URI completes first phase of $64 million effort to renovate residence halls

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862 |
Media Contact: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116

Students, administrators celebrate re-opening
of 290-bed Browning Hall

KINGSTON, R.I. — September 17, 2003 — The University of Rhode Island today celebrated completion of renovations to Browning Hall, marking the end of improvements to a cluster of six residence halls on Butterfield and Baird Hill roads.

Students joined administrators, state officials and faculty members during a mid-day dessert social to mark the major overhaul of Browning, a 290-bed residence hall, the second largest on campus.

The Browning project ends the first phase of a $64 million program to overhaul all of the undergraduate living spaces on URI’s Kingston Campus. The six-building first phase, begun in 1999, was completed on time and within the $28 million budget allotted for the first phase.

New plantings, lighting fixtures, walkways, walls and turf give the six-residence halls a neighborhood feel that planners designed to promote a sense of community. The Gatehouse Common between Weldin and Barlow halls offers space for concerts, cookouts, rallies and just plain hanging out.
“One of our major goals here at URI has been to create a stronger community where sharing of ideas, lifestyles and cultures gets encouraged in all aspects of University life,” URI President Robert L. Carothers said. “Clearly, the completion of this residence hall neighborhood is a major step toward achieving that goal. I congratulate all who’ve made this possible, but especially the students, administrators and staff of the Department of Housing and Residential Life and the Office of Capital Projects.”

Included as part of the renovations, Browning has the latest fire safety equipment, including alarms and sprinklers, upgraded electrical service and ports for full Internet and cable television access. The building has a new elevator and fully complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Browning also has a new entry, new windows that compliment the other five buildings, and new study lounges, and rooms and common areas that feature new color schemes, carpeting and furniture.

The refurbished Butterfield Dining Hall, across the street from Browning, shares architectural features with the neighboring residence halls and visually has become an integral part of the village.

Browning’s neighbor, Adams Hall is receiving new windows, main entrance, carpeting, furniture and a fresh coat of paint. The other residence halls renovated in the first phase have a normal capacity of 1,255 beds.

Chip Yensan, the director of Housing and Residential Life, said while the buildings all have similar architectural features, each one is unique. “When we worked with the architects during the early stages of the project, we asked them to develop the concept of a village, with special attention to streetscape, the walkways and the landscaping,” he said.

Since renovations began, residence halls have been taken out of service and placed back in service as they were completed, resulting in some tight schedules and crowding. This is the first fall semester since 1999 that all of the 19 residence halls are in full use.

Yensan had high praise for Paul DePace, director of the URI Office of Capital Projects, the architect, DeBose Associates Inc. of Hartford, Conn., the contractor, DePasquale Building and Realty Co., of Warwick, which did work on four of the six buildings and Gilbane Building Co., of Providence, the program manager.

“The entire project has been well-received from every sector of the campus,” Yensan said. “Some alumni who’ve seen the renovated Browning Hall used words like ‘transformation,’ and ‘unbelievable’ to describe what has been accomplished.

The University’s self-supporting Department of Housing and Residential Life funded the initial stage of the project with $22 million, including $20 million from a 30-year Rhode Island Health and Education Building Corp. bond issued in October 1999 and $2 million from other sources of capital. In the fall of 2000, taxpayers approved $22 million in general obligation bonds to continue the work, and the remaining $20 million is coming from the Rhode Island Capital Fund.

The next residence hall due for a makeover is Heathman, the largest with a 350-bed capacity. With new windows installed during the summer, that project is already under way. The remainder of the Heathman project will begin in January 2005. The University is proceeding with plans for 800 additional beds of housing in suite- and apartment-style units.

“Completion of these first six buildings is a great milestone for the University and is a wonderful compliment to the renovations and expansion of our academic and athletic facilities,” said capital project director DePace. “We are going to infuse the next stages of the residence hall projects with the same enthusiasm and spirit that were such hallmarks of this first phase.”