Hope Mill in Scituate could house 200 new apartments

Hope Mill in Scituate could house 200 new apartments

Hope Mill could be converted into apartments in the near future if ongoing negotiations between the Town Council and a potential developer are successful.

SCITUATE - Hope Mill, once the state's oldest continuously operating textile mill, could be converted into apartments in the near future if ongoing negotiations between the Town Council and a potential developer are successful.

Attorney Peter Furness with the Providence law firm of Boyajian, Harrington Richardson & Furness, the court-appointed receiver in control of the Hope Mill, confirmed that negotiations are taking place with the goal of converting the structure in the southern part of town into as many as 200 apartments.

The talks have taken place before or after Town Council meetings, behind closed doors in accord with the state's Open Meetings Act. The mill's owner of record, New England Development RI LLC, is in receivership and Furness said he holds a purchase and sales agreement with developer Vincent R. Coccoli to take over the property. The new purchase agreement requires bankruptcy court approval.

Furness told The Valley Breeze & Observer that he is not at liberty to reveal many details of negotiations with the town. "There has been a lot of discussion about converting the mill into apartments, and that is still the plan," he said, pegging the number at "probably something less than 200" units.

"The whole concept (of the development) is for something that would benefit the town and the townspeople," Furness said. "It is a gorgeous piece of property and it's a beautiful project." Plans would see the riverfront fully utilized, the attorney said, to create a scenic area local residents and their families could enjoy. "We're probably going to move forward pretty quickly," he said of negotiations.

The five-story textile mill, whose address is 1 Main St. in Hope, is made of Nipmuc stone and was built in 1844 to replace an earlier cotton mill at the same location by then-owners Brown and Ives. The mill hugs the banks of the Pawtuxet River and the entire area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Hope Village Historic District. About 25 percent of nearby homes were built as co-owned mill housing.

The mill was "the oldest continuously operated textile mill in Rhode Island," according to the 1995 nomination form for the National Register prepared by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission. The same form identifies the Hope Mill as the first in Scituate, and the only mill in the state that still uses water power.

The five-story stone mill dating from 1844 actually became part of a manufacturing complex in Hope that began as early as 1765, according to some accounts, but certainly was in place in 1806-07 and in 1825, when ancillary buildings were constructed at the site. The mill building was expanded several times in later years (1871, 1891, 1916-17), and in the 1920s was owned by the Lonsdale Company based in Lincoln.

The mill in recent years has become entangled in an untold number of federal and state court hearings and bankruptcy sessions, many related to the question of whether the developer will be able to take advantage of profitable state historic tax credits.

Coccoli, a Rhode Island businessman, actually bought the mill in 2007 for $4.25 million and at that time unveiled a $63 million plan for about 120 apartments and 85 condominiums, but those plans fell through when the economy tanked in 2008 and Coccoli's company went into receivership. A fire damaged the mill in 2010, costing the town $53,000 to secure the site.

Confusing the issue was the fact that the General Assembly suspended the historic tax credit program in 2008, only to partially re-instate it in 2013, when a lottery was held to determine who would get the tax credits and Coccoli did not prevail.

It also is not clear how much in tax credits is at stake. Coccoli has said he believes $7.5 million was assigned to the Hope Mill project, but in April the state notified him $5 million was available. He also is stepping forward to re-acquire the mill in bankruptcy proceedings for $700,000 from New England Development, according to published reports.

During the closed negotiations, the Town Council and Coccoli have discussed a possible 20-year tax stabilization plan that would cost the town about $4 million, as well as approximately $3 million in sewer work that the town would pay for, according to those close to the talks. Scituate, in turn, would benefit from the new residences because the town currently has no condominiums and very few apartment units.

Comments

The fine print will require at least a minimum quantity of "affordable" housing units. (Translation - unaffordable and therefor taxpayer subsidized.) Result - tenants who do not have to be invested in their homes and can not afford to maintain their own units or the common areas, and maintaining the neighborhood will suffer and the town will pick up the tab.

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