PROVIDENCE, R.I. –Gov. Gina Raimondo and other Rhode Island leaders broke ground Monday on the Wexford Innovation Complex on former Interstate 195 land in Providence.

It marks the first major project crafted by the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, established six years ago to shepherd use of the land vacated by the repositioning of I-195.

The planned Wexford Innovation Center in Providence, R.I.
The planned Wexford Innovation Center in Providence, R.I. Wexford Technologies LLC

It sits near the city’s innovation and design district and in the shadow of Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design.

The nearly 195,000-square-foot building will house the Cambridge Innovation Center, Brown University's School of Professional Studies and Johnson & Johnson. Construction is expected to take about two years.

Separately, Johnson & Wales University dedicated its newest academic building at the site a year ago.

State subsidies for the roughly $160 million undertaking amount to $32.3 million -- $18.8 million in incentives from the 195 Redevelopment Fund and $13.5 million in net Rebuild Rhode Island tax credits.

The governor said the projects will generate about $100 million in additional revenues to the state over 20 years.

“For too long, the I-195 land was nothing but dirt,” Raimondo said. “Today marks the start of something transformational, not just for this land, but for our state and its economy.

“We’ve worked hard for this.”

Joining the governor were state and local officials, plus representatives from Wexford Science and Technology, Brown, Cambridge Innovation and Johnson & Johnson.

“Providence continues its resurgence with the groundbreaking of the Wexford project,” said the city’s mayor, Jorge Elorza.

The center itself will create more than 675 direct and indirect construction jobs and lead to more than 800 direct and indirect ongoing jobs, according Appleseed Inc., a third-party economic analysis firm.

In addition to the 66,000 square feet in the innovation complex, CIC also intends to locate an 8,000-square-foot innovation hall and venture cafe-dedicated civic spaces that are modeled after CIC's district hall in Boston’s Seaport District, where entrepreneurs can exchange ideas.

In addition to creating an expanded student presence in the jewelry district, Brown’s new home will enable it to add programs for the School of Professional Studies. The Ivy League university cited the potential for collaboration between CIC startups and Brown students, faculty and alumni.

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