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Brown purchases River House for $75m to use for grad student housing

The university said it will eventually transition the Jewelry District building from its current mix of private leases to all school-managed housing for students.

The River House apartment building in Providence silhouettes someone as they cross a walkway.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — Brown University is expanding its student housing inventory in the Jewelry District.

On Thursday, the university announced it had acquired the River House for $75 million, which has the capacity to house 270 students in a mix of 174 studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments.

Brown Provost Richard Locke said the deal, which closed Thursday, is addressing a need for Brown students seeking affordable, high-quality housing options that are close to campus while also alleviating the impact that the demand for off-campus units has had on local neighborhoods throughout Providence.

According to Brian Clarke, the university’s spokesman, the acquisition marks a significant investment in the “graduate student experience” at Brown and in the Jewelry District after Brown has already invested more than $225 million over the last decade in projects that include South Street Landing and their expansive space in the Wexford Innovation Center.


Clarke also said this purchase comes at a cost “significantly less” than what new construction would require.

Prior to this purchase, the university provided housing to about 80 graduate students each year, or approximately 2.5 percent of the total graduate and medical student population. Leah VanWey, dean of the School of Professional Studies, said that doctoral and master’s students have recently reported increasing difficulty in finding affordable housing that is close to campus.

“You have so much else to worry about during the transition to graduate student life, from finding your classes to working with your professors and finding your lab. You don’t want to add worries about how to navigate the local housing market and get your new apartment running, too,” said VanWey.

Because Brown acquired the housing development through a subsidiary, there will not be a disruption of the continuity of River House’s tax revenue to the city, said Clarke. Brown will directly assume the tax stabilization agreement, or TSA, in place with the property’s current owner.


The property was recently assessed by the city this year at $23,698,400. The previous owner, River House Project Owner LLC, paid $141,506 in property taxes to Providence in 2019, according to city records.

Over time, the university will fully transition the building from private leases, which are currently held by renters unaffiliated with the university and a mix of Brown students, to all Brown University students. Clarke said the university will honor all existing leases and will maintain retail space in the building for commercial use by the existing tenants.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.