Thank you, Peter, and good evening everyone.
It is great to be here, because it gives me a chance to tell you how much I appreciate everything the Chamber is doing to make Providence—and Rhode Island—a stronger hub for knowledge-driven commercial activity.
I am here as well because I believe that the Chamber’s efforts can continue to benefit from two important Brown University assets:
- world-class idea generation through distinctive scholarship;
- and a firm commitment to collaborative, multi-sector partnership.
And this is at least part of what I want to talk about tonight: how the power of partnerships can drive successful planning — specifically, with an eye toward the Jewelry District.
But before I begin, let’s take a look at this brief video. Can we play the clip, please?
As the video suggests — I see the Jewelry District as an extraordinary opportunity to shape a vibrant environment that attracts capital, culture, and community.
We have a chance to write a founding chapter in Governor Raimondo’s playbook for boosting economic development in Providence and Rhode Island.
And I want Brown to be one of the anchor partners in this effort. There’s an opportunity to be an anchor tenant in these efforts.
Now in 2013, when Brown embarked on a strategic planning process that produced Building on Distinction, our 10-year plan, we did so with an understanding of the vital role universities play in advancing knowledge.
We did so aware of our responsibilities to this city and this state.
And we did so knowing that Brown’s investments in the Jewelry District could advance both the University’s academic priorities and the economic interests of Providence and Rhode Island.
Now that Brown has launched the largest campaign in its history, it is time to be specific about the two core investments we intend to make in this regard.
I am thrilled that one of them is to house a translational science complex in the Jewelry District.
Many of you are aware that “translational science” is a new frontier of discovery and commercial enterprise, drawing on medicine, brain science, bioengineering, computer science, big data and other areas fertile for breakthrough solutions and products. Translational science represents the entrepreneurial pathway that connects basic science to practice.
This is potentially consequential in profound ways. Let me thumbnail a few:
- We’re building on current work in neuroscience and bioengineering to translate thought into action, enabling, for example, paralyzed individuals to manipulate prosthetics;
- We’re expanding work in the Brown Institute for Brain Science, in collaboration with URI and our health system partners, and we look forward to the development of new devices and treatments to help people with Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain and obsessive compulsive disorder;
- We’re capitalizing on the integration of health and life science research teams, so that we can gain more nuanced understandings of the causes of—and treatments for—childhood conditions like asthma and autism.
We see the evolution of Brown’s translational science work as a strategic extension of existing assets in the Jewelry District, including the Warren Alpert Medical School, the Laboratories for Molecular Medicine and, just across the river, the School of Public Health.
Add to these assets the proposed Brown BioMedical Innovations, Inc. — an accelerator that will support the movement of discoveries from the bench to the market — and the landscape for a knowledge-to-business ecosystem improves, again potentially boosting the regional economy.
I am certain that the Jewelry District is the perfect location for major investments in translational scienceand in a second priority area of our academic plan: growing Master’s and Executive Education in areas like business education, health care leadership and cybersecurity—further increasing the vibrancy of the Jewelry District.
Brown is poised to move forward quickly on both.
So Brown is all in here. Our investments — already well over $200M in infrastructure — have seeded redevelopment in the Jewelry District, mostly by bringing in resources and people.
Every day, more than 1500 Brown faculty, staff and students work and study in the District. This figure rises to more than 2000 when we include Brown’s 121 South Main Street building, home to our School of Public Health and our Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics.
In short, Brown has built a track record of driving growth in the Jewelry District that is beneficial to Providence and to Rhode Island. It is a record built on Brown’s understanding of its role as a university — to generate ideas and push the boundaries of knowledge into promising, impactful new areas.
So when Brown became the founding partner in South Street Landing, foremost in our minds was making good on this role, as an incubator of knowledge and, in time, a catalyst for growth.
I am proud of Brown’s work on the $215M South Street Landing project, certain to be a cornerstone of the Jewelry District.
We imagined the facility as an emerging multi-sector hub with our developer partner, Dick Galvin and CV Properties, and executed on the vision with the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College.
And we were thrilled when the vision attracted the interest and investment of a partner with the reputation and expertise of Wexford Science and Technology.
Now, Brown will spend over $5M per year to occupy South Street Landing and will, in time, relocate 450 administrative staff from 13 departments to the new facility.
The South Street Landing idea was, as my good friend URI President David Dooley put it last December, “way out of the box.” But at the end of the day, it fit.
Cranes are in the sky. Spaces are being fitted. And a landmark building is being transformed into a 21stcentury academic and mixed-use facility for three Rhode Island educational institutions. In the not too distant future, a vibrant community of staff, students and professionals will begin infusing this once-dormant part of Providence with creative energy and prospects.
That is good for Providence. And that is good for Rhode Island.
We hear a lot about the “innovation economy”. Let me suggest to you that this concept is not a fad. Innovation lies at the core of economic growth, and of job growth. And, it is an ideal platform for collaboration among stakeholders — businesses and non-profits; citizens and policymakers.
And so Brown’s approach has been—and will continue to be—to encourage and participate in public-private partnerships that stimulate economic expansion, incubate innovation, and bring stakeholders together.
I believe we have a detailed, confident, winning vision.
It is “place-making” as a blueprint for revitalizing a neglected urban area.
It is “thought-leading” as a strategy for cross-disciplinary academic integration and application.
And it is “market-shaping” as an investment in tomorrow’s science and technology-driven niches of discovery.
It is a prototype for a Rhode Island innovation economy primed for liftoff. And on behalf of Brown University, I am proud to say that we are precisely where we should be: engaged with public and private sector partners in charting its course.
With that, I’m sure we are all looking forward to hearing Jim Berens talk about his vision for the Jewelry District.
Thank you all so much for your kind attention.