In the News
Developers plan 27-unit lofts at Feldman building
PAWTUCKET – Developer Michael Leshinsky and representatives from Nexus Property Development are seeking to create 27 residential units titled the Nexus Lofts at the former Feldman Furniture building at 49 North Union St. in the heart of the city’s downtown.
Leshinsky, who is also working on the potential purchase of nearby 217 Main St., reiterated this week that he and others are looking to bring new life to “a bunch of buildings in downtown Pawtucket” through mill conversions.
The request from Leshinsky, Nicholas D’Agnillo and Nexus Holdings LLC for a 10-year tax stabilization agreement to help fund development of the apartment building is introduced on the City Council agenda for Wednesday, Aug. 7.
Also on that agenda is a proposal for a 180-unit market rate residential project off Freight Street from developer Kenneth Zuckerman, which The Breeze reported on last week.
The former Feldman Furniture building, built in 1898, has been mostly vacant for decades. It was originally horse stables in the 1800s before later becoming a car garage and then the warehouse for Major Electric Company before becoming a furniture store.
“Now we’re trying to turn it into housing,” said Leshinsky, adding that he’s very confident of the project getting done.
The building is located just around the corner from The Times building and Beswick building on Exchange Street, which are both being redeveloped in separate projects at the city’s gateway. Leshinsky previously had a deal in place with the owners of The Times before that project, which would have included the Gamm Theatre, fell through.
Leshinsky’s company, Leshinsky Finance, is offering up the request for a stabilization agreement to the city on behalf of Nexus.
“The project will add value to the city and local area,” he wrote to the council. “The cost of development is high, and the tax stabilization agreement is needed for funding.”
Stabilization agreements create a structured phasing of taxes that doesn’t account for the full value of improvements until a project is done.
Leshinsky said the developers have applied for federal tax credits and other incentives they’re seeking for the project.
The total pre-construction value of the target property at 49 North Union St. is $466,300 according to an application to the city, and the estimated taxable value of the proposed improvements is $2.83 million.
The first floor would stay under Nexus Property management for office space and retail, said Leshinsky, and apartments would be located on the second and third floors.
These market rate apartments would be very nicely done, he said, but with standard rents.
Leshinsky, Rich seek to redevelop 217 Main St.
By ETHAN SHOREY Valley Breeze Managing Editor
PAWTUCKET – As former co-owner of The Guild brewery on Main Street, Michael Leshinsky is intimately familiar with Pawtucket and what it has to offer.
Leshinsky told The Breeze he’s never given up his dream of doing his own private development in the downtown area, even after owners of The Times building at 23 Exchange St. yanked a purchase and sales agreement that would have seen his redevelopment project two years ago. That project was intended to include The Gamm, but when it fell through the theater group gave up plans to stay in Pawtucket and subsequently moved to Warwick.
The Breeze learned this week that Leshinsky and a business partner are the two men behind the planned purchase of 217 Main St. and 25 Maple St., owned by Narragansett Bay Insurance Company, which moved to Johnston last year. Leshinsky said he and Rich are planning a mix of retail and office space across from The Grant at 250 Main St., where developer Leslie Moore is creating an indoor mini mall.
Leshinsky said he and business partner John Rich, both of Massachusetts, are in a 90-day due diligence period set to conclude at the end of July. He said he’s poured good money into an environmental study, schematic designs and other aspects of the project.
“I’m very much still interested in Pawtucket,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get people to share my excitement, and I think I’ve found a really good partner who believes in my thinking that Pawtucket has a lot of upside.”
If all goes well, he said, he and Rich could continue pursuing other properties in the downtown area. The coming train station nearby certainly can’t hurt those efforts, he said.
“I’m hoping it will work out and we can bring good business to the downtown,” he said.
There are at least a dozen interested tenants, Leshinsky said.
The first floor of 217 Main St., former home of Anchor Recovery, is great for retail and commercial spaces, he said, while the second floor is ideal for office uses. Both floors are the ground floor depending on the direction one comes at the building.
Mayor Donald Grebien said he’s excited to welcome this planned investment in the downtown by Leshinsky and Rich.
“This is one example of developers who have stepped up and decided to make an investment spurred in part by the designation of the downtown as an opportunity zone and by some of the recent changes to the zoning of the downtown,” he said. “We hope that this is the first of many such investments. We will be working closely with the developers to do whatever we can to support their redevelopment plan for the downtown.”
The Breeze reported in April about how the downtown’s federal opportunity zone offers tax benefits to investors. Officials have also established new zoning guidelines designed to promote more beneficial redevelopment of the area.
Leshinsky said he sees a potential restaurant coming to the windowed first floor of 217 Main St., across from the city’s newly improved parking garage. He said he’s open to whatever makes sense in that space, and wants to see “nice, positive” tenants that draw other tenants. The top floor is really great for professional businesses that want to move in. He said companies interested in the space would bring high-paying jobs to the area.
The developer is also interested in potentially bringing his own Leshinsky Finance offices from East Providence to the Main Street Pawtucket property.
A pending sale price was not disclosed.
The property at 25 Maple St. lists 15,000 square feet of rentable space, up for sale at $799,000. A listing for 217-235 Main St. shows a price tag of $1 million for about 22,000 square feet of space.
