Editorial: A new vision for the monastery property

Posted 4/26/23

The Town of Barrington can put all the consternation about the future of the Carmelite Monastery property behind it and making a lasting positive impact on this community. By converting the Watson …

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Editorial: A new vision for the monastery property

Posted

The Town of Barrington can put all the consternation about the future of the Carmelite Monastery property behind it and making a lasting positive impact on this community. By converting the Watson Avenue property into a public park, it can continue this town’s proud tradition of preserving special open spaces.

Lost in the debate over what to do with the seven-acre parcel is the fact that this land is indeed special. It resides in one of the most desirable and charming neighborhoods of Barrington — a neighborhood that would be negatively impacted by a dense housing development — and it sits atop a hill with magnificent views of Narragansett Bay.

The monastery land is contiguous to the Rhode Island School of Design’s Tillinghast estate, which is contiguous to the Rhode Island Country Club. Privately owned, both of those are spectacular properties that roll down to the water. Though Barrington can hope they remain in their current state forever, nothing is certain, and either could look far different in 50 years.

This was always a concern with the monastery property. If it ever hit the market, it could get developed into who knows what.

So with good intentions, the Town stepped in and bought the property two years ago. The idea was to rehabilitate the building and let senior citizens move to a gorgeous location in town. It might have given some of the town’s older residents a chance to downsize, in both space and expense, and remain in a town they love.

That vision seems lost now, as rehabbing the building is apparently too costly and a poor investment.

Therefore, the next best purpose for this land would be open space. With a walking path, modest changes to open up the views, and some creativity, this property can be a value-enhancing asset for both the neighborhood and all of Barrington.

What happens to the building? It could be torn down, or it could serve the town in other ways, with minimal impact on the neighborhood.

The conversion to open space also does not scrap the vision for affordable senior housing; it simply shifts that vision elsewhere. Across town, at the abandoned campus last known as Zion Bible College, a private property owner has plans for hundreds of apartments, townhouses and homes. Those plans did not exist when the town purchased the monastery property, but they exist now, and they stand to have massive impact on the town, its schools, its infrastructure and its public services. It would create the largest concentrated growth in housing and population since the 1970s.

Give that context, what is the highest and best use for that special property along Watson Avenue? Leaving it alone makes more and more sense every day.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.