In 1995, the South Providence Development Corporation (SPDC) was created as a “vehicle for partnership and vision” that would help revitalize the Southside neighborhood by undertaking specific community economic initiatives involving multiple institutions, including 3 nearby private hospitals: Rhode Island Hospital, St. Joseph Hospital, and Women & Infant's Hospital.
In October 1999, SPDC agreed to purchase vacant real estate located at 17-21 Gordon Avenue which had been vacant and deteriorating. SPDC also purchased two adjacent vacant lots which would be cleaned up and used for parking.
SPDC’s plan was to restore the building for use as a small business incubator whose tenants would include (but not be limited to) businesses that provide goods or services of an environmental nature.
With a $150,000 pre-development grant awarded from Fleet Bank (via its credit card subsidiary) in December 1999, planning commenced in earnest.
Early in the process, the decision was made to use the design phase of the project as a "learning laboratory" to explore, and hopefully incorporate, the latest energy-saving technologies into the building’s renovation. A team of local architects was selected – 3 volunteer and 2 paid – who were willing to research, design and/or select the most appropriate and cost-efficient “green” technologies available. Architectural Resources, of Providence, was selected as the Architect-of-Record.
Given the building’s location in a distressed urban area, the breadth of the partnership, the use of “green” technologies in the retrofit, and the job creation potential of the project, an application filed with the US Department of Commerce-Economic Development Administration (EDA) received a favorable response. The award from EDA was a $1,000,000 grant, requiring a 1-1 match with non-EDA funds. This contingency was met through funds raised from a variety of city and state organizations, as well as private donors.
The project went out to bid in January 2002, with 13 bids for general contracting services received and opened on March 1, 2002. Bids were reviewed by the planning committee and by the EDA office in Philadelphia. The selection of a contractor was made, with SPDC Board approval, and a notice of award was issued on May 29, 2002. The DePasquale Building and Realty Company (Warwick, RI) was named the general contractor. A 30% MBE/WBE participation requirement was set for the project.
Construction commenced in early September 2002. All required city/state permits were obtained, including a review by state historic preservation authorities.
The official groundbreaking was held in October 2002.
Most recently, Cox Communications joined the partnership with a commitment to provide structured wiring for voice, data and video conferencing services, and up to 16 cameras bundled with internet services for security and other monitoring activities around the building. Cox is also assisting in marketing the building as a “smart building” during the lease-up phase.
The Gordon Avenue Business Incubator now offers approximately 18,000 square feet of net leasable space, 2 shared conference rooms and an exhibition area to describe and demonstrate the actual performance of select energy-efficient technologies.
It is hoped that 17 Gordon Avenue, will serve as a prominent and dynamic catalyst for other development to occur in the immediate area, including but not limited to the redevelopment of an adjacent, blighted industrial site at 369 Prairie Avenue.