By: News Staff


Twitter: @ABC6

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Officials in Rhode Island broke ground on a multi-million dollar project Monday morning on the former I-195 land that has been vacant for years.

Monday’s groundbreaking marked the start of roughly two years of construction for the first phase of the complex, which is estimated to generate nearly 700 construction jobs. Construction is expected to take two years.

Brown University and Johnson & Johnson will be the cornerstone tenants of the roughly 200,000 square foot complex.

The first phase of the project will cost $158-million, of which taxpayer subsidies will cover around $32-million.

The aim of the complex is to foster innovation and economic growth.

“Every one of these companies wants to be near talent, and we have the talent. We have to make sure they have the skills that companies want to hire and they want to live in Rhode Island,” said Governor Gina Raimondo.

The governor says the companies will not receive those taxpayer subsidies until the project is complete.

Officials estimate the project will generate $100-million in additional revenues to the state over the next 20 years, recouping the subsidies.

Critics, though, wonder why taxpayers have to foot part of the bill. The Rhode Center for Freedom & Prosperity released the following statement to ABC6 News:

This crony Wexford deal is part of a failed corporate welfare strategy, as designed by the Brookings Institution. Instead of improving our state's dismal business climate for all employers, taxpayer money is being handed out to and benefiting just a few insider corporations. Suspiciously, Rhode Island is not the first state where a Brookings report has led to massive taxpayer subsidies for Wexford; a repeated quid pro quo arrangement we believe warrants further investigation.

- Mike Stenhouse, CEO

©WLNE-TV / ABC6 2017