University News

Dynamo House set to undergo renovation

Historic building will house centralized administrative offices in Jewelry District

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, November 3, 2014

The Jewelry District’s South Street Power Station, commonly known as the Dynamo House, will undergo an extensive renovation starting in December or January, the Corporation announced following its October meeting. In the following weeks, the University will sign a lease with private developer Commonwealth Venture that will provide the University with over 136,000 square feet of administrative office space within the Dynamo building, said Stephen Maiorisi, vice president for facilities management. 

The rest of the building will be used by University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College as the Nursing Education Center.

A new facility will also be constructed nearby that will house 264 beds for graduate, medical and nursing school students, a 650-car parking garage, a retail space and an incubator space, Maiorisi said.  Both structures follow plans outlined by the University over the summer.

The new complex will sit in the Dynamo House’s parking lot, Maiorisi said. The idea of renovating the Dynamo House for University purposes followed Commonwealth Venture’s proposal to build the new facility, he added.

A total of 12 university administrative offices currently housed in the Brown Office Building on College Hill will move into the Dynamo space during the summer or early fall of 2016. The offices will constitute part of the third floor and all of the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of the building,  Maiorisi said.

Shifting most of the University’s administrative body to the Jewelry District will facilitate interdepartmental communication, Maiorisi said. “By consolidating those administrative functions, we can all work together better there in one location as opposed to being spread out across campus.”

The administrative migration will also free up 90,000 square feet of space on College Hill, Maiorisi added. “The Brown Office Building can then be renovated to be something else, something more geared towards the academic mission (of) the University.”

Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, said the “prime real estate at the center of campus opens up possibilities both for academic programs and for new initiatives” that will be “valuable for students.”

The Providence Preservation Society named the Dynamo House, which has been vacant since 1999, among the city’s 10 most endangered properties in 2011 and 2012. Though there were efforts to redevelop the space into a Rhode Island history museum, these plans fell through in 2008, when the project developer went bankrupt during the economic downturn.

“The Dynamo House was the greatest preservation issue in the state,” said Paul Wackrow, Providence Preservation Society’s coordinator of advocacy and education. “The current development saved the building. I’m not sure how much longer it would have been around if these groups didn’t step in,” he added, explaining that the building has glaring structural issues, such as missing portions of the roof, which would have led to the building’s deterioration and eventual demolition.

The Dynamo building renovation and restoration is “a big win” for the Providence Preservation Society, Maiorisi said.

Though additions will be made to the building — including a new floor — a historic tax credit review will be conducted to ensure that neoclassical, historical elements of the building are not altered or removed, he said, adding that “a lot of the brick work and the amount of work that can change on the exterior is limited because of the historic issues.”

The Providence Preservation Society supports how the new renovation will maintain the “historic integrity of the building,” Wackrow said. “We’re hoping that this can actually be a model for preservation moving forward.”


A previous version of this article misstated the number of cars the nearby parking garage will hold. It will hold 650, not 260. The article also previously misstated the number of beds for graduate, medical and nursing students the nearby facility will hold. It will hold 264, not 164. The Herald regrets the errors.

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  1. Awesome. That building is sweet.

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