Wexford innovation building on old 195 land nearing completion

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Wexford innovation campus on the old I-195 land, one of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s signature economic-development projects, is on track to be nearly done in April.

In a letter to the Providence City Council earlier this month, Wexford Science & Technology said the seven-story, 200,000-square-foot building “is on budget, with substantial completion of construction anticipated for early April 2019.”

The Wexford building — expected to open by the middle of the year — “is watertight with permanent power and interior fit-out of tenant spaces has begun,” the letter said. Architectural firm Ayers Saint Gross designed the building, and Shawmut Design and Construction is its general contractor.

Wexford, a Baltimore-based developer, builds innovation-oriented campuses in cities that are home to research universities and tech companies. Raimondo, a Democrat, first announced the project in May 2015 and has made it the centerpiece of her vision for turning Providence’s vacant former highway land into a new hub for high-paying jobs.

The building currently under construction is the first of a potential three-phrase project that officials have said could eventually top 1 million square feet. The total cost of the first phase is $88 million.

The 195 Commission and the R.I. Commerce Corporation have authorized up to $33.8 million in direct subsidies to help fund the Wexford project. The Raimondo administration commissioned an analysis by consulting firm Appleseed that suggested the project will generate enough revenue to offset the cost of the subsidy package.

Wexford has told investors its expected cost for the Providence building was $62.2 million as of the end of last year. Executives did not immediately respond to a question from WPRI 12 about whether that amount is net of government incentives.

The company also told investors the building was already 80% leased to tenants, including Brown University and Johnson & Johnson.

Johnson & Johnson is currently in temporary space at a Wexford-owned building at 1 Ship Street. Michele Bear, a spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson, declined last month to say whether the company was still committed to its lease in the new Wexford building, though a Wexford executive confirmed the lease was still in place.

Separately, developer Richard Galvin of CV Properties is moving ahead with plans for a $58-million Aloft Hotel to be built alongside the Wexford building. The 195 Commission and the Commerce Corp. have authorized up to $7.6 million in additional incentives, as well as sales tax rebates and a reduced price for the land, to subsidize the hotel.

Wexford is a subsidiary of Ventas Inc., a real-estate investment trust that acquired Wexford in 2016 from a Blackstone Group affiliate for $1.5 billion.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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