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Johnson & Wales University, Rehabilitation Award, Student Services Center, 274 Pine Street

Known to many as the Rolo Building, this two-story building built in 1921 is a remnant of Providence’s history as a center of jewelry manufacturing. Originally built for the D.M. Watkins Jewelry Company, the building was acquired by Rolo Jewelry, after being vacant for two years, in 1961. Rolo operated on the site until 1997 when they sold the building to Johnson & Wales University. Located adjacent to the soon-be-be-relocated I-195, Johnson & Wales saw the building as the ideal location for a new Student Services Center, consolidating six different academic services under one roof. They commissioned Arc/Architectural Resources Cambridge to formulate an adaptive reuse design solution that respects the historic building’s architectural integrity while integrating institutional requirements.

The spectacular rehabilitation, executed by Walsh Brothers, preserves original window openings and clerestory monitors and exposes the steel structure. The first floor, once a production floor filled with manufacturing equipment, now has a large, inviting lobby, conference room, and offices. The second floor originally held a machine shop and company offices. It is now home to light-filled workspaces and offices. Two historic objects were integrated into the new interior design. An industrial scale has been placed in the lobby and the circa 1961 “Rolo Building” sign has been installed above the second floor coffee bar. On the exterior, the original Watkins sign, which was covered for more than 30 years, has been restored. This project truly demonstrates Johnson & Wales University’s admirable commitment to the preservation of significant historic buildings in downtown Providence.