The developers would do significant improvements to the property, said Leshinsky, including exterior upgrades to the Main Street façade.
Pontiac Mills owner launches $35M project to turn mill into housing, business space
WARWICK — Despite some buckled floors, lots of flaking paint and tons of debris in the Pontiac Mills, the bones of the complex on Knight Street remain largely intact.
After years of vacancy and deterioration, an infusion of capital — $35 million — will fuel the site’s redevelopment, mainly as apartments but with some commercial space.
Federal and state tax credits will cover about $9 million of the project cost, according to Mike Harrington of Dev-Con Consultants, who is leading the redevelopment project with the new owner of the site, real estate developer Larry Silverstein.
Silverstein is from Baltimore, where his Union Box Co. is based, but he now lives in Newport full time. Silverstein’s wife is from Connecticut, and he has owned a summer home in Newport for years. His wife’s mother and sister also live in Newport, he said.
Why choose Pontiac Mills, where the previous owner, Texas oilman H. Hampton Hodges, said his rehab effort was stalled by the death of his partner, the banking crisis of 2008 and the devastating floods of spring 2010?
“I specialize in old, crappy buildings. This qualifies,” Silverstein said with a wry grin, nodding toward the complex.
Harrington is a Rhode Islander who worked with Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, of Baltimore, on its local mill redevelopment projects before that real estate company collapsed in 2009.
Harrington said the recession was especially tough on the state’s construction workers, and he thinks many people in the trades left the state permanently during the worst of it.
But this spring, plenty of work has been under way in Pontiac.
First things first. “We’re trying to get it cleaned up,” Harrington said. The interior demolition started about two months ago. By the beginning of April, 10½ tons of metal had been recycled and more than 160 tons of debris removed, he said. In many places throughout the complex, it looked like “people just walked out and left everything” behind, he said.
The overall plan, to be accomplished in three phases, involves building 150 apartments and some commercial spaces in about two dozen buildings. The 15½-acre complex will have about 250,000 square feet of built space. The site is now zoned “mixed use” to allow for shops, restaurants and residences there.
One small building close to Knight Street, the former company cafe, will be the residents’ mailroom. Building 21 will be the leasing office. Six apartments are planned in Building 9, the former boiler house, close to the river.
There will be a few microlofts, but mainly studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments. The work will proceed from west to east, starting at the building closest to the NYLO Hotel,.
Harrington said there are few new rental housing developments in Warwick, and they expect to have no trouble attracting tenants. “There’s a real demand for really nice apartments,” he said. They hope to have 70 apartments completed in the first phase, along with about 5,000 square feet of commercial space.
There is a courtyard space, known as The Mews, between Buildings 2 and 3. It’s easy to imagine a garden there, with outdoor seating.
“It’s been a long time coming, but it’s wonderful to see that it’s started,” said Warwick Mayor Scott Avedesian. ” .... There’s a lot of history there.”
In its heyday, the Pontiac Mills, established in 1863, was a complex of 38 industrial buildings owned by B. B. & R. Knight, a prominent textile manufacturer known for a fine cotton fabric marketed under the “Fruit of the Loom” trademark.
Robert and Benjamin Knight named the village Pontiac in the 1850s; Pontiac was the name of a Native American chieftain. The Fruit of the Loom business led to the development of a village with its own post office, telegraph, library, church, and schoolhouse. There was also a train station in what today is the Pontiac Village Community Park.
Hodges, the previous owner of the complex, sold it for $1 million in October 2014. At the time, redevelopment had begun on a small part of the mill site. The building at 400 Knight St. was renovated as the stylish, loft-style NYLO Hotel, which opened in 2008. The hotel was temporarily closed after the spring 2010 floods, which also closed the mall and damaged many homes in the area. Hodges has said the hotel also has new ownership, having gone into receivership during the recession.
A few months after the purchase, in early 2015, Silverstein met with members of the Pontiac Village Association, who greeted his plans with enthusiasm. Silverstein said that such a greeting is not always the case when he starts a project, particularly in urban areas, where most of his redevelopments have taken place. Although neighbors generally want to see a site improved, there is noise and dust involved with the construction, he said.
The Pontiac site, though technically in a suburb, has many things in common with urban projects, Silverstein said. Many suburban developers are used to dealing with undeveloped land and are wary of taking on projects with environmental issues, he said.
Pontiac is also not Silverstein’s first investment in Rhode Island. In 2012, he purchased the Salas’ Dining Room on Thames Street in Newport, forming a partnership with a local restaurateur, Patrick Kilroy, to restore the building. A year later, they opened the Midtown Oyster Bar at the site. Since then, Kilroy and Silverstein have purchased two more Newport eateries, the former Rhino Bar on Thames Street and Rhumbline on Bridge Street.
On Twitter @ChristineMDunn
Warwick’s Pontiac Mills once known for Fruit of the Loom fabric
WARWICK, R.I. -- With new ownership, the long-awaited redevelopment of the historic Pontiac Mills may finally get under way in 2015.A public announcement is expected soon from the new owner about his plans...
WARWICK, R.I. -- With new ownership, the long-awaited redevelopment of the historic Pontiac Mills may finally get under way in 2015.
