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RI HEALTH

R.I. to build new public health lab as part of $165 million project

State Health Laboratories will be part of seven-story building on former I-195 land that will include space for lease to life-sciences organizations

A rendering of the seven-story building that will include Rhode Island's new State Health Laboratories.Handout

PROVIDENCE — After struggling with an outdated lab amid a pandemic, the state will build a new public health laboratory as part of a seven-story building on former Interstate-195 land in Providence.

Governor Daniel J. McKee on Tuesday announced that the 212,000-square-foot building will house both the public health lab plus space that will be available for lease to life-sciences organizations. The building will be at 150 Richmond St., near the state’s Garrahy Judicial Complex and the Wexford Innovation Center.

Following a competitive request-for-proposals process, the state selected Ancora L&G as the developer for the State Health Laboratories. And Brown University has signed a letter of intent with Ancora to lease 20,000 square feet of laboratory space in the building.

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“Rhode Island has momentum — and this project is crucial to ensuring the momentum continues in the areas of public health and our economy,” McKee said in a statement. “We’re grateful for all the partners who came together to ensure Rhode Island maximizes this significant economic development opportunity while advancing the state’s important public health goals.”

Funding for the $81.7 million state laboratory comes from an Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Grant from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The project will cost a total of $165 million.

“The old lab space is past its prime and this new one will be a game changer,” said US Senator Jack Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. “It will be better designed and equipped to enhance the state’s ability to test for serious health threats. This federally financed project will serve Rhode Island for generations. When it’s completed, it will help guard against future public health emergencies and pandemics.”

The state Department of Health will open an 80,000-square-foot state-of-the-art State Health Laboratories in the building, providing updated and flexible space to accommodate biological and chemical testing for a variety of infectious disease, environmental, and forensic testing services.

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With 50,000 square feet of direct usable space, the new lab will offer a larger, more modern and technologically advanced workspace compared to the current state health lab located at 50 Orms St. in Providence. The updated space will allow the State Health Laboratory to be more flexible in response to emerging threats and applying new technologies, including the expanding field of genome sequencing.

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for public health laboratories to rapidly scale up testing and apply new technologies like pathogen genomic sequencing,” said Glen R. Gallagher, director of the State Health Laboratories. “The commitment of this new laboratory space will allow our staff to work more efficiently and safely while positioning the laboratory to respond to emerging infectious disease and chemical public health concerns for decades to come.”

The public design review process will begin at the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission meeting on Oct. 19 where Ancora L&G will present its design. There will also be an opportunity for public comment and a presentation by the commission’s design consultant.

“This public-private partnership is exactly the catalyst needed to propel life science development in the District,” said Robert Davis, chairman of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission. “The 130,000 square feet of private lab space could not have been built except through this kind of partnership and its presence will pave the way for more life science businesses to grow and energize Rhode Island’s economy.”

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Brown President Christina H. Paxson said the university will continue to prioritize investments related to life sciences research and economic activity in the Jewelry District, especially when Brown’s participation can help spur investments from new partners seeking a presence in Rhode Island.

“Often, the certainty that comes with tenancy from a Rhode Island anchor institution is an essential factor as private developers consider new investments in Providence,” Paxson said. “We’re pleased that Brown’s role in this project will help drive other investment, much in the way we did for South Street Landing and the Innovation Center at 225 Dyer.”


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.