A former venture capitalist, Gov. Gina Raimondo has made it clear that she wants innovation and entrepreneurship to be a major catalyst of Rhode Island’s economy.

In a little more than a year from now, those efforts will get a serious boost when the Wexford Innovation Center opens in Providence, anchoring the city’s Innovation and Design District.

Construction workers are making significant progress on the $105 million project that rests on former I-195 land overlooking the Providence River and the brick South Street Landing building.

With the foundation in place, the site superintendent said during an exclusive media tour Thursday that the 191,000-square-foot building has entered the envelope phase. Next month, the curtain wall will begin to go up, during which time the windowless collection of steel and concrete slabs will begin to undergo a major transformation. Tenants are expected to move in June of 2019.

“We are proud to add this building to the growing Providence skyline,” Jim Berens, founder and CEO of Wexford Science & Technology, said in a statement. “This milestone represents a significant step forward in the development of a dynamic knowledge community bringing together intellectual capital, innovation and infrastructure to create a center of gravity, congregation and place for the Providence innovation ecosystem.”

The seven-story building will host powerhouse tenants such as Johnson & Johnson, which will occupy the seventh floor, and coworking behemoth Cambridge Innovation Center, which is leasing 65,000 square feet of office space.

CIC’s space consists of the entire third floor, which will feature a terrace overlooking the river that can be used for events, and parts of the second and fourth floors.

Additionally, CIC will operate an on-site cafe and two-story public meeting space called District Hall, which will lead to an outside plaza. Brown’s School of Professional Studies will be the third anchor tenant.

“CIC’s track record along with Wexford’s in catalyzing and incubating early stage companies is impressive and proven in other markets,” 195 Commission Executive Director Peter McNally said in a statement. “This is also a confidence building step for those companies who are looking closely at new development and doing business in the [195 Innovation & Design District].”

In addition to spurring more innovation, the project is being hailed as a major economic stimulus, projected to create 1,000 construction jobs and generate $100 million in state revenue over the next 20 years.

The state pumped more than $41 million in tax credits to help shore up financing gaps from the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation’s Rebuild Rhode Island program, and with funds from the state-infused I-195 Commission.

According to Stefan Pryor, the state’s secretary of Commerce, there are 33 real estate projects that have received funds from the Rebuild Rhode Island tax credit program.

“We are on a roll,” Pryor told media while on the top floor of the Wexford Innovation Center, referring to the Ocean State’s economy. “And there are signs of it everywhere.”

Source: Rhode Island Inno by Bram Berkowitz  |  May 25, 2018