Building a Buzzy Hive of Invention and Collaboration

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — While pursuing a plan for student housing in this city’s historic jewelry district, Brown University officials were sidetracked by discussions about what to do with a massive, century-old power station sitting vacant alongside the housing site on the Providence River.

The housing developer, Richard A. Galvin, the president and chief executive of CV Properties in Boston, convinced them that the structure could be redeveloped into a property that would enhance Brown’s other investments in the district, including its medical school. Lined with 30-foot arched windows, the brick building provided vast views of the river and the city beyond.

Brown recruited the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College, which were jointly looking for a site to build a nursing school, and then helped negotiations with the state to secure a long-term lease agreement. Now, a public nursing school and the administrative staff of an Ivy League university are housed together in a refurbished power station at the edge of an emerging innovation and design district.

Filling industrial-themed open work spaces completed last month, Brown’s administrative offices are now all in one place instead of scattered around its main campus on College Hill. And the nursing school, close to both the medical school and two hospitals, is able to train students in state-of-the-art health care simulation labs, complete with high-tech mannequins so lifelike they can breathe, have seizures and even give birth.

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