PROVIDENCE, R.I. — More than two years after Gov. Gina Raimondo announced plans for a Baltimore firm to develop an innovation campus on former highway land in the capital city, the governor’s office has announced a groundbreaking Monday morning for the project by Wexford Science & Technology.

By Monday, Wexford will own the land where it will begin building, 195 District Executive Director Peter McNally said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, he said state leaders and Wexford executives are signing 25 complex legal documents and finalizing the first land transaction of nearly 26 acres of now-vacant land freed up by the state’s highway realignment. The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission is charged with developing that land to improve the state’s economy.

“It’s a big deal,” McNally said of the groundbreaking. “It’s a big deal for the governor and for the commission, and we’re happy that this is the prototype of the kind of deals we’re trying to do. It’s all economic development. It’s employment. … This is what we’re playing for.”

Wexford and its development partner — CV Properties of Boston and Southport, Connecticut — expect to build an innovation center and an Aloft hotel by Starwood Hotels & Resort, at a cost of $158 million.

Wexford partners with research universities, academic medical centers and companies in or near dense urban campuses. In Providence, the firm and its affiliates have already invested in the nearby redevelopment of an old power-generating station that is now the shared Nursing Education Center for the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College. That South Street Landing project will also soon hold Brown University offices.

The Cambridge Innovation Center and Brown University School of Professional Studies have signed on as tenants in Wexford’s 191,000-square-foot innovation center, which will include a cafe and space for nonprofits and civic groups to gather.

Wexford and CV Properties are the recipients of the largest share of economic incentives the Raimondo administration has awarded in the past 2½ years to encourage companies to move here or expand in Rhode Island. An approximately $41-million total includes up to $15 million in Rebuild R.I. tax credits to help developers close project-financing gaps and $18.5 million from the I-195 Fund that Raimondo infused with $25 million in her first budget.

Plus, the 195 Commission awarded another $1 million from the I-195 Fund for renovations to the adjacent One Ship St., owned by a Wexford real-estate affiliate. That’s where Johnson & Johnson has created its new health-technology center and the newly formed New England Medical Innovation Center is preparing to convene researchers, investors, entrepreneurs and established businesses to turn scientific research into new companies.

Wexford bought that building with hopes of attracting the sort of tenants it expects will one day fill its innovation center on 195 land.

The Commerce Corporation has said Wexford’s 195 project is expected to create about 800 jobs, many in research, information technology and scientific fields. However, none of its economic incentives are the Qualified Jobs tax credits that are tied to creating a certain number of jobs.

Thus, its incentives will be awarded when the project is completed and when Wexford meets certain criteria set by the 195 Commission. Documents detailing when Wexford will get money are among those McNally said are being finalized this week.

Raimondo’s office said the groundbreaking will be late Monday morning but did not say when.

Although Wexford once owned its innovation centers, Ventas, a real-estate investment trust in Chicago, acquired substantially all of Wexford’s life-science and medical real estate assets last year for $1.5 billion in cash. Ventas, which now pays Wexford to manage its assets, also bought South Street Landing, a piece of Davol Square and related Providence property for $151 million.


Source: Providence Journal | Kate Bramson | September 20, 2017