Brown Life Sciences Building

also known as Sidney E. Frank Hall for Life Sciences

The existing BioMed center bounded by Brown, Meeting, Thayer, and Olive Streets got a $95m addition for a new Biomedical Research center

About this Property


As early as 2001, plans for a new Biomedical center addition began. The U.S. Post Office at 201 Meeting St. moved to another Brown-owned building at 306 Thayer Street. Brown demolished the Meeting Street post office and a nearby building at 185 Meeting St., which formerly housed the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center. Occupants of the Philip Andrews Building at 60 Olive St., home to Brown’s Office of Facilities Management, relocated and the adjacent parking lot and building were demolished and consumed by the new construction.1

The move to demolish a 1926 house and home to the Women’s Center since 1974 was not without controversy. The house was a contributing structure to the College Hill Historic District. Further, it came to light that the house was left to the University when Ms. Doyle died with a specific request that the house remain intact as part of the campus. The Women’s Center was instead moved to 26 Benevolent Street and it was quietly demolished.

A remembrance of the former Doyle house from Brown Alumni magazine was penned by Gigi Hansen-DiBello in the March/April 2004 Brown Alumni magazine

Ballinger, an architectural and design firm located in Philadelphia, designed the structure while Gilbane Building Company was the general contractor and construction manager.

The five-story, 169,000-square-foot facility is home to 60 laboratories and provides access to the neighboring Biomedical Center (BMC) — forming a hub of life sciences research and teaching on College Hill. The connection provides access to a seven-story complex of offices, labs, and classrooms used by departments across the Division of Biology and Medicine. The BMC is home to the Herbarium, a collection of more than 100,000 plant specimens, as well as several facilities that support teaching and research, including the Division’s Flow Cytometry Facility, the Multidisciplinary Teaching Laboratory, and the Rhode Island Biobank.2

On a similar timeline, the University also redeveloped a property at 70 Ship Street in the Jewelry District into the Laboratories for Molecular Medicine. This move was in large part the shift from the “Jewelry District” nomenclature to the “Knowledge District.”

Community Reception

As we mentioned, this project caused a controversy over Brown’s decision to go against the wishes of a benefactor and demolish a historic house. In addition, the College Hill Neighborhood Association, a group of College Hill residents, and a College Hill business owner filed a lawsuit in federal court against Brown University and two Federal agencies over the Life Sciences project. The suit alleged that Brown and two federal agencies should have performed an environment impact study before proceeding, to insure that proposed new research facility would not significantly impact the environment of the surrounding community. Brown had admitted that the proposed new facility, together with other nearby Brown laboratory buildings, would discharge thousands of pounds of toxic emissions annually into the neighborhood air.3 We do not have any information about how this case was settled.

The general mass of the new building and the way it provided very little setback from the street was a concern of the College Hill Neighborhood Association and surrounding neighbors. The design of the building itself, though, made no waves. It is brick and glass adorned, and very conservative in its exterior design.


Mary H. Parsons House, demolished

From the National Register nomination form for College Hill Historic District, 1956

Mary H. Parsons House, now Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, Brown University, 1926. Jackson, Robertson & Adams, architects. Regency Revival; 2-1/2 stories; flank gable; stucco; 5 bay house with round-headed door; bamboo trim on trellised porch; exterior chimney on front of L to west; porch in rear on 2nd floor; high stucco wall across front.

The Brown Biomedical Complex

The Biomedical Center (BMC), at 171 Meeting Street, was built in 1969 as a 4-story research space, 2-story (below ground level) teaching and laboratory space, and 5-story animal care facility. In 1990, the Grimshaw-Gudewicz building was added to the complex.4 In 2006, the Life Science Building was added.

  1. From a Brown University News release, dated October 2, 2001. Captured October 31, 2020. 

  2. From a Brown website page about their facilities, captured October 31, 2020. 

  3. From the website, copied from an capture of August 11, 2003. 

  4. From the Brown University website, captured October 31, 2020.