From the mid-90s until the mid-2010s, drivers on Route 195 West into downtown Providence encountered the decrepit hulk of the former Narragansett Electric power station. Built in 1912, the building was a prominent eyesore that sat vacant from 1995 until 2013 – a far cry from what it is today.
The renovated plant, renamed South Street Landing, is now home to 450 Brown University administrative staff and a joint nursing education program between Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island. The site also includes a recently opened 175-unit apartment complex for Brown graduate students and a 750-space parking garage. In October, the renovation was honored with a 2019 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
National Preservation Award, one of the country’s most prestigious and coveted accolades for property preservation projects.
John Luipold, Vice President of Real Estate & Strategic Initiatives at Brown University, details the history of the site’s development. In the late 2000s, plans to convert the plant into a high-end hotel with space allocated to a Rhode Island history museum collapsed during the Great Recession. It lay vacant, but in 2011, Brown University was working with Boston-based CV Properties, LLC to build student housing adjacent to the powerplant, but both struggled with investing over $50 million in a new apartment complex next door to a derelict building. Then, Brown expressed interest in becoming an anchor tenant if the plant were renovated, and in response, CV Properties President Richard Galvin “said he thought he could pull a development plan together,” John explains. “That was really the genesis of the project.” So, construction for South Street Landing began in 2014.
South Street Landing’s success has sparked additional local development. The Wexford Innovation Center at nearby 225 Dyer Street opened in July, and CV Properties hopes to break ground in early 2020 on a new 175-room hotel. “Now you’re seeing more residentials being planned and construction on other parcels,” Richard notes. “There’s no doubt that once some investors come in, others will follow.”