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Rhode Island's State Health Lab in Providence Could Begin Construction in June

Mon May 15, 2023 - Northeast Edition #12
Providence Journal


The new Rhode Island State Health Lab proposed by the administration of Gov. Dan McKee would be housed in a 212,000-sq.-ft. building in the state-owned Route 195 Redevelopment District. (Rhode Island Department of Administration rendering)
The new Rhode Island State Health Lab proposed by the administration of Gov. Dan McKee would be housed in a 212,000-sq.-ft. building in the state-owned Route 195 Redevelopment District. (Rhode Island Department of Administration rendering)

Since last fall, through rain and shine, snow and sleet, a sign at the corner of Clifford and Richmond streets in Providence, R.I.'s Jewelry District has pronounced the empty grass-covered lot as the future home of a building that will one day house the state's new health lab.

State leaders gathered for the ceremonial groundbreaking at the site in October 2022 and shoveled sand brought in for the occasion.

But as of mid-May, work still had not started.

So, just when will construction start?

The Providence Journal got an answer to that question recently in an email from Josh Parker, CEO of Ancora L&G, the project's development team. He noted that work on the lab building could start as soon as mid-June, the newspaper reported May 9.

Ancora L&G, a partnership between Legal & General Capital, a United Kingdom-based investment group, and Ancora, a North Carolina real estate firm, is the building the downtown Providence project after winning a bid from the state.

The new Rhode Island State Health Lab proposed by the administration of Gov. Dan McKee would be housed in a 212,000-sq.-ft. building in the state-owned Route 195 Redevelopment District, where the state Department of Health asked for it in 2021.

State lawmakers then insisted on going through a bidding process to look at other potential locations, before settling on the same location.

The lab should be completed by the second quarter of 2025, Parker informed the Journal, while the tenants could start working in the building by the third quarter of 2025.

"We are in the process of obtaining final permits," he wrote in the email.

New Building to Give State Lab an Airtight, Modern Home

The $165 million structure also will include private laboratory space, and Providence's Brown University has agreed to be one of the tenants, having already secured 20,000 sq. ft. of space.

Under the current plans, the state would own the 80,000-sq.-ft. State Health Lab in a condominium arrangement with Ancora L&G owning the rest of the building. Rhode Island will use an $81.7 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to pay for construction of the state's laboratory portion of the building, which will be on the second and third floors of the seven-story structure.

Rhode Island public health officials have been clamoring to replace their run-down 1970s-era health lab on Orms Street in Providence since the onset of the COVID pandemic, saying the building is outdated and limited their ability to respond to the coronavirus.

Currently, though, the older State Health Lab is the only Level 3 biosafety facility in Rhode Island equipped to handle dangerous materials, microbes and pathogens.

Former state Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott, who first championed a new laboratory, told the Journal last fall that the old building has a leaky roof and outdated heating, cooling and electrical systems.

Besides providing an airtight structure, the new facility also would be classified as Level 3 and have a larger "biocontainment facility" allowing researchers to do more testing and genomic sequencing to search for deadly pathogens.




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