7-Eleven expected at former church property

7-Eleven expected at former church property

PAWTUCKET – The site of a former church rectory and convent on busy Newport Avenue could soon be converted into a new 7-Eleven convenience store and gas station.

The vacant site, at 1253 Newport Ave. across from St. Cecilia Church and the former Howell Smith Druggist at the intersection of Central Avenue, measures 1.42 acres and had previously been targeted for a new commercial building with three or four tenants, possibly including a financial institution, coffee shop, auto parts store or similar retail store. All traffic from any development is expected to enter and exit from Newport Avenue only.

The owner of the parcels, John Martins Realty LLC, was granted approval to demolish all existing structures in October of 2018, and the City Council approved a petition to rezone them from residential two-family to commercial general two months later.

Answering City Council President David Moran’s request for an update on the property, Assistant Director of Planning and Redevelopment Jay Rosa provided a memo from the owner’s attorney, Michael Horan.

Horan said the property owner is in discussions with 7-Eleven Stores, and is close to finalizing them, to build a 7-Eleven store with self-serve gas pumps and a parking lot. He said his client will hopefully be in a position to share official plans in the next few weeks.

“At this time, all parties appear to be confident that this proposal will be the one to be finalized and submitted to the city for your requisite approvals,” he wrote.

Rosa said he’s had several conversations with representatives for the property over the last few months and they’ve all been standard in nature and related to the design review process, zoning regulations and potential state permitting requirements.

“In all of these conversations I have reiterated the priority to avoid vehicular access to the site from Calder Street because it is significantly more residential in nature,” he said.

John Martins Realty LLC originally purchased six lots here from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence three years prior to demolition. The property previously contained a multi-family home, a former church rectory, and a former church convent building, all on 62,000 square feet of property.

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In the original petition for a zone change, Horan noted the busyness of the area and the fact that Newport Avenue has one of the highest volumes of vehicles of any non-highway road in the state. Four other intersections on Newport also have a commercial general designation. Horan also noted that there was no practical reuse for the buildings on the property, which had been repeatedly vandalized. The Pawtucket Historic District Commission granted permission in the fall of 2018 to demolish the structures.

The property is one of several former Catholic Diocese properties in the area, including the former St. Leo the Great Church and School converted into public school uses just up the road on Central Avenue.