A public announcement is expected soon from the new owner about his plans for the site near the Pawtuxet River, just north of the Warwick Mall, according to Mayor Scott Avedisian.
Located on the corner of Route 5 and Knight Street, across the road from the mall, the complex comprises about 15½ acres and 23 buildings, representing about 320,000 square feet of space. The city has rezoned the site as “mixed use” to allow for shops, restaurants and residences there.
H. Hampton Hodges, a Texas oilman and real estate developer, said he sold the Pontiac Mills complex in October to the Union Box Company, of Baltimore, Md., which is owned by real estate developer Larry Silverstein.
Avedisian said he has met with Silverstein to talk about the mill project, but no new plans have been formally submitted to the city.
David Bouchard, president of the Pontiac Village Association, said the new owner came to a meeting of the neighborhood group’s leaders after the sale and said he planned to build upscale apartments on the upper floors of the mill buildings and provide retail, restaurant and other commercial spaces on the ground floor.
Association vice president Karen McQuade said the group was pleased that “Mr. Silverstein seems to think he can save all of the buildings.”
The Pontiac Mill site has “a long history,” added Bouchard, who has lived in Pontiac village all of his life. “We’d like to see it salvaged as much as possible.”
The mill site has already been partially redeveloped. The building at 400 Knight St. was renovated as the stylish, loft-style NYLO Hotel, which opened in 2008. The hotel was temporarily closed after the devastating spring 2010 floods that also closed the mall and damaged many homes in the area. Hodges said the hotel also has new ownership, after going into receivership during the recession.
Hodges said that Silverstein “has vision and he will make something out of the project. He likes Rhode Island and he knows what he’s doing.”
Hodges said the economy and the death of his partner stalled his plans to redevelop the rest of the Pontiac Mills site.
The mills are not Silverstein’s first investment in Rhode Island. In 2012, Silverstein spent $2 million for Salas’ Dining Room on Thames Street in Newport, forming a partnership with a local restaurateur, Patrick Kilroy, to restore the building and operate an upscale restaurant there. Silverstein could not be reached for comment on his plans in Warwick.
In its heyday, the c. 1863 Pontiac Mills was a complex of 38 industrial buildings owned by B. B. & R. Knight, a prominent textile manufacturer known for a fine cotton fabric marketed under the “Fruit of the Loom” trademark.
Robert and Benjamin Knight named the village Pontiac in the 1850s, when they were establishing their Fruit of the Loom business; Pontiac was the name of a Native American chieftain.
The Fruit of the Loom business brought prosperity to Pontiac. The village had its own post office, telegraph, library, church, and schoolhouse. There was also a train station, now a police substation, in the Pontiac Village Community Park.
Historic duplexes and Victorian-era houses can be found on many of the residential streets north of the mill complex, along with newer housing and smaller industrial buildings.
The Isle Brewers Guild
July 7, 2016
PAWTUCKET — Jeremy Duffy and his partners have put together a package of private investment and public incentives to finance the building of an $11.4-million brewery and tourist attraction on an old industrial mill site here.
The package includes state bond proceeds, a federal loan guarantee and loans from city agencies. If all goes as planned, the brewery should be making beer by year’s end, Duffy said. Demolition on the site at 421 Main St. is done, and construction is under way on the brewery and space for offices, tours, sampling and other events.
The production plant, or “brew house,” will include fermentation and cold-storage rooms, and administrative and public areas. A 100-barrel brewing system and nine large tanks for aging beer are being manufactured in Oregon.
The center, to be called “The Guild,” should be finished “in a four- to five-month time period,” said Duffy. He and fellow Rhode Island native Devin Kelly are the two main partners in Isle Brewers Guild LLC. Duffy said he expects a handful of “successful regional brewers” will move some or all of their operations to the site, and he hopes to announce partnerships with other beer companies soon.
The first tenant will be Narragansett Brewing Co., which plans to brew Narragansett Fest and other Narragansett craft beers in the facility. In April, Narragansett moved its headquarters from Ship Street in Providence to the 130,000-square-foot site. Local brewing of Narragansett beer ended in 1981 with the closing of the label’s Cranston plant. After languishing for years, the brand was revitalized in 2006 by a team led by East Providence native Mark Hellendrung.
Narragansett Lager, the company’s flagship beer, is now being sold throughout the Northeast and will continue to be brewed at North American Breweries in Rochester, New York.
Duffy and Kelly first proposed a similar contract brewery business in the Valley section of Providence two years ago, but before they could purchase a 93,000-square-foot building on Kinsley Avenue, it was destroyed by fire.
After several months of searching, last November they purchased, for $1.25 million, an industrial complex known as the Kellaway Center. It’s a short distance from downtown Pawtucket. Since then, they have received the zoning approvals and building permits to go ahead, said Susan Mara, acting director of the city Department of Planning and Redevelopment. “We’ve been working very closely with Isle Brewers Guild, doing whatever we can to expedite the process,” she said.
The project is expected to employ 15 to 20 people initially, and Isle Brewers Guild’s payroll might eventually grow to 40 production and hospitality employees. The company has hired Jack Streich as vice president of brewing operations, and two staff members. Streich, who has held similar positions elsewhere, including a stint at Commonwealth Brewing Co. in Virginia, will be the “lead brewmaster.” He will work with employees from the other beer partnerships to help them produce their products, said Duffy.
