Will State House hijinks derail Dynamo House nursing plan?

Jul 3, 2013

Tis the high season of summer in the Ocean State and the time of hijinks at the State House. As the hours dwindle towards adjournment, items big and small sometimes get lost in the last-minute shuffle as the competing egos in the House and Senate square off.

One very important economic development and education issue to watch: the fate of the resolution needed to move forward the plan to revive a gateway to the old Jewelry District in Providence by putting a nursing school in the old Dynamo Building, the onetime South Street power station.

The problem is that the House and Senate bills have different language; one identifies the developer (Senate version) and the other (House version) is apparently up in the air.

Representatives from three colleges – Brown, URI and RIC – are working to renovate the historic building for a nursing school and medical research facilities. This is the perfect venue for such a development, a long Tiger Woods three wood from the Rhode Island Hospital and Women & Infants campus. Nursing students would get clinical experience at  RIH, the state’s premier teaching hospital.

This plan would also place the nursing school near Brown’s medical school in the onetime Jewelry manufacturing area that Gov. Lincoln Chafee and state economic development officials are attempting to rebrand as a Knowledge District.

The worst thing that could happen would be for legislation that would enable this development to become a victim of eleventh-hour legislative legerdemain. That is essentially what occurred in 2011, when a proposal for a nursing school to be run jointly by RIC and URI crashed at the end of the Assembly session.

The latest proposal has the support of business and labor and our state’s top college and university officials. Lawmakers would be wise to get this done before they leave the capitol for their summer sojourns.