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1939: Before Miriam moved to Summit

A Brief History of Miriam Hospital

For more than 50 years, Miriam Hospital has expanded in Summit Neighborhood.

Providence's original zoning ordinance, adopted in 1923, declared hospitals to be a commercial use. The Miriam's original site was on Parade Street in downtown Providence.

A Change in Zoning Permits a Move

1952: Miriam moves to JORI Building
In 1951, the Providence City Council exempted hospitals from zoning regulations. The following year Miriam Hospital moved to Summit Avenue into the building formerly occupied by the Jewish Orphanage of Rhode Island (JORI). The orphanage building still stands at the corner of Summit Avenue and Fifth Street. It is used for hospital administrative offices.

1962: Miriam begins buying up adjacent houses
For the next 34 years, Miriam purchased and tore down more than 50 houses adjoining their campus. They swallowed up a block of Sixth Street, and made repeated appeals to the city to abandon the block of Seventh Street between Summit and Highland Avenues.

The Institutional Zone

In 1986, recognizing the damage being done to the city's neighborhoods by health and educational institutions, the City Council adopted the first Institutional Zone ordinance. The ordinance re-introduced hospitals and colleges to zoning regulation by creating a new "floating" zone drawn around their existing property holdings.

1972: Sixth Street is abandoned
The I-Zone prohibits hospitals and colleges from converting residential property to institutional use beyond their borders, while affording them wide latitude to develop within their I-Zoned areas.

Summit Avenue School Falls Victim

Just as the I-Zone ordinance was being considered, establishing borders around hospitals and colleges, Miriam Hospital's border was drawn to include the Summit Avenue Elementary School, which the city had negotiated to sell to the hospital, despite strong neighborhood opposition. Miriam promptly tore the building down and built the Fain Outpatient Clinic on the site.

1981: More hospital, fewer houses
It was thought at the time that the I-Zone was first established that it would encourage hospitals to seek commercially-zoned areas for future expansion, and early purchases by Miriam Hospital along North Main Street seemed to confirm that the I-Zone ordinance was working.
1997: Summit Avenue School is gone

Miriam Begins Another Round

Today we see the start of another round of expansion and investment by the hospital in their landlocked main campus. Miriam has proposed to knock down two buildings and replace them with a single huge building. Their immediate need is for only one floor of this new building, yet they plan to build four floors in a building that, from the outside, will ultimately rise to six stories in height.

At the same time they are shedding their properties in commercially zoned areas. They have sold the Ethan Allen and Sears Automotive sites, and they plan to sell the Sears Department Store site.

We ask, where will they expand next time? When will it stop?

This Page Last Updated: Tue Apr 22 22:21:25 2003