The $11.4-million project, which includes the cost of the property, is being financed with an assortment of government-backed loans and private equity. On July 1, Isle Brewers Guild had the initial closing on its several funding agreements, Duffy said.
Isle is receiving a $2.8-million loan, backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, from the Ocean State Business Development Corporation. Two city entities, the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency and the Pawtucket Business Development Corporation, are lending $300,000 and $200,000, respectively.
Taxable special-obligation bonds totaling $4,022,000 were re-approved last month by the Rhode Island Industrial Facilities Corporation, an arm of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. They had been granted in January, but the agreement was amended to add some new provisions, including moving a bond issuance deadline from July 31 to next June. The bonds will be guaranteed by the state’s Rhode Island Industrial Recreational Building Authority.
Webster Bank will provide $4,022,000 to the Industrial Facilities Corporation by purchasing the bonds, one 25-year series for about $1.4 million for real estate and a 15-year series of about $2.6 million for machinery and equipment, according to Bill Ash, director of financial services at the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. When construction is finished and operations begin, the Industrial Facilities Corporation will disburse the money to Isle Brewers Guild, tied to a loan and mortgage agreement on both the real estate and the brewery’s machinery and equipment.
“We won’t receive any revenues from the bonds until after we’ve poured our first beer,” Duffy said. In the meantime, Webster Bank will cover construction and startup costs through a bridge loan. It will be paid off at the final closings for the bonds and the various other subordinate loans, said Ash.
Under special-obligation bonds, neither the state nor any municipality is legally responsible for paying them off in the event of a default. Ash said that in the “unlikely” event that the project failed, a liquidation of all assets would be enough to cover the bonds, which would be paid off first. “At a 50 percent loan-to-project value ratio, this project is very well collateralized,” he said.
Private investment includes a $350,000 loan from the seller of the Kellaway Center and a $2.4-million equity contribution from investors, including Duffy and Kelly, who are pledging personal residences. Duffy is a former executive at Duffy & Shanley, the Providence marketing and advertising firm. Kelly, a former president of Laser Performance in Portsmouth, maker of Laser and Sunfish sailboats, also has international beverage marketing experience.
At one time, the complex had about 30 tenants, but Mara, the Pawtucket planner, said just how many there are in addition to The Guild is “in flux” right now, due to various firms moving in and out in recent months.
In addition to brewing beer, The Guild hopes to hold social activities that would attract residents from three nearby converted mill buildings, as well as people from farther away, said Duffy. He wants to create a “food and beverage campus” where guests can watch the brewing process from a mezzanine, taste products and attend indoor functions and outdoor festivals in an adjacent courtyard. Beer produced at The Guild would be sold wholesale to bars and restaurants, and in retail stores.
The Guild opens with a bang
PAWTUCKET – Who wouldn’t want to attend a grand opening where free beer is on the menu, joked state and local officials as they partied at The Guild on Main Street last Friday.
Laureen Grebien said her husband had March 10 circled on the calendar for weeks, frequently referencing it as one of the biggest days the city has seen in a long time.
Mayor Donald Grebien feels the same way many people do about what a new craft brewing hub will mean for Pawtucket, said his wife, particularly that it will further transform this city into one of the nation’s best craft beer destinations.
The Grebiens were joined by dozens of state and local officials and beer enthusiasts at a grand opening and ribbon cutting for The Guild. Representatives for five new partner breweries joined in to celebrate the official opening of what many expect will be a regional – and even national – attraction.
Last Friday’s launch party, complete with beer samples and free T-shirts, marked the beginning of business operations at the brewery. By the end of March, owners of the Isle Brewers Guild plan to open their first tasting room to the public, giving craft beer drinkers an opportunity to sample a variety of locally crafted beers.
The facility will eventually be a “one-stop food and beverage campus,” featuring indoor and outdoor event space, an outdoor beer garden, tasting rooms, restaurants, classroom space and corporate offices.
Grebien thanked those who have helped make Pawtucket a beer destination, from Guild co-founders Jeremy Duffy and Devin Kelly for agreeing to look at Pawtucket as a home, to the Pawtucket Water Supply Board for supplying the water needed for a heavy volume of beer.
“We welcome Isle Brewers Guild, their brewers, and visitors to Pawtucket – the craft beer capital, said Grebien. “Our brewers have seen the value of our city and the buzz happening here and chose to ‘join the evolution.’ “ The craft beer industry has great implications for tourism, employment and economic development, he said. With a commuter rail station around the corner on the horizon, “the possibilities are endless,” he said.
Kelly and Duffy said their brewery has the capacity to produce 100,000 beers each day, with room to expand. This will be the largest U.S.-made craft brewer in the country, said Duffy “and we’re particularly proud of that.” The brewery will deliver beer to partners’ standards, said Kelly, as the brewery is “designed for speed, efficiency and quality.”
The partners in the Isle Brewers Guild, including Duffy, Kelly, Michael Leshinsky, Jack Streich and Kevin Chase, expect to draw some 50,000 visitors or more each year.
