Across the street from City Hall, a building that started off as Miller’s Blacksmith Shop in 1836 and is believed to have been a post office and once the office of the City Clerk opened Monday as The Washington Trust Business Center.
Owned by The Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce that occupies the adjoining 3-story Victorian building, the center is available on a reservation basis to businesses and organizations looking to rent space to conduct training sessions and hold meetings.
“We’re here to help and we will continue to help,” said Chairman and Chief Executive of the Washington Trust Ned Handy in remarks before a ribbon cutting.
“Rhode Island is the state with rich history and a promising future,” said Handy.
“We’re looking forward to being part of the future,” said Washington Trust President and COO Mark K. W. Gim.
With a contribution of $25,000, Washington Trust was a major investor in raising the $175,000 to renovate both the chamber offices and the center. The center was closed for two years during renovations and chamber president and CEO Lauren Slocum is especially pleased that crews were capable of saving the stamped tin ceiling that gives the interior its historic and established feel.
“The future for this building holds many opportunities for the community to grow and live better and is completely open to the public,” said Co-Chair of the restoring the Victorian Lady Project Steve Kitchin. The building will harbor a place for local businesses and groups to utilize for educating and planning purposes.
In the past the building was used for a 24-hour film crew which they are hoping they will come back to work with them. Slocum is hopeful, “a lot of small businesses to grow out of here”.
Scheduled uses for the center include first-aid and AED training by teachucpr.com, which offers courses from the American Heart Association. The RIPHCC (Rhode Island Plumbing Heating and Cooling Contractors) also plans to use the facility for training purposes.
Mayor Joseph Solomon believes the center will open new doors for Rhode Island.
“I’ve always supported Washington Trust when I first became a councilman in 2000 and they have always invested dollars in our community” said Solomon.
Solomon applauded the “public/private partnership” of the chamber.
“The dedication of Washington Trust is particularly significant,” he said.
Slocum said the chamber would continue raising funds for the complete restoration of its offices. The funds will go toward appliances such as heating and alarms, which was a part of the renovation project.
“We bought the hardware but it’s been sitting on a shelf for two and a half years” says Slocum.
House Majority Leader K. Joseph Sekarchi summed it up as the group prepared to gather outside and cut a red ribbon. “Lauren Slocum makes it happen all the time,” he said.