Brown joins public, private partners to celebrate Innovation Center opening

Brown’s anchor tenancy in the Wexford Science and Technology building continues University’s commitment to transforming Jewelry District into a hub for technology transfer, entrepreneurship and economic innovation.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In 2011, Brown University opened the doors to its Warren Alpert Medical School building, transforming the former manufacturing plant in Providence’s Jewelry District into a state-of-the-art medical education facility.

Six years later, South Street Landing opened across Eddy Street — the long-abandoned power station reimagined into a vibrant, mixed-use home to Brown offices and to the Rhode Island Nursing Education Center through a public-private partnership with Wexford Science and Technology, CV Properties and the University among the project leaders.

On Wednesday, July 17, 2019, a ribbon-cutting just up the street from those two complexes marked the culmination of the latest project helping to propel a once-desolate neighborhood into a thriving ecosystem of academics, commerce and innovation.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo joined state and local officials, representatives from Wexford, Brown, Cambridge Innovation Center, Johnson & Johnson, and members of the public to officially open the Wexford Innovation Center at 225 Dyer St. in Providence.

Raimondo said that since her initial campaign for governor in 2014, Ocean State residents have pressed her on whether the state could successfully accomplish new development on the empty land freed years earlier by the relocation of Interstate 195.

“The result of our hard work, our strategy, our hope, is the building you see behind us,” Raimondo said. “It is a gorgeous 200,000-square-foot beehive of innovation. It will generate nearly 2,000 high-paying jobs in high-growth industries. And it is really the beginning and the center of something incredibly special for Providence and for the whole state. I think it was worth the wait.”

Wexford led the development of the Innovation Center, with Brown, Cambridge Innovation Center and Johnson & Johnson serving as anchor tenants. The building will also house Venture Café and its District Hall.

Brown’s tenancy advances its commitment to collaborative growth and economic development in the Jewelry District, where the University has invested more than $225 million over the past decade. Projects including the medical school building and South Street Landing have played a key role in attracting new partners to Rhode Island and bringing new life to a neighborhood now home to 1,600 Brown faculty, students and staff who work, teach and conduct research each day.

Brown President Christina Paxson
Brown President Christina Paxson called the opening of the Innovation Center a moment to celebrate, as the Jewelry District continues to come to life.

Brown’s School of Professional Studies executive master’s programs, biomedical master’s degree programs including Gateways to Medicine, Health Care and Research, and Division of Pre-College and Summer Undergraduate Programs will now call the Innovation Center home, extending that commitment to the next level.

“For Rhode Island, Providence, Wexford, Brown and all of our partners in the Innovation Center, this is a moment to celebrate,” said Brown President Christina Paxson. “Opening the doors to 225 Dyer St. not only advances one step further the Jewelry District’s transformation into a thriving hub for research, education, innovation and commerce, but also serves as a blueprint for the essential public and private partnership that will continue to bring new economic life to the city and state in the years ahead.”

All speakers at the ribbon-cutting were quick to credit the willingness — by the state, the city and all of the private partners involved — as the essential ingredient in the $88 million project’s ultimate success. The project will receive $18.8 million in incentives from the I-195 Redevelopment Fund and $15 million in Rebuild R.I. tax credits. According to third-party analysts, it will generate approximately $100 million in additional revenue to the state over the next 20 years in addition to the jobs it will create.  

Wexford founder and CEO James Berens said that Brown’s presence in the city and growth strategy for the Jewelry District played a predominant role in the decision by the company to invest in developing an innovation district in Providence.

“When we were introduced to this market five years ago, the primary reason we [came] here is really Brown University,” Berens said. “Without Brown’s investment on this side of the river, there isn’t anything that you see around here that would be here today.”

Paxson said the continued development of the neighborhood as a vibrant mixed-use environment with medical education, scientific research, administrative offices, residential space for graduate and medical students, and retail space has been gratifying.

“I love seeing what’s happening here in the Jewelry District,” she said during Wednesday’s event. “There are cement trucks across the way finalizing the park that you can see from this building. This was an empty area — there were tumbleweeds. And now it’s coming to life and it’s very exciting to see it.”

Brown’s space in the Innovation Center totals 50,000 square feet on the fourth and fifth floors with a mix of classrooms, collaborative work areas, gathering spaces, faculty and staff offices.

The University’s total investment in the project is expected to exceed $35 million between lease payments, capital improvements, furniture, fixtures and equipment. Brown employees who will work in 225 Dyer St. are expected to relocate to the building in August.