The president of Wexford Science & Technology, which has proposed a one-million-square-foot mixed-use development on five acres in the I-195 District, told a crowd of business and civil leaders Monday night that Providence has the necessary elements to create a successful innovation hub.
Jim Berens told the annual meeting of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce that "a real estate opportunity" exists in the form of the land made available by the relocation of I-195 and the nearby Jewelry District.
Berens cited "a serious investment" by Brown University in the Jewelry District and "high-quality research going on at the universities and the healthcare systems. As best as I can tell that number is greater than $350 million a year, and this creates the foundation for the innovation environments. It is a tremendous attribute of Providence."
Speaking before an audience of hundreds of business and civic leaders at the Rhode Island Convention Center, Berens praised "seamless cooperation from the political figures, the business and institutional leadership. And Governor Raimondo has created a very positive climate for business, and that's what we're sensing and feeling." Berens also pointed to Providence's quality of life as an ingredient for a successful innovation district.
Earlier, Raimondo said she hopes to soon complete a purchase and sale agreement for Wexford's participation in the project. She said she hopes the first phase will include Cambridge Innovation Center, which bills itself as being home to "more startups than anywhere else on the planet."
Raimondo offered an upbeat message in her comments, describing Rhode Island's economy as being on an upward swing.
Brown University president Christina Paxson was among the speakers at the chamber meeting. She said Brown plans to develop a new translational science center as part of its expansion into the Jewelry District.
Berens tried to walk a fine line in his presentation. He displayed conceptual images for Wexford's project while noting the company lacks contracts or tenants, "but clearly I'm not up here showing you this if I didn't think that that was possible," he said.
Wexford's proposal includes a hotel/conference center; events space, and three "office technology/lab buildings."