2017-11-09 / Around Town

Salve Regina Proposed Dormitories Delayed

By Bob Rulli


An architectural rendering by RGB Architects of Newport depicts one of two proposed new dormitory buildings which would house 200 students on the Salve Regina University Campus. The Watts Dormitory would replace a portion of the William Watts Sherman House (circa 1874) which represents one of the first Queen Anne Shingle homes designed by architect H.H. Richardson. An architectural rendering by RGB Architects of Newport depicts one of two proposed new dormitory buildings which would house 200 students on the Salve Regina University Campus. The Watts Dormitory would replace a portion of the William Watts Sherman House (circa 1874) which represents one of the first Queen Anne Shingle homes designed by architect H.H. Richardson. Salve Regina University's proposed plans to construct two dormitories, each housing 200 undergraduate students, hit a snag when the Newport Planning Board continued the matter to Dec. 4 because the petition for only one of the two new buildings was advertised.

Many members of the Bellevue Avenue-Ochre Point Historic District, where the university is located, were in attendance at the Nov. 6 meeting. The planning board must initially make a recommendation regarding the project to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and determine if the project is consistent with Newport’s recently adopted Comprehensive Plan.

The project must also go before the Historic District Commission (HDC) for conceptual approval of the design for each new building, and for permission to demolish the existing buildings. Upon those approvals, it would then need to go back before the planning board as two new petitions, in order to receive a demolition permit.

If the HDC denies any approvals of the project or if a demolition permit is not granted by the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals could either deny an appeal of those decisions or make its own decision. If the university gains approval from the planning board and HDC, the zoning board would take up the matter in a request for a Special Use Permit, which is required for multi-unit buildings.

Neighbors initially believed that Salve Regina was only interested in replacing 30 dorm rooms lost when the university sold Conley Hall in 2016. In an open letter to neighbors and to the university, Judy and Laurence Cutler, owners of Vernon Court, home of the National Museum of American Illustration and Frederick Law Olmstead Arboretum, raised concerns about the loss of more historic buildings and the increase in traffic and parking issues that would arise if the project moves forward. Part of the plan for one of the dormitories includes the removal of an addition to the historic Watts Sherman House. After a prolonged, litigious fight against the construction of the new Visitor's Center at The Breakers, members of the neighborhood seem prepared to oppose the dormitory plans.

The proposed project was also on the agenda at the Nov. 7 meeting of the HDC, where students from Salve's Historic Preservation program were in attendance as observers.

Commission Chair Diana Sylvaria announced that the four petitions would be continued to a special meeting on Dec. 5, with a potential continuation to Dec. 7.

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