The addition of Narragansett Beer, the 45th largest brewer in the United States, puts a “Rhode Island classic where it belongs,” said the owners.
Narragansett Beer’s Mark Hellendrung said he’s “proud to call Pawtucket our new home” and “can’t think of a better place” to locate. The opening of The Guild marks the fulfillment of the company’s long-running bid to renew brewing operations in its home state, he said.
Gov. Gina Raimondo said The Guild is “good for tourism” and she’s “so proud to be part of this.” She joked that unlike the oft-repeated line in the state about cranes in the sky, The Guild puts “grains in the sky.” Without Grebien, the project never would have happened, said Raimondo.
“Today is a visible sign that we’re getting things done,” she said.
Last Friday’s celebration happened exactly two years after a fire destroyed The Guild’s previous targeted location in Providence. Kelly drew laughs when he shared how Grebien called right after the fire to let him know that Pawtucket has “some really nice mill buildings” available. There was a pause. “Too soon?” Kelly remembers Grebien asking.
Kelly and Duffy said it was Grebien’s aggressiveness that helped lure them to Pawtucket. Grebien credited former Pawtucket Foundation Executive Director Aaron Hertzberg for pushing the Kellaway Building on Main Street as a possible destination for the brewery.
Representatives for Sons of Liberty Spirits in South Kingstown made a surprise appearance at the grand opening, making their inclusion in the brewing consortium all but official. The addition of Sons of Liberty brings Pawtucket’s total number of breweries to eight. A ninth brewery is expected to be announced within the next month.
Tenants at The Guild include Narragansett Beer, Newburyport Brewing Company, Devil’s Purse Brewing Company, Sons of Liberty, and Farmer Willie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer. The three original Pawtucket breweries are Foolproof Brewing, Bucket Brewery and Crooked Current Brewery.
Officials from the Pawtucket Red Sox were also there last Friday, another sign that the addition of The Guild helped change the team’s perception of the city as a long-term home.
Tony Pires, director of administration for Grebien, said officials are hoping for a “great synergy” in the downtown area between The Guild, a future train station, and a possible new PawSox stadium at the Apex property on the riverfront.
The Isle Brewers Guild purchased its property at 461 Main St. in November of 2015. Brewing equipment began arriving last summer.
The Isle Brewers Guild gives partner brewers the space and equipment they need to overcome manufacturing, packaging and distribution restraints, while maintaining control of their core business practices.
“Put more simply: Partners will utilize IBG’s 100-barrel brewhouse and use the facility’s brand-new, state-of-the-art equipment to brew, package and distribute the beers their customers know and love,” states a release.
Learn more about the Isle Brewers Guild at www.islebrewers.com .
Standing in front of the giant brewing vats, Isle Brewers Guild co-partner Devin Kelly acknowledges the help of those that made the brewery possible, including Gov. Gina Raimondo and Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien. In the background, on display, are the brewing vats at the Isle Brewers Guild’s official launch of operations at the beer cooperative’s 100-barrel brew house in Pawtucket last Friday. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)
Jamie Buscher, a marketing assistant at Narragansett Beer, hands out a sample of the company’s brew. Beside her is B.J. Mansuetti, marketing manager at Narragansett Beer.
Max Easton, co-founder of Farmer Willie’s Craft Ginger Beer and a member of the Guild, offers a sample of his brew which is made from cold pressed ginger, sugar, lemon juice, molasses and nutmeg.
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien thanks all those that made bringing the Isle Brewers Guild to Pawtucket possible.
Jeremy Duffy, left, and Devin Kelly, partners in the Isle Brewers Guild, celebrate the official launch of operations at the beer cooperative’s 100-barrel brew house in Pawtucket last Friday. Isle Brewers Guild gives partner brewers the space and equipment they need to brew, package and distribute the beers their customers love.
PAWTUCKET’S ISLE BREWERS GUILD HAS PLENTY OF REASONS TO CELEBRATE
March 10, 2017
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — “Let’s grab a glass at the Guild.”
That concept gets closer to reality every day as Pawtucket’s Isle Brewers Guild prepares to celebrate the launch of operations at the brew house today, March 10. There will be speeches and politicians at the private event; but mostly there will be the sampling of the beers that will be brewed at the 100-barrel campus at 461 Main St.
The Guild has four brewers signed on, led by Narragansett Beer, which announced last year, and Newburyport Brewing Company of Massachusetts. Newly named are Devil’s Purse Brewing Company of South Dennis on Cape Cod and Boston-based Farmer Willie’s Craft Ginger Beer, which was founded by two Brown University graduates with a Cape Cod goat farmer.
“This is a state-of-the-art facility with a world-class team and we feel like we can refine our recipe even more here,” said Max Easton, co-founder of Farmer Willie’s. With that new equipment, which includes a “crazy speedy canning line,” Farmer Willie’s can expand into new products and packaging, he said. “As partners, we’re all invested in it.”
Another potential partner, South Kingstown’s Sons of Liberty Beer & Spirits Co. (which last week won the industry’s American Craft Producer of the Year) has brewed test batches of its whiskey beers at the Guild. Sons founder Michael Reppucci said they are working through contract details to bring their whiskey production there.
