On the Horizon

new engineering building steel structure
Photo by Anne Veeger

It’s the largest construction project in URI’s 126-year history and for students, faculty, area businesses and the Rhode Island economy, it could be the most important.

The $150 million College of Engineering project, now underway at the northeast corner of the campus, will be ready to welcome students in fall 2019. And even though the structural steel and steel decking provide just an outline of what the 190,000-square-foot building will look like, excitement builds daily as new milestones are achieved.

An architectural rendering of the future URI College of Engineering complex. Courtesy of Ballinger of Philadelphia

On Friday, Jan. 26, URI leaders, students, and faculty joined construction workers for the ceremonial placing of the final steel beam.

“As we look up at what has been accomplished in about a year at this site, we at URI, and indeed all Rhode Islanders, have every reason to be optimistic about the future,” said URI President David M. Dooley. “We celebrate with the hundreds of skilled trade workers who have been working in sometimes brutal cold to make this project a reality. Already, we can imagine what a magnificent facility this is going to be for our students, faculty, and staff, and how it will play a key role in the state’s economic development.”

The new facility will include research and classroom space for chemical, electrical, computer, biomedical, mechanical, industrial and systems, and civil and environmental engineering, as well as general University classrooms. A unique structural system will be used for the central portion of the complex. A four-story “Bridge” will consist of three, 270-foot trusses spanning 158 feet, which are 40 feet apart.  The Bridge will house teaching labs, departmental offices, research labs, and graduate student areas.

“I sense the excitement building among our students, faculty, staff, and alumni as the building takes shape,” said Raymond Wright, dean of the College of Engineering. “This project means more and better teaching and learning spaces and more opportunities for Rhode Island businesses to work with our students and faculty in a facility that will house the best technology and equipment. Thanks to this engineering complex, our students will graduate from URI as innovators and leaders, ready to move Rhode Island into a new era of prosperity.”

Prior to construction, five older engineering buildings—Crawford Hall, Gilbreth Hall, Kelly Hall, Kelly Hall Annex and Wales Hall, all of which opened in the late 1950s and early 1960s, were razed to make way for the new structure.

The building is funded by a $125 million bond issue approved overwhelmingly by Rhode Island voters in 2014 and strongly supported by Rhode Island’s business and labor leaders. In fall 2016, Rhode Island voters approved an additional $25.5 million for the second phase of the project to upgrade and expand Bliss Hall, the historic home of URI Engineering on the Kingston Quadrangle since 1928.