Dignitaries break ground for Wexford complex

The last piece of state funding -- $13.5 million -- was approved by the Commerce Corporation Investment Committee on Friday, April, 28, 2017, and is expected to be approved by the full Commerce Board on Monday, May 1, 2017. (Wexford Development, LLC)

The 195 Commission celebrated its first groundbreaking on the former highway land in downtown Providence on Monday.

Officials gathered to applaud the construction of the innovation center.

The owner is Wexford Science and Technology, which has created innovation centers in a number of cities.

“The one that will be here, when it’s completed, will be a transformational project for Rhode Island,” Gov. Gina Raimondo, who was credited with successfully wooing the tenants in the new center, told the crowd at the ground breaking for the project. “It’s a couple hundred-thousand square feet, with globally top-tier tenants, in Cambridge Innovation Center, J&J, Brown University, and it is a symbol to the rest of the world that Rhode Island has momentum in this 21st century innovation economy.”

J&J is Johnson and Johnson’s health analytics division, which already has scores of employees in a temporary office next door. Cambridge Innovation is a firm that specializes in bringing together entrepreneurs and researchers to create companies, and Brown University is moving its School of Professional Studies into the new building, which should open in 2019.

“I think we can do our work better, and we can have more of an impact on the world if we do so in collaboration with people in the private sector -- people at J&J, and certainly with the people at the Cambridge Innovation Center,” Brown President Christina Paxson said.

The 195 Land Commission was formed six years ago. The only parcel that has been developed was bought by Johnson and Wales University, and they built their own innovation center.

Commission Chairman Joseph Azrak said this first project with a developer was harder than those that will follow, as “it’s nearly impossible to get the first pickle out of the jar,” going on to promise that subsequent pickles and projects should be much easier to secure.

The construction will employ 1,000 workers, according to Raimondo. The completed project will create jobs ranging from janitorial and clerking, to PhD-educated engineers and data managers.

The project is the first of three phases that Wexford hopes to build on the site.

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