Greater City Providence

Johnson & Wales University begins work on 195 parcel


As reported in PBN and editorialized about in the ProJo, Johnson & Wales University has begun site work on their new academic building. This will be the first thing built on former Route 195 land.

Providence Business News: JWU begins site prep for $40M academic building downtown

Construction is expected to be completed by July 2016 and is expected to be the first development on the former Interstate-195 lands in Providence, which were made available following the relocation of the highway. The university purchased the site in 2012.

The project will place a 71,000-square-foot building at the corner of Friendship and Chestnut streets, and will house the university’s School of Engineering and Design, and College of Arts and Sciences biology program.

The Providence Journal: Editorial: Breaking new ground

This activity on the former highway land, coupled with nearby plans for a University of Rhode Island/Rhode Island College nursing education center and administrative space for Brown University in the former South Street Power Station, provides a ray of hope for a city and state that are looking to turn around the local economy and give college graduates and young professionals a reason to stay here. Add a new AAA ballpark, if feasible, and that neighborhood would be an extraordinary economic force.

[alert type=”muted”]See also:
PBN: JWU reveals $40M academic building plan for Jewelry District[/alert]

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • It’s great to finally see some work on the i195 land. I just wish that this project had some student apartments attached to it. I understand that there is the private dorm development that is going in across the street, but all I want is more density. I want every building that goes in to include mixed use space (street level retail) that has residences on upper floors. It is going to take a decade to get to the density levels that create a real urban lifestyle in Providence, unless we promote mixed use buildings.

    The way that I understand it, from some personal experience, is that Providence is super hard on developers of mixed use buildings when it comes to fire and occupancy. They also have super high property taxes that encourage people to live outside the City and commute in. We need to reverse this. The City should offer a $1 for $1 rebate on property taxes for new apartment or condominium purchases in Providence for 5 years, paid annually, these monies could give future residents a nice welcome package to relocating to downtown. It’s an incentive that the developers can offer potential customers. Personally, i’d like to see something “bigger”. I’d waive all new residential unit property taxes entirely for 5 years from the certificate of occupancy, and let developers rent out some of their units before selling them, effectively pocketing the property tax. We want developers here, they need a real invitation. Once these units are built, its a permanent tax base, who cares about 5 years.

  • On that note, why doesn’t the City securitize and sell forward the property tax revenues from 111 Westminster and use that money to make a downpayment on kickstarting the development? This is potentially 500 people living in the center of downtown 365 days a year, no summers off, no weekends taking the train home, and no brain drain after college is finished. They project it could be $4,000,000 in Providence focused retail spending.

    High Rock asked the state for a contribution of $9.75 million annually for four years ($39 million total). A renovated building will bring in $1,200,000 in annual property taxes or nearly $5 million. Why not sell 10 years of property taxes forward in a security and go to the State and Federal government with a 25% down payment?

    This is the type of project that there is no excuse in not supporting. It’s an easy way to build downtown density without constructing any new buildings. Just seeing 500 more people coming and going during odd-hours will drive more young people to want to live downtown. It feeds on itself. By the Elorza administration supporting this project, the private dorm near JWU, the Brown apartments… we are talking about over 1,000 new downtown residents by the end of 2017 on these projects alone, which is like a 20% increase (I think). Extrapolating out the 111 Westminster projection, that is $8 million in annual retail spending in Providence. Coupled with the Providence stadium, we are talking about a catalyst to bring Providence into the next decade as a regional leader in business, education, innovation, tourism, and quality of life.

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