There are two more brewers whose participation could be announced in the next 30 days, said Guild managing partner Jeremy Duffy, who co-founded the cooperative with Devin Kelly. Duffy calls all the brewers “partners,” in production, manufacturing, packaging and distribution. The Guild has hired a brewing team to lead operations and work with the craft companies to brew their formulations.
Most importantly to beer lovers, the Guild has hired a tap room manager and is working with the partners to build up enough product to hopefully open later this month, said Duffy. All the beers made at the brewhouse will be available to drink in the tap room.
“Customers can come in and try beer not from one brewery but from four or five and maybe a distillery, too,” said Farmer Willie’s Easton. “That’s amazing,” he said, adding that he expects it to draw beer lovers from the region, not just locally.
“Isle Brewers Guild is the name, but we expect it to go away,” Duffy said. “The Guild will be the place, as in let’s grab a glass at the Guild,” he said.
Duffy also said Narragansett Beer will soon release the first beer brewed from the Guild though the Rhode Island brewer isn’t ready to announce any details yet.
Still to come, an educational component being added to the campus and the purchase of an experimental brewhouse. Once fully operational, there will be indoor and outdoor event spaces, an outdoor beer garden, restaurants and corporate offices at the 131,000-square-foot space.
“We still have a way to go but we are very happy,” said Duffy. “It’s ending up exactly as we planned.”
That’s why they’ll celebrate with Gov. Gina Raimondo, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, a prelude to welcoming beer lovers in coming weeks.
Isle Brewers Guild seeks 12-year tax agreement
PAWTUCKET – With their $1.25 million downtown property secured, owners of the Isle Brewers Guild, at 461 Main St., are now seeking a 12-year tax stabilization agreement with the city.
PAWTUCKET – With their $1.25 million downtown property secured, owners of the Isle Brewers Guild, at 461 Main St., are now seeking a 12-year tax stabilization agreement with the city.
The plan for the downtown brewing consortium will bring some $10 million in investment, for a total annual tax yield of about $100,830 at the end of the 12-year agreement, according to Planning and Redevelopment Director Barney Heath, up from $40,079 in taxes currently. The taxable value of the proposed improvements is $3 million, according to the owners.
Heath is throwing his “full support” behind approval of the tax treaty. The City Council last week referred the request to its finance committee.
Under terms of the agreement, Pawtucket would lose the $40,079 it currently gets from the former Kellaway Center in each of the first five years. Then, for year six, the city would receive $5,611 in tax revenue, $11,222 for year seven, $16,833 for year eight, $22,444 for year nine, $28,055 for year 10, $33,666 for year 11, and back to $40,079 in year 12.
The city would get $32,399 back through the Rhode Island Tax Stabilization Incentive Program over the course of the agreement, including $4,000 a year for the first five years.
Over 15 years, without an agreement or development, Pawtucket would be projected to get about $600,000 in tax revenue. Under terms of the proposed pact, the city would get $493,000 over that period.
As part of his rationale for the agreement, Heath said the owners are “undertaking extensive renovations and capital investment to create the look, feel and function for the new facility.”
“The economic benefits of this project, however, go far beyond the basic property taxes,” he wrote to the City Council. “The project as envisioned by the developers will drive a tremendous amount of customer traffic and business investment to the brewery area and downtown, by extension, because of the scale and unique character of the complex.”
According to Heath, the “potential spin-off effect for the downtown properties could be transformational.”
Jeremy Duffy, managing partner of the Isle Brewers Guild, said the company is seeking a 12-year tax treaty “to assist us in the critical early years of the project,” when start-up costs and working capital needs are greatest.
Duffy said the guild will provide 40 jobs in the first three years of operations in a 130,000-square-foot facility, and 60 jobs after the first five years.
Duffy said he and co-owners Devin Kelly and Michael Leshinsky are excited about locating their brewing operations in the downtown area and “contributing to Pawtucket’s revitalization.”
A tax stabilization agreement essentially pre-determines the value of a property each year instead of going by standard tax assessments to change the annual tax.
RI board to vote Weds. on $4M for new brewery
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – An obscure quasi-public state agency will vote Wednesday to borrow $4 million for a high-profile brewery development in Pawtucket that’s set to become the new home of Narragansett Beer.
The board of the R.I. Industrial-Recreational Building Authority (IRBA) is scheduled to approve a resolution authorizing it to borrow up to $4.02 million on behalf of Isle Brewers Guild by floating “taxable industrial revenue bonds,” according to a meeting agenda. A sister entity, the R.I. Industrial Facilities Corporation, has also posted the vote. Both are staffed by R.I. Commerce Corporation employees.
“We are very appreciative of the state of Rhode Island’s belief and support in our project,” Devin Kelly, a partner at Isle Brewers, said in a statement ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
Isle Brewers, a cooperative co-founded by Kelly and co-partner Jeremy Duffy, is building a full-service brewery on Main Street in Pawtucket. The complex will house multiple craft brewers, including Narragansett Beer, which plans to lease space thereso it can begin brewing in Rhode Island for the first time since 1983. (Gov. Gina Raimondo’s former venture-capital firm is a Narragansett Beer investor.)
