PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University is prepared to be an “anchor partner” with the city and state to contribute to growth and development in Providence’s historic Jewelry District, Brown President Christina Paxson told a gathering of government, business and civic leaders on Monday evening, Nov. 23.
Speaking at the annual dinner for the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Paxson shared details of Brown’s intent to house a translational science complex in the district. She said the district represents an opportunity for growth and development that rarely comes to a city or state.
“In 2013, when Brown embarked on a strategic planning process that produced Building on Distinction, our 10-year plan, ... we did so aware of our responsibilities to this city and this state,” Paxson said to the crowd of about 700 gathered Monday night. “And we did so knowing that Brown’s investments in the Jewelry District could advance both the University’s academic priorities and the economic interests of Providence and Rhode Island.”
Now that Brown last month launched the public phase of its $3-billion comprehensive campaign, Paxson said, “It’s time to be specific about the two core investments we intend to make in this regard.” Those investments are in facilities for translational science and the expansion of Brown’s School of Professional Studies.
Paxson delivered her remarks — and presented a short video — in a presentation titled “Realizing a Vision through Partnerships,” which set the stage for remarks from Thomas Osha of CV Properties, the developer of the South Street Landing project, and a keynote by James Berens of Wexford Science + Technology, a biomed realty company that has proposed a major biomedical research center for the Jewelry District.
Paxson described translational science as “A new frontier of discovery and commercial enterprise that draws on medicine, brain science, bioengineering, computer science, big data, and other areas fertile for breakthrough solutions and products.”
All of the composite elements are well represented on the Brown campus and in early investments Brown has made in the Jewelry District. Brown has already has invested more than $200 million in the district, including the Laboratories for Molecular Medicine, the Warren Alpert Medical School, and the nearby Brown University School of Public Health.
Brown is also proposing Brown BioMedical Innovations Inc., an accelerator that will support the movement of discoveries from the laboratory bench to the market — a knowledge-to-business enterprise that will help boost the regional economy.
Brown’s other intended growth area in the Jewelry District is in master’s and executive education. Paxson said this is well underway with the Brown School for Professional Studies, which will expand efforts in business education, health care leadership and cybersecurity, all of which will increase the vibrancy of the Jewelry District.
These aspirations both for the translational sciences and expanding professional studies require philanthropic investment and ongoing extensive assessment before the vision translates into a planning process.
In his remarks, Osha spoke of the need for collaboration as a critical ingredient for success in creating an innovation economy of the sort envisioned for Rhode Island. “Innovation has become almost entirely a social enterprise,” he said. “The days of lone wolf inventors keeping their inventions to themselves in a lab are over. Today, it’s a wolf pack.”
Universities, he said, must focus on closer working relationships with the private sector. “This is what is happening at Brown in a big way.”
In his keynote, Berens focused on Wexford’s success in partnering with institutions across the country to create innovation economies, describing 10 major projects involving 12 universities. He described the South Street Landing project as one of the successes. Brown is the anchor tenant in the $215-million project that involves redeveloping Providence’s long-vacant power station into administrative offices for the University; the Rhode Island Nursing Education Center, where Rhode Island College and University of Rhode Island will share facilities; a housing complex; and a parking garage.
“All the good raw materials are here,” Berens said of the Jewelry District’s possibilities. “All the elements are in place to make a project in Providence successful.”
He noted that Wexford has a letter of intent with the state to explore development opportunities with local partners to create a life sciences complex in the Jewelry District, saying “it’s very early, but we’re very excited to be here, and look forward to being part of the team to make this possible.”
All the speakers acknowledged the extraordinary potential that lies before the collaborators in the Jewelry District.
“Future development in the Jewelry District will, I am confident, follow this thoughtful, collaborative approach — and be spurred by a calibrated match between a robust innovation economy and the strategic priorities we all bring to the table,” Paxson said. “I believe we have a detailed, confident, winning vision.”