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Restoration of Med School begins downtown

Construction crews have begun restoration on the exterior of the Alpert Medical School at 222 Richmond St. in the Jewelry District. The $45 million project remains on track for completion this August.

Demolition work on the building, built in 1928, is complete, said Paul Dietel, director of project management.

The Suffolk Construction team is now focusing on the potentially "risky" process of removing concrete columns from the building and replacing them with structural steel, said Edward Wing, dean of medicine and biological sciences.

The steel will allow for construction of two-story lecture halls on the first floor, holding up to 150 students each, Wing said.

The building as it currently stands does not have large enough rooms to accommodate student needs, Dietel said. The construction team is also installing the electrical and plumbing systems, he said.

In addition to the lecture halls, new windows will allow for increased natural lighting, which was lacking in the old building, Wing said.

The project hit a minor bump when oil tanks were discovered in the basement. But such surprises were expected, and contingency funds were used to clean up the oil and the soil around the tanks, Wing said.

Administrators are working closely with Jennifer Braga, the University's government relations and community affairs liaison, to ensure that construction does not disrupt neighboring residents and business owners in the district, Dietel said.

Though businesses have been supportive, "nobody likes construction," Wing said.

Parrish Olsen, controller at Ship Street's Narragansett Brewing Company, said the blockading of streets has made it difficult for her employees to get into parking lots. Delivery trucks also have a hard time pulling into the area.

"There's no heads-up,"  she said, adding that the problem varies from day to day.

Noise, on the other hand, has not been a problem, and traffic has not impeded business because customers do not come to company headquarters.

The project has created around 300 construction-related jobs, Wing said. About 30 additional job openings will need to be filled inside the building once it is completed. Many of the subcontractors are Rhode Island-based companies.

Expansion of Brown's medical school is expected to bring economic revitalization to the Jewelry District. University administrators continue to work with local hospitals, non-profits and city and state government to promote private investment in the area.

Around 1,000 new people are expected to move in near the Med School as it develops, Wing said. Administrators hope an increased University presence will attract more retail to the area.

Throw a bunch of medical students, professors and entrepreneurs together in one neighborhood, Wing said, and a key question arises — "Where are you gonna buy your Starbucks?"




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