I-195 Commission approves incentives for life sciences, innovation project
AN AERIAL VIEW of the life sciences and innovation center that Wexford Science & Technology has been approved to build in the former Interstate 195 land in Providence. The first phase of the development is estimated to cost $158 million and will include a 170-room hotel and a 191,000-square-foot Innovation Building.
PROVIDENCE – The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission authorized a series of incentives Monday to attract Wexford Science & Technology LLC, as well as the Cambridge Innovation Center, to two prime parcels of the former highway land.
In a presentation made in public session, the principals of both companies, as well as developer CV Properties LLC, outlined their plans to collaborate in a $158 million first phase of a mixed-use, innovation district and life-sciences center.
The project will include a 170-room hotel with event space and a seven-story, 191,000-square-foot Innovation Building, which will include 66,000 square feet for the CIC, a Massachusetts-based firm that provides individual and collaborative spaces for startup companies. Brown University, as well as the CIC, have signed letters of intent to lease space in the new building, with Brown moving its School of Professional Studies into a planned, 50,000-square-foot portion.
The hotel would be developed by CV Properties LLC, which is now constructing the South Street Landing project.
In a lengthy presentation, development partners said the project would likely result in 1,000 construction jobs, as well as 1,000 permanent jobs through either direct employment or indirect employment.
In other cities where it has established innovation centers, the CIC has generated thousands of jobs, according to its founder and CEO Tim Rowe.
He said in Providence the organization sees an opportunity to replicate that success. The city benefits from a constant infusion of talent, in the form of students enrolling in local universities.
In Boston, the CIC was where the co-creator of Android first started his company. Other success stories include Hubspot and other sizable tech companies.
The CIC has since expanded into multiple cities, including Miami and St. Louis, where it has partnered with universities and communities.
“For a long time, we only thought we could do this in Cambridge,” Rowe said.
After the commission board discussed the proposal and incentives in closed session, the board re-entered public session to authorize a resolution that provides $18.5 million for the project in public funds, from the $25 million available for catalytic-style developments in the I-195 Redevelopment District.
It is getting the land for the first phase, Parcel 22, at no upfront cost but will provide the I-195 District “an interest in the profits of the project.” That formula has not been specified in writing and will be negotiated by an officer for the commission.
The commission also agreed to provide $1 million toward renovation of the building at 1 Ship St., which was purchased in July by Wexford One Ship LLC for $3.475 million.
The commission last January had entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the developers for the land in three phases.
The initial public investment approved Monday is expected to be followed by additional incentives available through the R.I. Commerce Corp., according to Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor.
Although the amounts are still being negotiated, the Wexford development team is likely to receive in the neighborhood of $12.5 million in Rebuild Rhode Island tax credits, as well as a waiver of sales tax on purchases and materials used in construction, and of the hotel occupancy tax for the planned hotel, Pryor said.
With the incentives authorized Monday, the development team plans to break ground by second quarter of 2017, with a completion date scheduled in 2019.
In comments, Pryor said the development was enormously exciting. Negotiations on the various incentives and aspects of the development took more than a year.
“This innovation complex will serve as an engine in our economy, fostering and spurring significant business and job growth.”
In addition to the Innovation Building, which will contain the CIC and hotel, the project will include a landscaped park between the buildings that will be open to the public, and include the city of Providence’s planned City Walk.
The first phase of the project will also include the Venture Cafe, a clubhouse that would act as a gathering place for innovators and tenants in the buildings.