PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- In a special election last Tuesday, Rhode Island voters approved seven bond referendums which will cost the state a total of $400 million.
According to the Rhode Island Board of Elections, voters approved Question 1, 58% to 41% which allocates $107 million to the state’s public higher education institutions. Rhode Island College (RIC) will receive $38 million to renovate the Clarke Science building, the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) will receive $12 million to continue facility upgrades at its four campuses and the University of Rhode Island (URI) will receive $57.3 million to continue renovations on the school’s fine arts center.
RIC President, Frank Sanchez, said, “A modernized Clarke Science facility will support the state’s economy while positioning RIC to be more competitive in the region. Rhode Island College is an emerging leader in STEM-related fields such as medical imaging, nursing
the physical sciences.” He continued, “As our state and country navigate the global pandemic, it will become increasingly important to provide high-quality academic programming combined with state-of-the-art facilities and cutting-edge technologies.”
The Clarke Science building was initially built in 1962 and has undergone minor modernization upgrades in the following 60 years, yet most of the building remains unchanged. The renovation of the building includes an addition that will house new laboratories for all full-time faculty members. Director of Capital Projects at RIC, Kevin Fitta, said that the renovation can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months and is expected to be completed by 2024.
The renovation of Clarke Science is just one of many projects the school has undergone in the past decade. According to the RIC Master Plan for 2010 to 2020, many of the buildings on campus were outdated and “do not fulfill learning environment needs for 21st century higher education.” In 2009, RIC enlisted the help of New York-based firm “Saratoga Associates” to develop “a Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan that would serve as a ‘framework’ for planning for the period from 2010-2020.” The report asserted that in 2009 when it was developed, 38% of the buildings on campus were in ‘poor’ condition. These buildings included; Craig-Lee Hall, Gaige Hall, Whipple Hall, Clarke Science and three residence halls; Brown Hall, Weber Hall and Willard Hall. Since 2009, all of these buildings have undergone renovations except for Clarke Science and Whipple Hall.
A review of RIC’s Capital Improvement Plan for FY 2020-2024 submitted to the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner in 2018, indicated that the renovation of Whipple Hall was a priority for the college. In the review, RIC requested $60 million in the form of a bond referendum on the November 2020 ballot that would fund a Student Services Building, roadway/walkway infrastructure and a renovation of Whipple Hall. It is unclear when Whipple Hall will undergo renovation.
In the last five years Rhode Island College has spent approximately $115 million on facility upgrades, including the $25 million reconstruction of Horace Mann Hall, which is set to reopen in the Spring of 2022.