IRBA first approved the state-backed borrowing for Isle Brewers last December but is taking a new vote Wednesday because the transaction’s structure has changed, Isle Brewers spokesman Jon Duffy said in an email. The project is also relying on private funding and support from Webster Bank, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the city of Pawtucket, he said.
The resolution to be voted on Wednesday moves the deadline for IRBA to float the Isle Brewers bonds from the end of next month to June 9, 2017.
Co-op grocery store planned for Providence’s West End will focus on local foods
Urban Greens is a co-op owned by 720 members. Membership costs $160, which can be paid over four years, or $80 for low-income families paid over eight years.
PROVIDENCE — The West End will soon have its own full-service grocery store, a food co-op called Urban Greens located at the site of the former Louttit Laundry building at 93 Cranston St.
The 8,000-square-foot Urban Greens Food Co-op will be part of a $10-million development that includes 39 residential units. The developers are Bourne Avenue Capital Partners, of East Providence, with Truth Box Studio Inc. and D+P Real Estate Advisors LLC. Urban Greens expects to spend about $1.5 million on the store, including engineering, working capital and build-out costs.
Urban Greens is a co-op owned by 720 members. Membership costs $160, which can be paid over four years, or $80 for low-income families paid over eight years.
“Members get a grocery store that is focused on local food and local farmers,” said co-op president Corey Auger. “We will offer farmers’ market quality food seven days a week.”
The store will have a mix of organic and conventional food. Auger hopes the co-op will be competitive with Whole Foods, an organics grocery chain. Urban Greens, which plans to open in the fall 2017, will offer food such as rice in bulk.
A smaller grocery, the Fertile Underground, has been running a store on Westminster Street for almost five years. A worker-owned co-op, the Fertile Underground sells local and organic food, herbs and locally made beauty products. It also has a small café that serves coffee and smoothies.
Auger doesn’t see the two stores as competing.
“They are hyper-local,” he said. “Our reach is a little bigger. People can go to both places.”
Urban Greens has also launched a capital campaign with the goal of raising $600,000. The co-op is selling preferred stock that will pay 2-percent annual interest. By year seven, the investor can redeem his or her investment. In year 12, that person can redeem his investment for 120 percent of its value. The grocery has already raised $110,000, Auger said.
Auger noted that the store will be located near three bus routes, and it will have plenty of parking. It will be within walking distance for customers in the Broadway neighborhood.
The entire project received a $2.7-million tax credit from Rebuild Rhode Island that can be redeemed once the project is complete. Under the Rebuild Rhode Island program, commercial, multifamily residential or mixed-use development projects that meet certain criteria are eligible for up to $15 million in tax credits that developers can use, trade or redeem for 90 percent of their value.
Generally, projects that will cost $5 million or more to build are eligible for an incentive that’s up to 20 percent of the total project cost. But projects in economically distressed areas identified as “Hope Communities” don’t need to meet that $5-million cap.
“It’s an opportunity for Rhode Islanders to invest in a community project and earn a return,” Auger said. “The store will support the local economy by creating new jobs, supporting local farmers and producers and reinvesting its profits locally.”
Providence Food Co-op Finds Place to Build
The Urban Greens Food Co-op will be part of two new buildings planned for an open lot on Cranston Street in Providence. (artist rendering/Urban Greens)
PROVIDENCE — It took more than 10 years, but the city’s largest food cooperative finally has a home, or at least an address.
The Urban Greens Food Co-op will be part of two new buildings planned for an open lot at 93 Cranston St. The site was last occupied by the Louttit Laundry Building, which was abandoned in 1985, gutted by a fire and eventually demolished in 2008.
The 7,000-square-foot grocery store will inhabit the ground floor of a three-story, mixed-use building with 39 apartments.
Since 2004 a group of like-minded residents have been pushing for a local food co-op, which are typically found in progressive communities across the United States, such as Jamaica Plain and Northampton, Mass. Fertile Underground Grocery, a worker-cooperative at 1577 Westminster St., opened several years ago.
Consumer co-ops operate much like a credit union, where all profits are managed by or, in various ways, returned to its customer-members. An all-volunteer committee manages the business and all planning and operational decisions are made democratically.
“It will put the best interests of the customers and the community before profits,” said Cassie Tharinger, who has been active with the project since 2004. She is a member of the governing and planning Cooperative Council, which managed the location search.
“This has been a long time coming ... who knew that the process of opening a cooperative grocery store was such a long and admittedly slow one,” Tharinger said during a Dec. 4 party to announce the location of the co-op.
Tharinger grew up with co-ops in Vermont and saw how a locally managed organization can foster a food-based economy and keep money within a community. Co-ops typically carry three times the number of local products than a traditional store. They also pay higher wages and offer good health benefits, according to the National Co+op Grocers. Like most food co-ops, Urban Greens will focus on selling local, healthy and organic food. Promoting local food is expected to address chronic, regional issues such as food insecurity and the effects of poor food on health.
Mark Huang, the city’s director of economic development, said co-ops reflect a larger trend of consumers wanting to know where their food comes from, how it’s made and how healthy it is.
