Neighborhoods and housing

Affordable, well-situated, full of culture and easy to get around, Providence is more than a great place to pursue your graduate studies; it's a great place to live. This neighborhood guide will help you (and any accompanying loved ones) better navigate your off-campus options as you get ready to make the move.

Downtown

Across the Providence River from the main part of campus, downtown (aka “Downcity”) Providence is home to the Fleet Library and the CIT/Fletcher Building, where a majority of the RISD graduate departments and studios are located. If you're looking to live off campus, you'll find a range of apartment-style living options and amazing examples of 19th-century architecture here as well.

Beyond being walkable and bikeable, two transportation hubs are in the area: the Kennedy Plaza bus station and the Providence rail station. There are also many restaurants, hotels, bars and venues, including Ken's Ramen, Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel, The Dean, Oberlin and New Harvest Coffee & Spirits. During the warmer months, Movies on the Block draws crowds, as does Waterfire, and in the winter you can catch hockey and basketball games at “the Dunk” next to the Providence Place Mall. Johnson & Wales, Roger Williams, Brown University and the University of Rhode Island all have locations downtown as well.

Just south of downtown is the Jewelry District, where there are a number of loft-style living options as well as restaurants (Red Fez, Olga's Cup + Saucer, Alforno) and the Providence Children's Museum. To the north, in Smith Hill, you'll find the Rhode Island State House (and nearby Los Andes, a popular Peruvian restaurant).

East Side

The East Side of town (not to be confused with East Providence across the Seekonk River) is made up of a number of small neighborhoods. College Hill is home to both RISD and Brown University, and its main commercial strip, Thayer Street, has a range of dining and shopping options (East Side Pockets, Avon Cinema, Durks BBQ among them). To the south of College Hill is the Fox Point neighborhood, with Wickenden Street and India Point Park at its base. You'll find great restaurants and shops on Wickenden as well, including Fellini's Pizzeria, The Shop and Adler's Design Center & Hardware. India Point Park often hosts festivals and concerts and is the entrance to the well-loved East Bay Bike Path which runs 14.5 miles along the Narragansett Bay to Bristol, RI. The Wayland neighborhood lies to the east of College Hill around Wayland Square, where you'll also find a variety of shops and restaurants (Eastside Marketplace, Red Stripe, Books on the Square) and a laundromat (most apartments in Providence are equipped with a washer/dryer in the basement, but it's always good to inquire). The Blackstone neighborhood lies a bit further to the east and its Lippitt Park is home to the Hope Street Farmers Market during the warmer months. Mount Hope is located in the northeast quadrant of Providence, north of College Hill. Hope Street runs through it and is another great area for food and shopping (Ivy Tavern, Not Just Snacks, Three Sisters, Ran Zan). In general, the East Side is fairly walkable and bikeable and it's also serviced by the RIPTA bus system.

West Side

Interstate 95 runs to the west of downtown Providence and the West Side (or West End) lies just beyond it. This area is defined by two neighborhoods: the Broadway/Armory district and Federal Hill. A well known Italian-American community, Federal Hill's many restaurants, bars and markets (including Pastiche, Enoteca Umberto and Lili Marlene's) line its main street, Atwells Avenue.

Broadway, a commercial street south of Federal Hill, has a number of vegetarian-friendly restaurants including The Grange and Nick's on Broadway. It is also home to the Columbus Theatre and record shops Armageddon and Analog Underground. Further to the south of Broadway is the Armory district, where you'll find north, the Avery, Loie Fuller's, Hudson Street Deli and other restaurants. The Dexter Parade Grounds adjacent to the Armory hosts a farmers market every Thursday in the warmer months and nearby Fertile Underground is a local grocery co-op. If you travel east on Westminster Street back toward I-95, you'll find local favorites like White Electric Coffee and Ada Books. West Side neighborhoods offer a wide range of living options—from condos to apartments to single family homes—and provide easy access to RISD's campus whether you're walking, biking, driving or taking public transportation.

Olneyville

To the west of the Armory district is Olneyville, a neighborhood known for its wealth of mill buildings and its impact on art and music as the home base of the Fort Thunder arts collective in the '90s. You'll find loft- and apartment-style housing here and some great bars and restaurants including El Rancho Grande, Justine's and Olneyville New York System (a go-to for the city's famous hot wieners). There's a lot for artists and designers to get involved in in this part of town too—be sure to check out The Steel Yard, the wurks, GRIN gallery and others. If you're an intrepid cyclist, Olneyville is a bike ride away from campus and RIPTA busses also serve the neighborhood.



Pawtucket

Just to the north of Providence, Pawtucket was a major textile industry hub in the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries. Today, many of its mill buildings have been converted to either studio space or living accommodations, making the area popular among RISD grad students and alumni. In Pawtucket, you'll find good restaurants (Pho Horn's, Chengdu Taste, Garden Grille), the McCoy Stadium (home of the Triple-A baseball team, the Paw Sox), interesting shops like Lorraine Fabrics and venues like Machines with Magnets.

Housing resources

RISD's Office of Residence Life manages on-campus apartments for graduate students. Most graduate students who reside on campus live in Charles Landing, an apartment complex managed by RISD just north of campus. If you're interested in this option, please check out the Campus Housing and Dining section.

If you prefer to live off campus, Residence Life has put together some helpful tips for how to begin your search for housing. JumpOffCampus is a great place to start. Other useful resources include the Brown University Auxiliary Housing site, craigslist, local realtors (such as Samson and Armory Management Company) and residential real estate sites like Trulia and Zillow. Another good way to discover available housing is to check bulletin boards at coffee shops and grocery stores around the city. Finally, we recommend taking a drive through the various neighborhoods and looking for rental signs—it may seem old fashioned, but it's a great way to find an available place in a neighborhood you like.

Once you've zeroed in on a potential home, Residence Life offers all students the opportunity to meet with a student lawyer and review your lease agreement. And, thanks to RISD's partnership with College Student Insurance, students are able to apply for discounted property insurance. If you do decide to live off campus, you must register your off-campus address with Residence Life by August 1.