NORTH PROVIDENCE – At the entryway to the western edge of town, on Route 44 in Centredale, stands a one-time Masonic temple that would later become home to the Nueva Generacion Cristiana church.
An online summary on the property lists it for $650,000, states that it was built in the 1920s, and that it was used until 2002 as a Freemasons hall. It also notes that it has easy highway access, in close proximity to Route 295.
Mayor Charles Lombardi says he is now in negotiations on the property and was given the go-ahead by the Town Council last week to finalize a deal on the building, and that the asking price is $650,000. Lombardi told the council that his most recent conversations with owner Jason Sisto on a potential purchase came about two weeks earlier. He told The North Providence Breeze that he’d previously asked Sisto to give him the first bite at the apple on a purchase, and that Sisto has obliged. He said they’re now closing in on a final purchase price.
The mayor says the ideal use for the 8,624-square-foot property would be as a new administration building for the North Providence School Department, a move that would allow the town to tear down the current administration building at 2240 Mineral Spring Ave. and convert it into a parking lot of some 50 or more spaces.
Lombardi told the council that parking remains of significant concern in Centredale and is the one key roadblock to attracting more businesses to an area that’s seeing substantial revitalization through the efforts of two local developers in particular. He later said purchasing the property would “help with the rebuilding of the business district” by immediately injecting significant parking capacity in an area with very little parking.
“It’s bad, everyone agrees,” he said. “I’m just thinking that would be the perfect facility to move the school administration into and think about taking that building down and putting all parking there,” he said. “I think at that point in time we would encourage more business here.”
Councilor Ron Baccala was among those to voice support for a purchase, calling it a “no-brainer” for the town.
Lombardi said that in addition to the $650,000 purchase, if that ends up being the final price tag, there would also be a renovation costs to convert the property into school offices. He said he’s not sure whether everyone in school administration would be entirely happy, but this is the right thing to do in the big picture. There are other properties and projects that have been suggested to encourage more business development in the area, he said, but this one makes the most sense.
“To me, I want it for $500,000,” he joked with the council.
The town tax database shows the current 1955 administration building as covering 9,994 square feet of above-grade space on more than a half-acre of property. Looking from the Smith Street side, it is located directly behind the main row of commercial buildings on Smith Street across from Town Hall, including Centredale Revival Co., Stella Sweets, and the Smokestack Cigar Shop, among others. Most of the businesses in the area are generally limited to on-street parking.
The listing for the Masonic temple property shows three floors, including two wide-open hall facilities, and full kitchen amenities.
“This is a prime opportunity to acquire a commercial asset,” it states. “This property is centrally located in a desirable part of town, boasting quality neighboring tenants. The lot offers high visibility. This area has a high traffic count and heavy daytime traffic. The amenities offered at this location make this a priceless commercial venture.”