PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In a significant milestone for a major public-private development project proposed on former Interstate 195 land in the heart of Providence’s Jewelry District, Brown University and the Cambridge Innovation Center have signed letters of intent to lease space in an Innovation Center being developed by Wexford Science & Technology.
The letters of intent to lease were announced by Wexford in collaboration with the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, which voted on Monday, Dec. 12, to authorize incentives from the state’s I-195 Redevelopment Fund to support the $158 million project.
As envisioned, Phase I of the multi-part Wexford project would include a 191,000-square-foot Innovation Center with Brown and the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) — an incubator and co-working facility that assists entrepreneurs in launching new products and companies —as anchor tenants. It would also include an adjacent 170-room Starwood Aloft hotel with ground-floor retail space, which is being developed by CV Ventures.
Should the project proceed as planned, Brown would lease 50,000 square feet of space for a period of 15 years for its School of Professional Studies. In the wake of the nearby South Street Landing project — which is expected to open in 2017 and includes 136,500 square feet of Brown space, a 750-space parking garage and a future 266-bed housing complex — Brown’s participation in the Innovation Center would continue its commitment to collaborative growth and economic development in the Jewelry District, where the University has invested more than $200 million over the past decade.
“From the Warren Alpert Medical School to South Street Landing, Brown’s investments in the Jewelry District advance our mission of groundbreaking education and scholarship while also fueling innovation and economic development,” said University President Christina Paxson. “By expanding Brown’s School of Professional Studies, we aim to drive this commitment even further. The school brings a steady stream of global professionals in business, health care, science, technology, cybersecurity and more to Providence. Growth in these programs will contribute to a burgeoning knowledge economy and the establishment of a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood that holds promise for being transformative for our city, our state and communities.”
Currently located at 200 Dyer St., adjacent to the two former I-195 parcels that Wexford purchased for this project, the School of Professional Studies offers an array of executive master’s programs that enroll accomplished professionals from across the globe. In addition to creating an expanded student presence in the Jewelry District, a new home for the school would allow for additional programs, significant enrollment growth in existing programs and the potential for collaboration among CIC startups and Brown student, faculty and alumni entrepreneurs.
At an event at Brown on Tuesday, Dec. 13, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza spoke about the project’s potential impact with representatives from Wexford, Brown and CIC.
Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy at Brown, said the project reflects the University’s commitment to strategic growth in the Jewelry District in ways that benefit Brown, Providence and the residents of Rhode Island.
“The School of Professional Studies at Brown is a premier and growing academic program with critically important programs that benefit the city and the state…” Carey said. “More students in the Jewelry District will contribute to the Rhode Island economy, creating a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood that aligns with the vision the governor and the mayor have set forth.”
Gov. Raimondo said she expects the project to spark innovation, entrepreneurship and job development and to have a lasting impact on the state’s economy. Calling the project transformative, she described her vision for an economy in which great ideas emerging from universities are turned into products made in Rhode Island.
“People have said to me for a long time: ‘Governor, we have these amazing colleges and universities and we pump out more college graduates than other states. Why can’t we turn that into jobs?’ My answer is that we can and we are… This is a game-changer. Decades of Rhode Islanders will benefit from this. And it’s a clear signal to the rest of the country that Rhode Island is on the move, we’re on the rise, we have momentum and we’re going to keep going.”
Thomas Osha, senior vice president for innovation and economic development at Wexford, said the presence of world-class higher education and health care institutions in Providence attracted the interest of the development company, which has partnered on similar projects in cities including St. Louis, Philadelphia, Miami and Baltimore.
“Talent is the currency of innovation,” Osha said. “Great universities like Brown continue to regenerate new talent, new intellectual capital, new innovation, new ideas and new discoveries. For us, the first and foremost thing we looked at was our ability to partner with Brown.”
Brown’s total investment in the project is expected to exceed $35 million between lease payments, capital improvements, furniture, fixtures and equipment. Wexford and its partners will continue work on project financing and design and expects to break ground in the second quarter of 2017 with completion and occupancy targeted for the first quarter of 2019.