higher education

Roger Williams University more than doubling downtown presence

ROGER WILLIAMS UNIVERSITY is planning to renovate and lease One Empire Plaza in Providence, more than doubling its presence downtown for adult learners when it opens in May of 2016. RWU President Donald J. Farish said about $11 million will be spent on renovations.
ROGER WILLIAMS UNIVERSITY is planning to renovate and lease One Empire Plaza in Providence, more than doubling its presence downtown for adult learners when it opens in May of 2016. RWU President Donald J. Farish said about $11 million will be spent on renovations. COURTESY ROGER WILLIAMS UNIVERSITY
12/19/14

PROVIDENCE – Bristol-based Roger Williams University is planning to renovate and lease One Empire Plaza, more than doubling its presence downtown for adult learners when it opens in May of 2016.

At a rental cost of about $23 million over 12 years for its law, continuing studies and community outreach programs, the university will lease from property owner Berkeley Investments Inc., 76,566 square feet of space that was formerly home to the failed 38 Studios. About $11 million will be spent on renovations, RWU President Donald J. Farish said in a press release.

The new, renovated site will replace RWU’s current location downtown at the Metro Center at 150 Washington St.

Farish, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Berkeley Investments Vice President and Project Manager Barbara Smith-Bacon and others planned to celebrate the announcement today at an 11 a.m. press conference at the site.

The new location will provide expanded space for RWU’s School of Law, School of Continuing Studies and growing array of outreach and engagement programs, including the Latino Policy Institute, HousingWorks RI and the Community Partnerships Center.

The expansion is a way of setting up a satellite or branch campus that enables a fuller scope for the university’s many experiential learning initiatives, Farish said in an interview with Providence Business News.

“We are not trying to expand the residential model in Bristol because it’s saturated, but the adult market I believe is underserved,” Farish said. “It’s not a clone of what we’re doing in Bristol, it’s a very different mission, but it is under the umbrella of Roger Williams [University].”

Roger Williams University’s roots hearken back to Providence in 1919, when the Northeastern University School of Commerce and Finance opened a branch at the Providence YMCA. Thirty-seven years later, in 1956, the school received a state charter to become a two-year, degree-granting institution under the name of Roger Williams Junior College. It became a university in 1992.

“We are excited to have Roger Williams University expand its presence here in Providence and welcome RWU students, faculty and staff as they breathe new life into One Empire Plaza,” Taveras said.

“This expansion will benefit local businesses, bringing more people downtown and showing them what our city has to offer. Furthermore, RWU’s increased presence downtown and its proximity to surrounding communities will provide more students with the opportunity to gain the practical skills and knowledge so valuable to rounding out their educational experience,” he said.

Berkeley Investments President Young K. Park noted the significance of the agreement.

“We are delighted that RWU selected One Empire for its growing array of law, continuing studies and graduate programs, and we look forward to a long and successful relationship with the university,” Park said.