PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The president of Rhode Island’s flagship public university wants the state to jumpstart a stalled project for a new nursing school in Providence by finding a private partner to finance the facility’s construction.
University of Rhode Island President David Dooley said he hopes a private developer will build the facility in the Knowledge District, which would be shared with the nursing program at Rhode Island College. He said URI plans to push the General Assembly in the coming legislative session to commit to a public-private partnership and cover annual payments of $4.8 million to $5.2 million on a 20- to 25-year lease.
The project calls for an approximately 125,000-square-foot facility that would serve as a combined nursing center for the two institutions, which have their own nursing schools. The plan was to finance it through a bond issue that would have been put to voters. But the $60 million bond was not included in the final budget this year.
‘‘That was a disappointment, but not a profound one,’’ Dooley said at a media breakfast last week with reporters, adding that he wasn’t convinced that a bond issue was the best way to finance the project anyway.
Both URI and RIC had been planning to build separate nursing buildings to boost enrollment at a time when the state — along with the nation — faces a nursing shortage. Recent estimates say Rhode Island needs 6,500 more nurses by 2020 to keep up with the state’s aging population
Officials say a shared nursing facility in Providence, where many students already complete their clinical requirements at hospitals, would save between $15 million and $20 million.
RIC President Nancy Carriuolo said the school is continuing to explore ways to make the proposed nursing center a reality.
‘‘RIC looks forward to continuing discussions of potential nursing education collaboration funded either through a public-private partnership or as a ballot question,’’ she said in a statement to The Associated Press.
Voters last month approved a $50 million bond issue to upgrade three buildings at RIC, including for the nursing school. The college currently has only 8,000 square feet — one dedicated classroom, two labs and some office space — for more than 500 undergraduate and graduate nursing students.
Dooley said there has been ‘‘substantial interest’’ among private developers and predicted there would be more if the General Assembly commits funding for the project. The nursing center would be the anchor tenant in the building, with other space available for research or startup companies, he said.
The redevelopment of the Knowledge District — long-called the Jewelry District because it was once home to many jewelry manufacturers — is at the center of efforts to pump life into Rhode Island’s economy. City and state officials want to develop the area into a life sciences, medical and research hub that provides a wealth of high-paying jobs.
Brown University last year opened a brand-new medical school building there, and other academic institutions are eyeing parcels for expansion.