Updated September 3 at 7:03pm

‘Eyesore’ pitched as job catalyst

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

Brown University and Commonwealth Ventures LLC are receiving rave reviews for their bid to redevelop Providence’s empty South Street Power Station.

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‘Eyesore’ pitched as job catalyst


Brown University and Commonwealth Ventures LLC are receiving rave reviews for their bid to redevelop Providence’s empty South Street Power Station.

The decrepit brick shell of the former Narragansett Electric Co. plant has cast a shadow over the city’s fledgling Knowledge District since a plan to turn it into a hotel and museum called Dynamo House collapsed in 2009.

Filling the building with Brown offices and a long-sought, advanced nursing school for the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College should kick-start activity on other fallow properties in the neighborhood, members of the local development community say.

“I think it’s a huge winner,” said Karl F. Sherry, partner at Hayes & Sherry commercial real estate brokerage in Providence. “It has been an eyesore for the last five or six years and getting activity and people moving around there will jump-start that whole area.”

Interstate 195 Commission Chairman Colin Kane said the project should stoke interest in the 20 acres of state-owned former highway land his group is trying to develop nearby.

“Just having an incomplete, burned-out, vacant building in the neighborhood in a very prominent location adjacent to open space was a problem,” Kane said. “So anything that could rehabilitate it is a big deal. Not only did they solve the Rubik’s Cube, but this is the closest thing in the area to being shovel ready and deserves a standing ovation.”

The public reaction to the $206 million Brown proposal has been far warmer than responses to High Rock Development’s $114 million proposal to convert the downtown Industrial Trust Tower into apartments.

Both projects are requesting substantial government assistance, somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 million in combined city, state and federal investment.

But public-sector support, and confidence, in higher education far exceeds confidence in housing.

Where both Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras opposed the High Rock proposal, both support the power-station plan.

Chafee in Brown’s news release called it a “promising project” that “will further cement Rhode Island’s reputation as a center of excellence in academia, health care, medical research and collaborative innovation.”

Asked why the mayor supported one proposal and not another, Taveras spokeswoman Liz White said “support of Nursing & Health Sciences” was one of the top priorities in his city economic-development plan.

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