Photo: Walter Tsui

“Because I used to work in security here, I’m very aware of what’s going on.”

Iris is the leasing agent and concierge for four buildings on Westminster Street – the Peerless Building, the Alice Building, the Wilkinson Building and the Burgess-O’Gorman Building. She answers phones, takes potential residents on tours, deals with packages and feeds cats. She’s been doing this for two years – for two years before that, she was a security officer in the buildings.

“When I first got to Rhode Island, I was like ‘What did I do?!’ I here came from Florida, and I thought maybe I should go back. But things have developed in stages.”

She originally came to continue her studies at Johnson and Wales, transferring from their Miami campus. “I didn’t know anything of Rhode Island when I was in Florida, I just saw there was a bigger campus here and it was a way out, so I took it. And now I’m happy I’m here.

“I’m from New York, but I don’t like New York. Here you don’t have people walking fast head down, traffic going crazy, and have to take the subway to get anywhere. When I lived there, I didn’t do much but go to school, go to work, go home.”

Iris graduated in criminal justice in 2006, before getting the security officer job. “My first year and a half, there were not as many residents. Last two years, it’s been 90-100% occupied. It’s always been the same kind of mix of students, working professionals and retirees. Everyone is from a wide range of fields and has different stories as to how they got here. Sitting here, you learn a lot about people.”

She lives out on the East Side, and takes the bus in every day.

“I don’t live downtown because I want to go home and have a change of scenery. But if I worked somewhere else, I’d live here. I think it’s a wonderful town to come to, it’s affordable, and it’s as safe as a city is going to get. I don’t know if it’s my home for the rest of my life, but I have no reason to want to leave right now.”

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