Urban Revitalization

In Providence, where we serve more than 10,000 students, the expansion of our Downcity Campus helped bring new life to an urban revitalization effort, while our Harborside Campus is helping to reclaim and restore the beauties of Narragansett Bay.

Reviving the Downcity Area
Our commitment in the early 1990s to stay, invest and grow in Providence has proven to be a major factor in the city’s widely acclaimed renaissance. JWU purchased the defunct Outlet department store, cleared the land and developed a large campus green space and accompanying residence halls in the heart of the Downcity area. Now, more than 10,000 students contribute to the cultural and economic vitality of the once 9-to-5 business district.

This was the beginning of the university’s now successful master plan to acquire real estate along the south side of Weybosset Street, creating a contiguous urban campus along a stretch of historically significant nineteenth-century buildings. This included our $5 million restoration of the Del Sesto Building, which won the Providence Preservation Society’s 2004 Adaptive Reuse award. In 2009, we were again honored by the Society for our rehabilitation work on two campus buildings, Xavier Auditorium and the Student Services Center.

Redeveloping the Waterfront
JWU’s Harborside Campus was once a pristine public park and beach resort. During World War II, this area was closed off and filled in, so it could house the Providence Shipyard; later, the land was converted into various industrial businesses and then a dumpsite. The history of this area—Fields Point—inspired JWU to clean up and revitalize approximately 80 acres of Providence waterfront, providing a range of environmental and recreational benefits to the surrounding communities as well as a stunning natural setting for our campus.

JWU first arrived in the area in 1973, when a former industrial building was renovated for use as the College of Culinary Arts. As the university has grown, it has added new facilities at Harborside, including the Alan Shawn Feinstein Graduate School, The School of Education, Student Services, a library, a recreation center, administrative offices, the Culinary Arts Museum and, most recently, a 576-bed student residence—thus creating a new center of activity in a once derelict area. The master plan for JWU’s Harborside Campus, already underway, includes open green space, public access shoreline reconstruction, a walking trail, a protected salt marsh and athletic fields.

Our successful partnership with Save the Bay—a nationally recognized and award-winning environmental organization—has complemented our efforts. JWU provided a six-acre waterfront parcel for Save the Bay’s headquarters, an environmentally responsible “smart design” building where Save the Bay works to educate students, residents and visitors about the fragile bay ecosystem. This project has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency and Greensource magazine as one of the nation’s top brownfields redevelopment projects.

JWU's Historic Preservation Awards

The Providence Preservation Society honors JWU for our "positive contribution to the livability and the urban fabric of Providence." read more