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Federal, state officials break ground on Dynamo project

More than 200 gather at South Street Power Station to celebrate start of collaborative project

Private sector leaders gathered with federal, state and municipal officials in a ceremony Monday to kick off renovations to the Jewelry District’s South Street Power Station, popularly known as the Dynamo House.

The revamp — expected to be complete by the fall of 2016 — will result in a nursing education center shared by Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island, as well as graduate housing and administrative offices for the University.

Officials joked that this would be “the last groundbreaking at this particular site,” said Dick Galvin ’79, president and founder of Commonwealth Ventures Properties, poking fun at failed past projects that attempted to renovate the former power station, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Prior to the actual groundbreaking, officials ranging from Galvin to Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’17 P’14 P’17 voiced their excitement about the project to a crowd of more than 200.

“On a day such as this, I can see why Travel and Leisure (Magazine) named Providence ‘Favorite City in America,’” Chafee said.

The current project serves as a capstone for Chafee, whose self-proclaimed mantra during his tenure has been: “Invest in education, infrastructure and workforce development.” Chafee also created the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission in 2011. The resulting relocation of I-195 cleared up land that will be used for the South Street Landing.

The new nursing education center will be “a thriving center of the meds and eds,” Chafee said, noting that education and health care are two of the biggest labor sectors in the state.

Galvin pointed to federal historic tax credits as helping to finance the revamp and thanked the state’s federal delegation for its support. As a Brown alum, he said he is particularly excited about the University’s involvement in the project.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said he believes the project will meet the economic demands of a larger labor force in the health care industry.

“With the Affordable Care Act, there are … thousands of Rhode Islanders who will have access to care," Reed said. "We need the nurses and the health professionals to care for them."

The Rhode Island College nursing school “has been on a roll lately,” said President of Rhode Island College Nancy Carriuolo, noting that 91.5 percent of RIC students who took the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses last year passed and RIC’s average was eight points above the national average.

The University will occupy half of South Street Landing, Reed said. “They’ll be a lead tenant in the 264 beds of graduate housing, and will continue to drive a lot of economic development.”

The University has invested more than $200 million in the Jewelry District, said President Christina Paxson P’19, who participated in the ceremonial groundbreaking. The project “really solidifies our presence here, and one that I think will continue to grow,” she said.

Once completed, the building will house 400 more administrative employees, she added.

Consolidating administrative offices in the Jewelry District will not only free up space for academic priorities on College Hill, but also allow for more collaboration and consolidation within administrative offices, said Russell Carey ’91 MA'06, executive vice president for planning.

The offices of the Vice President for Research, which are currently located in three different places on College Hill, will move to the new building, Carey said. The Division of Advancement, which has some employees at 110 Elm Street in the Jewelry District and some on College Hill, will also be consolidated in the new building, he added.

Further decisions about the use of the new offices and the repurposing of current office space on College Hill will be decided over the next two years, before the lease begins in 2016, Carey said.

Many officials highlighted the collaborative nature of the project. Galvin said the ceremony was “groundbreaking” on several levels, noting that it highlighted the partnership between state and city leadership, the collaboration between the government and a public utility to solve problems and the sharing of a facility by three educational institutions.

The project "really needed more than one anchor tenant to make it practical and feasible," Carey said. "We probably won't fully realize how valuable that is for years.”

Governor-elect Gina Raimondo commented on the uniting factor for all stakeholders in the project. “The one thing that binds you is a deep and enduring commitment to this state,” she said in her speech.

“Here in Providence and here in Rhode Island, we have all of the ingredients to be nothing less than a world-class place to live, to work and to play,” said Mayor-elect Jorge Elorza. “But in order to do that, we have to think big, we have to be creative and, most importantly, we have to be collaborative.”


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