Lorraine Fabrics project receives approval

Lorraine Fabrics project receives approval

Vote on redevelopment of New England Paper Tubing property will wait

PAWTUCKET – Prominent city developer Jonathan Savage has the zone change he needs to make way for his planned redevelopment of the Lorraine Fabrics building at 593 Mineral Spring Ave.

Savage, seeking the change from existing industrial zoning to mill building reuse district zoning, brought attorney Michael Horan with him to seek the change last Wednesday, Sept. 5, saying an approval would allow him to redevelop the property into a mixed residential/commercial facility without having to keep going back to zoning every month to seek approval for particular uses.

Under his proposal, Savage says the Lorraine Fabrics business, now more than 50 years old, will “stay open as it has for many decades” on the first floor, while the upper three floors, which are currently used mostly for storage, will see about 51 live-work artist loft type spaces.

Savage said his plans are similar to the ones he’s successfully implemented at 560 Mineral Spring Ave. across the street, where there’s a waiting list for prospective tenants, as well as the former Rhode Island Textile building at 211 Columbus Ave. and the Standard Paper Box Corp. property at 110 Kenyon Ave.

Asked how the process of finding tenants at the R.I. Textile building has gone, Savage said that building is not the ideal rectangle featuring window units throughout. There is a “substantial core” of the building with windowless units that are harder to fill, he said, but it was “such a great building and location” that the developers went forward with it anyway.

All of the windowed live-work units are now fully occupied at 211 Columbus Ave., he said, while about half of the 19 or so windowless units in the core of the building remain empty. Finding tenants for those, as anticipated, has gone a little slower, he said.

There is no inner core at Lorraine Fabrics, meaning he’ll have no trouble filling the entire place in short order, said Savage. He mentioned that his own son has a business on Central Avenue and called about finding a home for a new employee who was moving to Rhode Island, but even that request was put on a waiting list.

Savage said his facilities are drawing residents almost exclusively from out of state, including people relocating from California, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, meaning this is drawing new money-making residents in. He said it’s been a “fun and rewarding experience” seeing his buildings fill up.

Horan noted that there are a number of pending fire safety code violations at the Lorraine Fabrics building, representing upgrade costs Savage will cover.

City Planner Sue Mara said both the Historic District Commission and City Planning Commission recommended approval of the zone change.

Also at the Sept. 5 meeting, the council heard from Aurora Leigh and Bond Street LLC on plans to redevelop the former New England Paper Tubing property at 349 Barton St., 195 Weeden St., 173 Weeden St., and 181 Conant St.

The sprawling industrial property is located right next to a planned commuter rail station, which is set to be built within two years.

Leigh said the company, which is responsible for numerous residential mill redevelopment projects in the area, is seeking the zone change from an industrial built-up zone to a commercial downtown designation, also to accelerate the redevelopment and avoid “multiple approvals for multiple reasons,” including parking and setbacks.

According to Leigh, the proposed project will see about 156 loft residential units on the top three floors, and with limited parking available on site, the plan is to create a parking garage on the first floor of the building, to be accessed from the rear by Fram Alley. She said there will be “beautiful large windows” throughout, as well as the open design plans and high ceilings young professionals are often looking for.

The redevelopment will likely also include a restaurant space, according to Leigh.

Mara said the proposed redevelopment fits “exactly what we’re trying to do around this train station” in the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) zone around the commuter rail hub, including preserving historic structures and bringing greater residential density.

“We’re supportive of this project for certain,” she said.

The council decided to postpone a vote on the project until its next meeting, after hearing from William Jarvis, of Conrad-Jarvis Corp., at 217 Conant St., who expressed concern about losing access through Fram Alley. Councilors are asking City Solicitor Frank Milos to get all the facts on the right of way issues on what is a private property.

A vote on the zone change is important to have in hand by the planned closing date on the property of Oct. 1, said Leigh.

Councilors Meghan Kallman and John Barry III asked Leigh about the logistics of having a parking garage under residential units, and Leigh responded that the company will fulfill extensive requirements on barriers and ventilation.

Councilor Albert Vitali Jr. thanked her for continuing the “very successful” trend in the city of redeveloping old mills, one that is broadening the local tax base and keeping rates down.

Leigh responded that the city is very friendly to development, noting that the company recently pulled out of a “no-brainer” waterfront development proposal in neighboring East Providence because of the issues encountered there.

“Let me just say, it’s night and day,” she said. “Pawtucket is amazing.”

Comments

It usually is, what kind of tax breaks?