PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A brand new state health laboratory is expected to open in 2025 in the state’s Innovation and Design District on the former I-195 land in Providence.
Gov. Dan McKee announced Tuesday his administration has selected a bidder, Ancora L&G, to develop the 212,000-square-foot building to house both a new public health lab as well as space that will be available for lease to life-sciences organizations.
“Rhode Island has momentum – and this project is crucial to ensuring the momentum continues in the areas of public health and our economy,” McKee said in a statement. “We’re grateful for all the partners who came together to ensure Rhode Island maximizes this significant economic development opportunity while advancing the state’s important public health goals.”
State health officials have said the existing Department of Health lab on Orms Street is outdated and too small, and have pointed to the pandemic as an example of why Rhode Island needs a new facility.
The competitive bidding process to build a new lab included proposals for other locations in the city, which state officials have previously declined to release. But the plot of former highway land was widely seen as the preferred location for the McKee administration, as the 195 District seeks more life sciences activity.
The 195 Commission voted last year to sell the parcel of land, near the Wexford Innovation Center, for $1, a further incentivizing developers to propose using that site.
According to a news release, the 80,000-square-foot lab will “provide updated and flexible space to accommodate biological and chemical testing for a variety of infectious disease, environmental, and forensic testing services.”
The project is slated to cost $165 million, with the state’s $81.7 million portion coming from an Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Brown University has already signed a letter of intent with Ancora to lease 20,000 square feet of laboratory space in the building for ten years, according to the McKee administration’s announcement.
“Often, the certainty that comes with tenancy from a Rhode Island anchor institution is an essential factor as private developers consider new investments in Providence,” Brown University President Christina Paxson said. “We can act as a catalyst for further development while we also strengthen our infrastructure to enable even more high-impact research in health, medicine and other fields that makes a positive difference in the lives of people in Rhode Island and well beyond.”
Once construction is complete, the state will own the portion of the building that houses the lab, while the rest of the building will remain privately owned.
The new lab will “offer a larger, more modern and technologically advanced workspace compared to the current state health lab on Orms Street,” state officials said.
The public will have a chance to weigh in on the proposal at an Oct. 19 meeting of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission.
Construction on the site is expected to start in 2023, and the lab is expected to open in the spring of 2025.