What’s next for Carmelite Monastery property in Barrington?

Planning Board to hold workshops; school officials plan a visit

By Josh Bickford
Posted 3/13/23

Will it be developed for housing? 

Will it be turned into a school? 

Or will the former Carmelite Monastery property continue to sit vacant?

The future of the town-owned property …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Not a subscriber?

Start a Subscription

Sign up to start a subscription today! Click here to see your options.

Purchase a day pass

Purchase 24 hours of website access for $2. Click here to continue

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.

What’s next for Carmelite Monastery property in Barrington?

Planning Board to hold workshops; school officials plan a visit


Will it be developed for housing? 

Will it be turned into a school? 

Or will the former Carmelite Monastery property continue to sit vacant?

The future of the town-owned property has been the subject of discussion at a recent Barrington School Committee meeting and at a Planning Board meeting. 

On March 2, members of the School Committee shared their thoughts about the seven-acre parcel, discussed briefly the possibility of building a school there, and eventually agreed to have a school official visit the location. 

Five days later, members of the Planning Board reviewed development plans for the property, which is located at 25 Watson Ave. One of the plans calls for keeping the monastery building vacant and developing housing around it, while the second plan calls for the monastery to be demolished and housing to be built on the property. 

The Planning Board voted to hold two workshops in the near future where residents could share their thoughts about the proposals. 

Planning Board workshops

The public will have an opportunity to attend two workshops focused on the development plans for the former Carmelite Monastery property. The first workshop is set for March 28, while the second will be April 26. 

Members of the Planning Board voted unanimously to share two development plans at the workshops — the plans were developed by the town-hired consultant, 4ward Planning, which also assisted with the 25 Watson Ave. Ad Hoc Committee. 

The first plan calls for the monastery building to remain unused — residents have twice voted to preserve the structure. That plan also calls for two acres of preserved open space closest to the beach; the construction of six single-family homes fronting Watson Avenue; eight single-family homes fronting Freemont Avenue; and 22 detached senior living cottage court units partially fronting Freemont Avenue. 

The second plan calls for the construction of 12 single-family houses fronting Watson Avenue; six single-family houses fronting Freemont Avenue; 35 detached senior living cottage court units partially fronting on Freemont Avenue; and two acres of preserved open space.

According to a memo from Barrington Town Planner Teresa Crean to the Planning Board, an analysis determined that both plans were financially feasible.

“Neither Land Use Plan proposes re-use of the Monastery building,” stated the memo. “The consultant report dated Sept. 6, 2022 concluded that re-use of the existing building for housing is not financially feasible.”

Initially, Planning Board member Bill Kurtz voiced support for proposing a single construction option — the plan that called for the demolition of the monastery building. But fellow board member Greg Lucini said it would be better to offer the public multiple options. 

Roni Phipps, the chair of the Planning Board, said it was disappointing that during the town’s initial investigation of the property, an architect had suggested that it would be possible to rehab the monastery into senior housing. 

She said the recent report says it is not viable to renovate the building. 

Eventually, Kurtz made a motion to advance the second plan to the workshops. He later amended the motion to include both plans. The workshops will include renderings of what the developments may look like. 

Concurrently, school officials are expected to take a closer look at the 25 Watson Ave. property. 

Members of the Barrington School Committee had an opportunity to weigh in on the former Carmelite Monastery property at their March 2 meeting. 

Frazier Bell said 25 Watson Ave. held potential as a possible future school location. He said it was high ground — parcel sits overlooking Barrington Beach and Narragansett Bay. 

Megan Douglas thought it was a low probability that the property could host a school, but Bell countered that the stock of available property in town was limited and 25 Watson Ave. should be considered, adding that he would hate to lose it.

TJ Peck said he had served on the 25 Watson Ave. Ad Hoc Committee, which spent months considering future uses of the property. Peck said he believed there was some interest in whether or not the schools could use 25 Watson Ave. for an early learning center for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students. 

Patrick McCrann asked what the town’s timeline was for future use of the property.

Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore said he had had a conversation with Barrington Town Manager Phil Hervey, who had asked him what he thought about using the property as a school. 

Peck said he did not think it was feasible to use the former monastery building as a school. 

Eventually, McCrann asked Messore to provide some additional details about the property and the town’s timeline. 

Council requests

In February, members of the Barrington Town Council discussed the Watson Avenue property. They referred the topic to a handful of boards and commissions for further review — it was sent to the Planning Board, Housing Board and Zoning Board for consideration in developing comprehensive plan amendments regarding future uses. The council also sent it to the School Committee for possible school use of the building and its surrounding property.

2023 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.