By Nicole Ortíz
Special to News is my Business
Construction will resume on a project announced in October 2007, known as the Science City in Río Piedras, to provide Puerto Rico with the infrastructure to compete globally in the research industry and the development of new cancer treatments, Gov. Alejandro García-Padilla said Wednesday.
The Science City project is the heart of the so-called “Knowledge Corridor,” which includes Río Piedras, the University of Puerto Rico’s Molecular Sciences Building, the Botanical Gardens, plus the Comprehensive Cancer Center. In this special area, science, technology and research projects will be the cornerstones for the transformation of Puerto Rico’s economic model, the governor said.
Public and private investment in the construction of the 70-acre Science City — to be located at the former Oso Blanco correctional facility, a historic structure — is estimated at $1.8 billion. Because of its complexity and multiple components, the project will run for 20 years, generating 14,392 direct jobs and 11,153 indirect jobs during the construction phase.
“The most important thing is that it will create long-term spaces for jobs in the fields of science and technology and it will position Puerto Rico as a competitor in this market,” said García-Padilla.
In addition, details were offered on the Sciences Boulevard, a key piece of road infrastructure that is already in the bidding process. With an investment of $22 million, the Boulevard will connect the Science City, the Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Medical Center via a pathway that incorporates landscaping, bike lanes and a multi-level intersection over Kiko Custodio Avenue.
Meanwhile, the governor ordered the re-start of construction of the Comprehensive Cancer Center Hospital, which was originally scheduled to begin in 2010. The investment in this 12-story, 286,000 square-foot hospital will be $196 million. The structure will house nine surgery rooms that specialize in cancer and an intensive care unit. As a cancer center, it will offer chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants and nuclear medicine, among other services.
The construction of this site will provide more than 1,300 direct and indirect jobs during this phase. While once the hospital is operational, it will employ 750 workers, García-Padilla said.
The Science City Master Plan was prepared under former Gov. Aníbal Acevedo-Vilá’s administration, which broke ground on the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“By the end of 2008, it was fully conceptualized and on it’s way to becoming the Knowledge Corridor. The Comprehensive Cancer Center Hospital was being designed, as were the blueprints on the Sciences Boulevard. Then came the change of government and everything stopped. We are now ordering its resumption,” García-Padilla said.
Although it was mostly stalled, in 2011, former Gov. Luis Fortuño signed a law to move the project forward — which did not happen.
When broken down, the Science City will encompass 1 million square feet of laboratory space; 396,000 square feet of office space; and, 60,000 square feet of conference/convention space. The mixed-use project also calls for developing more than 5 million square feet of residential space, or some 3,000 vertical units; 405,000 square feet of retail space; and 90,000 square feet of “civic” or public space, according to the original plan.