Thank you, Sharon, and good evening. It’s great to see all of you and I appreciate the opportunity to talk briefly about just how far we have come in reinvigorating the Jewelry District.
I might start by recalling three moments along the way that have reflected my own thinking -- together with Brown’s -- about what was possible in the Jewelry District
First, I recall having dinner at Bacaro in 2012, not long after I moved to Providence, and staring out across the river at the shuttered “Dynamo House”. Even in its run-down state, the bones and design of the building were breathtaking. It seemed to me to be an incredible opportunity for the city.
What I couldn’t have known then was how significant this very building, now South Street Landing, would become in planning Brown’s future, and in the revitalization of the Jewelry District.
Second, three years ago, I gave a speech at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce annual meeting. I noted in my remarks that Brown was “all in” on being an anchor partner in the development of the Jewelry District.
What I hoped to communicate then was that Brown had a vision for a Jewelry District campus that would accommodate Brown’s growth while benefiting the city, and a strategy for getting there.
And third, over the past few weeks, I’ve watched as the pedestrian bridge that will link College Hill and the Jewelry District, nears completion. And I think about all of the bridge-building we have done to get to this point.
We have come a long way. Before we did, it was important for Brown to recognize a couple of things.
First, we recognized that major research universities like Brown could be catalysts of economic growth and civic engagement that helps revitalize urban communities.
This hasn’t always been the case. In fact, the stereotype of the university has long been that of a walled-off “ivory tower” that regards “community engagement” as a distraction from its core mission.
No longer. There are plenty of studies showing that cities with strong research universities grow faster. In places like Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham, and Palo Alto, universities work with business communities to create jobs, attract investors, generate talent, and enhance the tax base.
And they help unleash civic engagement by cultivating community and building constructive relationships with like-minded people and organizations. Brown's efforts follow this model.
And two, Brown recognized that success would require partnering with stakeholders and aligning our growth with city/state economic, social, health, and technology priorities.
This meant building partnerships that leveraged the talents of our faculty, researchers and students around high-impact areas of discovery like data science, engineering, biomedical research, robotics, and brain science. It meant nurturing entrepreneurship and social enterprise.
That is what we see in the Jewelry District now, where Brown has invested more than $200 million in the past decade. For us, the District has been an ideal setting for cross-sector partnership that bolsters the city’s economic health and strengthens the University’s connection to Providence.
As always, serving the greater good remains an integral part of Brown’s core mission.
Now, there was another vital element, beyond Brown’s intellectual resources. Our Jewelry District campus exists in large measure because of the Jewelry District Association, which has done so much to make the neighborhood safer, cleaner and investment-ready.
For two decades now, the JDA has worked hard to remove poorly managed nightclubs that attract crime and drugs. You have promoted civic participation, by organizing neighborhood cleanups and plantings, and leading walking tours. You have strengthened the licensing and zoning boards with your constant presence.
And a special thanks here to Arthur Salisbury and Sharon Steele for your tireless advocacy. We are all grateful for what you’ve done to improve the Jewelry District.
This is the kind of citizen detail work that builds community spirit and creates neighborhood bonds. In short, you have led the way in enhancing the livability of the Jewelry District.
All of it has made an enormous difference in making the Jewelry District an environment attractive to a university community of students, faculty, researchers, clinicians, artists, designers, and inventors.
More than 2,000 Brown-affiliated people go to work in the Jewelry District every day. They buy lunch, do errands, add eyes on the street, and make the neighborhood inviting. The District is now a place where people want to be.
So now, we have a neighborhood on the rise, and Brown could not be prouder to have a footprint in it. A few highlights:
Brown was a founding partner in South Street Landing. This project would not have happened without strong collaboration with the developers, the University of Rhode Island and RIC, the city and state.
Brown partnered with others to develop the Wexford Innovation Center that will house our School of Professional Studies and the Cambridge Innovation Center.
These two centerpiece projects complemented existing Brown investments, the Warren Alpert Medical School and the Laboratories for Molecular Medicine. Together, all of them continue to generate knowledge-driven opportunities across the city.
In the entrepreneurship space, Brown students and faculty are forming collaborations with local start-ups and innovation labs in the District, and linking with our Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship.
And recently, we launched Brown and the Innovation Economy, a roadmap for cultivating industry engagement and a strategy that will complement our work with the Urban Innovation Partnership, which, as you know, is targeting the Jewelry District.
Meanwhile, a good part of Brown’s community engagement addresses the educational needs of children in Providence and Rhode Island – improving their school experiences, and enhancing their access to Brown summer programs.
Our Swearer Center programs connect more than 1,200 Brown students to meaningful opportunities with over 100 nonprofit partners around the city and state.
All of this goes back to having a vision and executing on a strategy. Everything we see today is premised on partnership. And everything we see responds to Mayor Elorza’s interest in greater alignment between Brown’s growth with the city’s interests.
That vision is unfolding today as a vibrant community of 2,000 staff, students and professionals infuses this once-neglected part of Providence with life and attracts capital, culture, knowledge and creativity.
Imagine the District when River House is home to graduate/medical students, first floor retail, and busy eateries. Imagine the buzz of business when the Wexford Innovation Center is completed. Imagine the scenes on a warm spring day, when a stroll along the Riverwalk leads to lunch in the park.
This has been a thoughtful, holistic, and collaborative effort to address the University’s growth and do so in a way that aligns with the priorities of the city and enhances livability in a historic district.
We love the idea that all of us, together, are transforming Providence into an attractive destination for research and business in the innovation economy.
We love the idea that all of us, together, are modeling the kind of public-private partnership that generates broad economic development benefits.
We love the idea that bringing our world-class scholarship and intellectual resources to the Jewelry District accelerates new areas of discovery, and helps make it attractive and livable, for all of us.
I speak for everyone at Brown when I say that we are proud to have been a part of this united effort to reimagine the Jewelry District.