Tai-O Group may purchase landmark Pawtucket Times building

Tai-O Group may purchase landmark Pawtucket Times building

PAWTUCKET - Representatives from the Tai-O Group, a company based in Central Falls, want to buy The Times building at 23 Exchange St.

Jevon Chan, a partner in the Tai-O Group, confirmed for The Breeze that his company has had preliminary discussions with representatives from The Times about buying the building, which is perched at the intersection of Exchange, Broad, and Summer streets.

"We are definitely interested in it, but we have nothing solid at this point," said Chan.

According to Chan, representatives from the Tai-O Group are "always looking" for investment properties in the downtown, but a number of factors have to fall into place for each sale to happen.

Mary Lynn Bosiak, publisher of The Times and The Call, said Tuesday that the building "has been for sale for several years now," and remains on the market, but beyond that she has no information about a possible sale.

The paper is occupying one main floor of the six-floor building for offices and a dock and circulation areas, said Bosiak in an email.

"We hope to lease the space we occupy from a potential buyer," she said.

The Tai-O Group has been especially active in Pawtucket lately, putting its name in as one of three companies interested in redeveloping the huge parcel of land at 45 Division St. Chan told The Breeze for a March 5 story that the company would likely build a hotel and commercial building on that property.

Built in 1920, The Times building is a local landmark, its famous "Times" sign towering above surrounding buildings in downtown Pawtucket. With all but one of its floors now dark at night, the 35,000-foot building harkens back to the heyday of the paper, which began printing in 1885.

The property at 23 Exchange St. is valued at $948,900, with $694,400 of that for the building itself. According to Tax Collector Shaun Strobel, the owners of the building, R.I.S.N. Operations, paid $29,302 in real estate taxes in 2013. The bills for the four years prior were $29,302, $33,288, $33,288, and $32,393.

Bosiak didn't say what the asking price for The Times building is, telling The Breeze that, "corporate is handling it." The building was previously listed in 2010 for $975,000.

It was 2007 when management at The Times publicly stated the need to sell the building to allow the newspaper to function more efficiently in a changing market for daily papers, and to pave the way for more business investment in the downtown area.

Partners in the Tai-O Group, as well as several other companies, are growing more serious about expanding their commercial redevelopment efforts in the downtown Pawtucket area, said Chan. That interest for the Tai-O Group extends to the nearby Feldman Furniture building at 49 North Union St., which he said could be part of the company's broader redevelopment effort in the area.

Plans for The Times and Feldman buildings would likely include a mix of residential and commercial units, said Chan.

The Tai-O Group, the Louis Yip company responsible for the development of the "M Residential" complex on Roosevelt Avenue, owns a number of buildings in Central Falls and Pawtucket.

One question that will need to be answered before anything can happen with The Times building is what state legislators will do with the issue of historic tax credits this session, said Chan. He thinks there's a chance that lawmakers "might go unlimited," with "no cap" on the dollars. If that happens, said Chan, he expects plenty of movement toward redevelopment of the downtown.

The main obstacle to broad redevelopment efforts here is a lack of coordination between developers, said Chan. He believes a synchronized effort between multiple companies has to happen to make the downtown a more attractive destination.

"In order for anything really significant to happen, we need to get all the stakeholders, the thinkers, the dreamers in front of a white board to come up with a real solid plan going forward," he said.

The Tai-O Group is also targeting the former Feldman Furniture store at 49 North Union St. for possible purchase.