined by a slate of speakers that included donors, senior leadership and representatives from the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council as well as Building Futures, with which the University has long collaborated on capital improvements.
Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes, who was among the speakers, said that conversations surrounding the construction of new student housing began in earnest six years ago. Then a 2018 housing study identified the need for more on-campus options to alleviate the impact that the demand for off-campus rental units has upon local neighborhoods. With the project’s official launch in February 2020 and completion scheduled for the fall of 2023, Estes said he was excited to see that the building was on track to welcome students in just a few semesters.
The new facility will help the University to achieve its goal of housing 80% of its undergraduate students in dormitories or residence halls, Paxson said. In conjunction with the housing available in the new health and wellness center and residence hall, the number of undergraduates living off campus will be reduced by approximately 30%.
Significant community collaboration and input shaped the project’s final plans, which include two “sister” buildings totaling 125,000 square feet with the capacity to house 353 students, publicly accessible and sustainable green space, adjacent retail space and the planned construction of a new residential home.
Aesthetically, the Brook Street residence hall fits into the context of the local neighborhood — similar to the adjacent Vartan Gregorian Quad and much of Brown’s historic campus, the exterior will primarily be made of brick, terra cotta and wood, with eco-friendly cross-laminated timber used in the interior structure.
Those interiors, designed to meet the needs of older undergraduate students while promoting a strong sense of community, will feature shared kitchens on each floor, with a series of suites, each comprised of four single bedrooms, a shared living room and restroom. The buildings will also include shared study, meeting and community spaces.
William Danoff, whose generous contributions with his wife Ami Kuan Danoff supported the project, said at the ceremony that the couple aims to focus on philanthropy that makes the biggest impact possible, and were thrilled by the prospect of many Brown students benefiting from the building in the years to come.
“We’re working together to make a better Brown, a better neighborhood, a better future and a better state,” Danoff said. “One of the lessons that I’ve learned over time is this notion of ‘living is giving and giving is living.’ Life is more meaningful when you share it, when you work together.”
The sentiment was echoed by the ceremony’s two other speakers, Scott Duhamel, secretary-treasurer of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council, and Andrew Cortés, executive director of Building Futures, a Providence nonprofit that allows Rhode Islanders from all backgrounds to learn the fundamentals of a wide variety of construction trades without paying tuition or incurring debt.
The University has a longstanding partnership with Building Futures; over the last 15 years, 355 apprentices hired by Building Futures have logged hundreds of thousands of labor hours across 25 different construction projects at Brown.
“Brown leads by example,” Cortés said. “I cannot overstate the impact that our partnership with Brown has had not only for Building Futures graduates, but across the state. It means that 355 people who were experiencing poverty now have a middle-class life.”
In the last five projects alone, 50 Building Futures apprenticeship graduates started their new careers on the Brown campus, collectively putting in over 20,000 hours of labor.
The Brook Street residence hall will soon be a part of that group. “When we’re building Brown, we’re building careers,” Cortés said. “High-quality registered apprenticeships make sure that in each of the construction trades, post-secondary education is happening when we’re building the walls, and it happens behind the walls of Brown.”
Photo: Maggie Spear, Media Relations and Content Specialist Brown University