- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Roger Williams University is significantly expanding its presence in Providence with a move to the building that once housed ex-Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios, the Bristol-based school announced Friday.

The university has agreed to a 12-year, nearly $23 million lease for 77,000 square feet at One Empire Plaza downtown. The space will be used by the law school, the School of Continuing Studies, the Latino Policy Institute and HousingWorks RI and will nearly double Roger Williams’ city footprint.

The space will replace the school’s current Washington Street location. It’s expected to open in spring 2016 after an $11 million renovation by Berkeley Investments, the building’s owner. The lease begins in May of that year.

University President Donald Farish said at an event formally announcing the expansion that a larger and more central presence in the heart of the city will better serve students and the communities that are incorporated into the school’s project-based learning.

“Now is the time for our university to make what is a pretty expensive wager on the opportunities that we think are here,” Farish said.

The six-story building has been vacant since 38 Studios filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Schilling’s startup video game company relocated from Massachusetts to Rhode Island after the state’s economic development agency in 2010 approved a $75 million loan guarantee. The remnants of the company - from graphic animation equipment and office chairs to refrigerators and a pingpong table - were sold at an auction two years ago that was held in the same space where Friday’s announcement was made.

Outgoing Mayor Angel Taveras said the building, which previously was the headquarters for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island, has had its up and downs.

“Roger Williams will bring new life to this building,” he said. “We’re just thrilled that you’ve made the choice to believe in Providence and invest in Providence.”

The university will have the first four floors and a portion of the fifth floor - about three-quarters of the building. Berkeley Vice President Barbara Smith-Bacon said it will undergo a complete renovation, and the Social Security Administration will lease the top floor.

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