Monastery property — what would you do with it?

Barrington officials ask residents to pitch ideas for recently-purchased property

By Josh Bickford
Posted 8/3/21

Use it for senior housing.

Turn it into a community recreational area.

Leave it as quiet open space.

For the past few weeks, the town has been receiving residents’ ideas on what to do …

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.


Monastery property — what would you do with it?

Barrington officials ask residents to pitch ideas for recently-purchased property

Posted

Use it for senior housing.

Turn it into a community recreational area.

Leave it as quiet open space.

For the past few weeks, the town has been receiving residents’ ideas on what to do with the former Carmelite monastery property. 

The town is purchasing the 7-plus-acre parcel which sits on the western edge of Watson Avenue and overlooks Narragansett Bay. At the recent town council meeting, officials passed a resolution authorizing the town manager to “execute and deliver” the monastery purchase and sales agreement with the “Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence.” The Diocese has owned the property for decades. 

In a recent interview, Mr. Cunha said the closing date for the $3.5 million purchase is Aug. 18. In the meantime, the town is offering residents an opportunity to share their suggestions for future uses of the property. 

Dozens have already pitched their ideas, and the majority who have done so are echoing the sentiment shared by council president Michael Carroll — he said the intent was to use the former monastery for senior/affordable housing.

About half of the suggestions from residents list housing of some sort: Affordable housing, subsidized senior housing, small-sized fully-accessible livable properties, elderly housing and special needs housing, housing for the adult special needs population.

Mr. Cunha said the town was going to have the property surveyed and he also planned to have the building official conduct a thorough inspection of the monastery building. He said officials need to know if the structure is worth saving, or if it should be demolished.

When residents voted on whether to purchase the property, the language of the resolution called for the acquisition and preservation of the Carmelite monastery. 

“We have to do our due diligence,” Mr. Cunha said. 

A second question about the Carmelite monastery property asks residents what should be done with the surrounding property. Some people wrote that the land should be converted into a sports complex featuring athletic fields. Others suggested the property play host to public gardens and a playground, or a park with a community garden. There were also some who called for the land to be left as open space, with nature trails and outdoor classrooms.

Mr. Cunha, during the most recent council meeting, told residents that there was still time to click on the link and offer a suggestion. 

Town officials have said that there will be public hearings to further discuss the future of the former monastery property. 

Mr. Cunha said the purchase of the property was important because it gave the town control over what happens with the land. There has been some discussion about the town possibly partnering with a developer to construct housing on the property. The town could also sell the property to a corporation that would develop the parcel in accordance with the town’s wishes.

Second virtual suggestion box

The town manager mentioned a second virtual suggestion box during the recent council meeting — officials are asking residents what they think the town should do with federal funding expected through the American Rescue Plan. That initiative is expected to deliver nearly $5 million to Barrington, although there are a series of restrictions on what the money can be used for. Links to both web pages can be found at barrington.ri.gov

Some suggestions

Ideas for former Carmelite Monastery property include:

• Pop-up stores, some living spaces, and restaurants

• Living space for adults with disabilities

• Affordable and senior housing complex

• Teen and youth community center

• Arts center with live/work studios, classroom space, a gallery and a black box theater

• Subsidized housing development with 2-3 bedroom apartments that offer preferential placement to people experiencing domestic violence

• Arts center

• Housing for retired military and their families

• Year-round farmer’s market and incubator for emerging artists

• Affordable housing; divide land and sell lots

• Quiet open space; building for local seniors

• Recreation center

• Multi-generational inclusive interactive recreation facility

• Knock it down

• Sell to a private developer

• Sports complex with fields

• Public gardens, playground

• Open space, nature trails, outdoor classrooms

2022 by East Bay Newspapers

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.