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Included in Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s budget proposal was $500,000 earmarked for designs of a joint Rhode Island College and University of Rhode Island advanced nursing center in Providence’s Knowledge District. It follows a failed attempt to get a $65 million bond question on last fall’s ballot and comes three years after URI President David M. Dooley first floated the idea.
The concept is an inventive one to help the Knowledge District realize its great potential. By agreeing to put the upper-class programs of both their nursing schools in one building, located near Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School and Johnson & Wales University’s new physician’s assistant program, RIC and URI would be building on the “meds and eds” critical mass necessary to energize the district.
To be fully realized, the idea leverages a long-term lease by RIC and URI, thus giving a private developer the floor to build a larger project, one that would include other office and lab space desperately needed to help attract and grow life sciences businesses in the capital city. And by involving a private developer, the state avoids taking on any more debt.
While there is much blame to go around, the real fly in this rather attractive ointment is Rhode Island College, which has been fighting the idea from the get go.
It doesn’t matter why RIC doesn’t want the project to happen. What matters here is that time continues to tick away as the state languishes, and one of its largest publicly funded institutions continues to stand in the way of one of its most important economic-development projects. It’s time for RIC to get onboard with the rest of Rhode Island. Or time to make a change of leadership. •