Officials: Blighted old railroad depot sees some interest

Officials: Blighted old railroad depot sees some interest

The old Pawtucket-Central Falls Railroad Station, once a pristine piece of architecture, is now falling into ruin. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

PAWTUCKET – As anticipation revs up surrounding a future new commuter rail station in the area of Pine Street on the Pawtucket/Central Falls line, a previously proposed site for the station, the old railroad depot at another intersection of the two cities, still lies dormant.

Now owned by Broad Investments LLC, the former Pawtucket-Central Falls Railroad Station is located next to CVS off Broad Street. It remains cordoned off to the public, but the building remains in a continued state of decay.

Wilder Arboleda, spokesman for Mayor Donald Grebien, said the building has recently received an inquiry from someone seeking a potential redevelopment project.

“The administration continues to work with interested parties to find a better use,” he said.

Arboleda said city building officials check the structure from time to time for structural integrity. The property is situated on multiple jurisdictions, he said.

The old building over active railroad tracks has a long and sometimes dramatic history, including a protest by preservationists to save it and the previous purchase of it by a local church.

The Breeze reported two years ago that the city had again cited the owner of the property for violations. The church Iglesia Pentecostal Nueva Vida En Cristo was cited for having high grass and “stacked materials creating rodent harborage” on the Montgomery Street side of the old station.

Members of the church that year requested to use that side of the property for parking at their nearby church on Broad Street, and officials allowed it as long as it was cleaned up.

Building Inspector John Hanley told The Breeze at the time that he believed the church was “bamboozled” into purchasing the property for $1 in 2012, its leaders clearly not realizing the liability they were taking on when they bought the property they’d previously held services in before it was shut down.

With three electrified railroad tracks and a crumbling brick structure sitting on a steel frame, the cost of rehabbing the property is estimated at tens of millions of dollars.

Regular inspections have continued to be done, according to officials, and those show that the station is not in danger of collapsing on trains below. Loose brick is routinely removed.

The Pawtucket-Central Falls Railroad Station was purchased at tax sale by Broad Investments LLC in the fall of 2014. According to city property records, it went back to the church after a year, but Broad Investments LLC is again listed as the owner. Records show it was purchased from the church for $28,000 in 2014, that it was taken over by Broad Investments for zero dollars in June of this year, and that a combined entity called Broad Investments LLC & Reservoir purchased it for $79,000 in July.

Former owner Oscar “Ike” Seelbinder sold the depot for $1 to the church in December of 2012. Seelbinder was originally blocked in his efforts to develop the property by a group of residents and historical preservationists who wanted the structure restored and not torn down.

Seelbinder purchased the station from the family of City Councilor Albert Vitali Jr. The Vitali family previously ran a flea market in the building and the Iglesia Pentecostal Nueva Vida En Cristo used the building for Sunday services.

The idea of converting the depot into a modern train station was abandoned when officials realized that there’s too much of a curve in the track to accommodate a train station.