University Heights occupies the site of Providence’s oldest African-American community. The area was somewhat shabby by the 1950s, with houses in violation of minimum housing standards. An extensive study of the area’s buildings and the residents’ needs occurred in the late 1950s with the almost inevitable conclusion, from today’s perspective, that the area bounded by North Main, Olney, and Camp Streets and Doyle Avenue should be cleared and redeveloped. In April 1962, the Providence Redevelopment Agency selected as developer University Heights Inc., a corporation composed of Star Market of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a number of local citizens. The new construction included an apartment complex and a shopping center, the latter replaced in the late 1990s.
9 Olney Street Baptist Church
Johnson & Haynes’s simple brick-clad box of a building was occasioned by the urban renewal project at University Heights, a new home for a congregation displaced by its creation. It is very much part of the geometric modernism inspired by Mies van der Rohe in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture