WOONSOCKET – A now-shuttered Domino’s is the only activity the Longley Building at the corner of Main and High streets has seen for many years, but the historic property could soon be home to at least a dozen apartments and a fully renovated commercial space.
John Eno, the building’s owner, told The Breeze he’s planning to develop between 12 and 15 residential units in the building’s upper floors and redo the ground floor for commercial units. Exterior repairs to the building have begun, with brick work about three-quarters of the way complete.
“I’m moving ahead with working on the building. We’ve begun pointing the building,” Eno said this week.
Though the plans are not yet formalized, Eno said he plans to put a new roof on the building by winter and begin demolishing the interior of the structure during the colder months. If all goes according to plan, he said, new units could be constructed in the building late next year.
“It’s at least a $2 million project. It’s going to need a lot of work,” he said.
In addition to purchasing the building in 2002, Eno is the owner of the Domino’s Pizza that previously spent more than two decades in the space. During a phone interview on Monday, he recalled how he started off as a delivery driver at the Main Street location before purchasing a store in Cumberland and striking out into the pizza franchise business on his own.
“I’ve always wanted to fix the building up. When I was a kid, I was hired there as a driver even before I bought the store,” he said.
Eno now owns three Domino’s locations around northern Rhode Island, including the new, 4,300-square-foot store on Social Street. He moved his staff to the new location last year before shutting down the Main Street store for good. Eno said on Monday his plans for the Longley Building hinged on everything going smoothly with the move. With staff now settled in at the new store and the former location empty of all activity, he can begin the work of rehabilitating the vacant building.
“We spent a lot of money down there,” he said of the newly constructed Social Street location. “We wanted to wait a bit before we began this project.”
Last month, the project got a boost in the form of $175,000 in site readiness grants from the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. The grant, formally awarded to the city, will be used to install a new elevator and bring the building into compliance with ADA standards. Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt said in a press release the award will help ensure Main Street continues to evolve into a vibrant and prosperous heart of the city.
“Not only will these new additions help to restore a pivotal historic structure of Woonsocket, but they will open doors for developers to continue to invest in Woonsocket and enable new businesses to open and serve the residents of our city,” she said.
The Longley Building is the latest in a series of vacant downtown structures to attract the attention of investors interested in restoring them for residential and commercial use. In September, a Franklin, Mass.-based group pitched a plan to build 80 to 100 microloft apartment units in the Hospital Trust Building next door. A third apartment renovation is underway at 43 Railroad Street, next to Ciro’s Tavern, while a fourth, at the former Bernon Mills, secured approval from the Zoning Board in May.
Unlike some of the other downtown projects, Eno said he does not plan to construct microloft units. Instead, he anticipates the 12 to 15 apartments will be traditional-sized units with a “comfortable” feel for renters.
In addition to the site readiness grant, Eno said he hopes to apply for historic tax credits and eventually secure a tax stabilization agreement from the city to help fund the project.
“We’ll try anything we can. It’s going to cost a lot of money,” he said.
In the meantime, he said, staff is enjoying the new Social Street location, where a state-of-the-art interior and drive-through window make for a more modern experience for customers. The only challenge, he said, is the staffing shortage that has affected restaurants and other service industries across the state. Where he once had no trouble finding young people to cook and deliver pizzas, now, he said, the new location could use about 20 more employees.
“It’s been a drastic change in the past two years,” he said. “I’m hoping it ends soon. I’m getting tired.”