URI breaks ground on new $125 million engineering school

Voters approved new complex with 2014 referendum

Rendering of the University of Rhode Island College of Engineering. (Provided by Ballinger)

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — The University of Rhode Island’s College of Engineering facilities have been around almost as long as the institution of higher education has been titled the University of Rhode Island: URI got its current name in 1951, and the first hall dedicated to Engineering opened in 1959.

The school Monday broke ground on a new 190,000-square foot complex which – when completed – will house the university’s next generation of engineers.

University president David Dooley and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo were among those taking up shovels for the ceremony. A bond issue approved by Rhode Island voters in 2014 is funding the new engineering complex.

Michael Brandmeier, president and CEO of Toray Plastics (America), was among those attending the ceremony. The Quonset-based company – which develops plastics and foams for packing, industrial, medical, and flooring markets – backed the campaign for the complex. It was one of several Rhode Island companies that said it needed more engineers. Besides Toray, FM Global, Taco Inc., and three alumnae also pledged contributions.

The building will have two 72-seat “active classrooms” and a 60-seat “active learning classroom,” as well as vibration-proof laboratories, a clean room, computer labs, offices, a cafe, and more.

The university says the facility is the first phase in transforming the engineering department, and it’s the largest construction project in the institution’s history. The second phase includes upgrades to Bliss Hall, which currently houses several engineering offices — which will be funded by a voter-approved, $25.5 million bond.

The new complex is expected to be completed in the summer of 2019.