3 schools would share redeveloped Dynamo House

Erika Niedowski, Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- A major Providence landmark that has sat vacant since 1999 would be redeveloped for shared use by Brown University and two public higher education institutions under a $200 million redevelopment plan announced Thursday.

Under the plan, about half of the Dynamo House would become home to a joint nursing education program operated by Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island. Brown would occupy the other half — about 120,000 square feet — with administrative offices.

The project at the former South Street Power Station on Eddy Street also calls for construction of student housing for nearly 300 graduate, medical and nursing students; a restaurant and other retail space; space for startups and small high-tech companies; and a 600-space parking area.

Members of the state Senate introduced a resolution Wednesday supporting a facility shared by the three schools that would be redeveloped by Commonwealth Ventures, based in Southport, Conn. It calls for the state to work with the developer to negotiate a long-term lease for the URI-RIC nursing center.

Commonwealth Ventures President Richard Galvin said the project would be financed by about $28 million in state tax credits, $26 million in federal historic tax credits, $137 million in private equity and debt and $16 million in city money for the parking structure. He said Commonwealth is forming a new venture with Baltimore-based Beatty Development, whose affiliates control the building.

He hopes construction can begin next spring.

"I think all systems are go," Galvin said in an interview. "We have a lot of work to do but I feel like we're going to get there."

Earlier — and equally ambitious — plans to redevelop the building as the Heritage Harbor Museum fell apart, leaving one of Providence's most visible and distinctive buildings empty.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who has promoted the development of the high-growth "meds and eds" industries as a way to boost the state's struggling economy, called the project promising.

"The proposal we put forward today is a perfect example of the job-generating potential of the meds and the eds," he said in a statement. "Our institutions of higher learning are partnering — with state and city support — with a private developer to breathe new life into a building, a neighborhood and our entire capital city."

Mayor Angel Taveras also expressed support for the project, saying the city has made it a high priority to find a new and productive use for the building.

"This project significantly advances our efforts to transform Providence's Jewelry District into a regional hub for health care, research and higher education," he said in a statement.

The Dynamo House is on the edge of downtown in an area that once was a jewelry manufacturing district but is beginning to be redeveloped into a so-called "Knowledge District."

Brown opened a new medical school building there in 2011. In a statement Thursday, university President Christina Paxson said Brown has invested $200 million in the district over the last decade.

"By pursuing this project and this partnership, we hope to further enliven the neighborhood, transforming this important but neglected facility into an enduring asset, adding value to a critical area of our city and state," she said.

Senate Finance Chairman Daniel DaPonte, D-East Providence, said the project has great potential but that he wants a cap on the rent charged to URI and RIC to ensure it's "reasonable and affordable."

DaPonte said leasing the space has an advantage in that the owner will be responsible for the upkeep of the property.


Associated Press writer David Klepper contributed to this article.