Brayton School conversion proposal moves forward

Brayton School conversion proposal moves forward

Plans to convert the former Brayton School on Thomas Street in North Providence into residential units are moving forward after approvals from the town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board last week.
Neighbors concerned about parking in area

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Plans are moving forward on the proposed adaptive re-use of the former E.A. Brayton School at 2 Thomas St. following approvals from the Planning and Zoning Boards last week.

Developer Joseph Colaluca went before the Planning Board Oct. 14 and Zoning Board on Oct. 15 to ask for an eight-space parking variance under off-street parking requirements and a special use permit for multi-family use in a commercial village district.

The boards heard the application from Colaluca and Providence-based Citadel Properties for a proposed new residential complex containing 10 units, nearly six months after the announced sale of the old school from the town to the developer.

Mayor Charles Lombardi spoke at the zoning meeting in favor of the project, saying it’s in the best interest of the taxpayers.

“That building has been on the market for quite some time. It’s been an albatross for the town,” he said, adding that the new development will be part of the ongoing revitalization of Centredale.

With approval complete, the developer will come back with final plans, which will be handled administratively, Director of Planning Brent Wiegand told The Breeze.

In a memo to the Zoning Board, Wiegand said that staff is supportive of the project.

“This building has been vacant for many years, and this would be a great reuse of an existing structure,” he said. The Planning Board also approved combining master and preliminary plans and voted to approve them. Planning Board members who voted 4-0 in favor were Chairman Peter Iacobucci, Henry Riccitelli, Warren Riccitelli Jr., and Justin Conrad. Member Wendy Regan was present for the first hour of the meeting but had to leave before a vote was taken. She told Iacobucci her preference would be to continue the matter and see a better site plan for the proposed parking situation.

Zoning Board members who voted 5-0 to approve were Chairman Joseph Scorpio, Anthony Costello, Edward Catone, Brian Ricci, and James Ranieri.

According to proposed plans, the 11,575-square-foot building will contain 10 units, two one-bedrooms and eight micro-studios (approximately 315-335 square feet) as well as 17 off-street parking spaces, six of which are double parked.

Colaluca said that the goal is to attract young professionals to the neighborhood and help bring new activity into Centredale.

There are no proposed alterations to the footprint of the building, but there will be modest facade and window alterations. Eric Engle from RGB Architects said they are looking to preserve the exterior as much as possible and will replace windows with ones that are historically accurate from the 1930s. He added they are looking to replace the roof, which is damaged with leaks.

Samuel Hemenway, of Garofalo & Associates, noted that other site improvements include utility upgrades as well as landscaping including adding grass and shrubbery.

Per a town ordinance, parking for two and a half cars is required for each unit, meaning that there would need to be 25 spots for the proposed 10 units, but Wiegand said in his memo that the rule is “somewhat archaic and does not properly address the modern concept of micro-loft-style apartments.”

Given the size of the micro-units, Hemenway said they expect single occupants who need one parking space.

“We think this is the most efficient way to park the site,” he said.

Iacobucci said that two and a half parking spaces is “inappropriate for the size of the apartments.”

Regan asked for clarification about the double parking situation. Hemenway responded that it would be part of the lease agreement and also noted that cars will pull directly into parking spaces from Thomas Street.

Scorpio said he thinks the maximum of 17 parking spots is OK but suggested the developer might work with planning on a more efficient parking plan.

The building is located just off the start of Mineral Spring Avenue in Centredale. During both meetings, Craig DiPetrillo, president of DiPetrillo Properties at 15 Thomas St. across the street from Brayton, expressed concerns about the parking situation including losing several on-street parking spaces on Thomas Street since some of the curbing is expected to be removed as part of the proposed project.

He said he didn’t think it would be practical to put 10 units in, adding that stacking cars “never works” and wanted to see a more complete site plan that includes the street.

“I understand Thomas (Street) is not a perfect situation now and won’t be improved by this project, but the project in front of you is a way to provide safe, adequate parking for the development of the building,” Hemenway responded during the Planning Board meeting.

Wiegand recommended that DiPetrillo bring up his parking concerns with the Town Council and mayor. He noted that he and the mayor had a conversation about removing a redundant sidewalk on the Centerdale bypass side of Thomas Street and adding approximately eight public parallel parking spaces.

At the Zoning Board meeting, Brad Aubin, owner of the nearby Tumblesalts Cafe at 1 Morgan Ave., said he supports the project but is concerned about the density with 10 units, asking if the town could work with the developer to add some angled parking spots on Thomas Street.

Lombardi agreed that parking in the area could be looked at, and DiPetrillo noted that he’d like to be part of that future discussion.

This satellite image from Google Earth shows the location of the former Brayton School at 2 Thomas St. and the surrounding area. Some neighbors have expressed concerns about parking issues on Thomas Street with a proposed reuse of the school calling for 10 residential units, mostly micro-studios.