“That’s a direct rebuttal to the last 30 years of how our food system has evolved,” Huang said. During that time, food has become industrialized, cheap and unhealthy. As a result, food from grocery store chains no longer comes from local farms, fishing grounds and food companies, he said.
Huang, who most recently worked in San Francisco, wants Rhode Island to be the Napa Valley of the East Coast, where it can provide local produce and seafood, and create a new light-manufacturing sector based on food products that serve local and global consumers.
“The money stays in the local community. It’s a form of economic empowerment in your community,” Huang said.
The Cranston Avenue site was the top choice of four possible locations on the city’s West Side. It was selected for its proximity to three mixed-income neighborhoods: Federal Hill, the West End and Upper South Providence. All three areas lack a full-size grocery store.
The location aims to provide social-justice benefits by encouraging low-income residents to shop, work and interact at a business that focuses on community input and outreach.
Eight of the apartments will be priced below the local median income, and 31 will serve as workforce housing.
Once built, the store will be open to the public. But anyone who pays a $160, or $80 for a low-income person, fee can become a member. Both fees can be paid in installments. Members participate in governance, attend special sale days and can buy food by the case.
Money must still be raised for construction. Urban Greens will secure a loan with the Cooperative Fund of New England, but a significant portion will be raised through an upcoming direct public offering to members. Through this public investment, the co-op will offer preferred shares that deliver a fixed return based on profits. The investment campaign will be launched this spring and will be open to Urban Green members and all Rhode Islanders.
The developer, Bourne Avenue Capital Partners, will build a second, fully residential building provided the project receives a Rebuild Rhode Island Tax Credit from Commerce Rhode Island, the state’s economic development agency.
Construction could begin as early as summer 2016 and take a year to build.
The lot is a brownfield site owned by the city’s redevelopment authority. The Urban Greens governing council has worked with the city for two years to design buildings and find the developer.
Other work lies ahead, such as interior design work, hiring a manager, establishing agreements with distributors and farmers, fishermen/women, and food makers.
Private Swimming School Plans New Indoor Facility in East Providence
Pods Swimming is planning to build an indoor swimming facility at the corner of Route 44 and Commercial Way in East Providence.
An eight-year-old private swimming school has announced plans to build its own indoor poor facility in East Providence.
Pods Swimming plans to break ground on a 12,000 square-foot center at the corner of Route 44 and Commercial Way that will feature a six-lane, 25-yard training pool and a smaller 90-degree heated teaching pool, among other amenities.
The new building will be the headquarters for Pods swimming and will help the company bolster its lessons and swimming events that are now held in pools across the region, said company founder Susan Pascale-Frechette.
“For the past eight years, we have been traveling from pool to pool in order to provide quality swim lessons in the Greater Providence area. However, we feel strongly that we need our own permanent pool facility where we can provide a stable environment for our swimmers, our families and our staff,” she said.
The building will be built by New England Construction and was designed by Vision 3 Architects.
Along with the pools, it will have a family changing room, locker rooms, a snack bar, reception area and office space.
The facility will also open the door to leasing opportunities. Pods Swimming will be able to rent to schools, senior centers and other organizations.
Build-A-Pool For Pods Swimming
Published on Sep 8, 2015
We’re planning to break ground on a state-of-the-art, indoor pool facility at the corner of Route 44 and Commercial Way in East Providence, R.I. The 12,000 s/f building will have as its centerpiece a six-lane, 25-yard training pool plus a smaller, 90-degree heated “teaching” pool. Other amenities include a family changing room, locker rooms, a snack bar, reception area, and office space.
For the past eight years, we have been traveling from pool to pool in order to provide quality swim lessons in the Greater Providence area. However, we need our own permanent pool facility where we can provide a stable environment for our swimmers, our families and our staff.
The new Pods pool will be our home base for year-round lessons and other swim events. It will also be available for rental to schools, senior centers and other organizations throughout Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.
We’ve been extremely adaptable and have “gone with the flow” these past eight years, but we need a pool to call our own. It’s a very big undertaking for us, but one that will benefit children, adults and entire families for decades to come.
Four firms are bidding to study the feasibility of McCoy Stadium, giving the Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) and local officials plenty of options to choose from in mapping out the team’s future.
Last month the PawSox announced that they would partner with the City of Pawtucket and the State of Rhode Island to initiate at feasibility study. The three sides will split the cost of a report that analyzes the possibility of renovating McCoy Stadium into a state-of-the-art facility, while also sprucing up the area surrounding the ballpark. The four firms that are being considered include Generator Studio, Leshinsky Finance, Populous, and The S/L/A/M Collaborative.
The decision as to which firm lands the study is left to the PawSox, Pawtucket, and Rhode Island. More from the Providence Journal:
City, state and PawSox officials are expected to meet Thursday to determine who from each entity has expertise to analyze the proposals, rank them according to the criteria in the request for proposals and recommend which firm should do the work, said Thomas Bovis, interdepartmental project manager in the state purchasing division who opened bids Wednesday morning at the state Department of Administration.
All three entities have agreed to share equally the cost of the study, which is expected to cost up to $100,000, begin in August and conclude by December. The selected firm is expected to develop three conceptual designs for redeveloping McCoy Stadium and the surrounding area.
This is the next logical step for all sides involved. While the city and the state need a better sense of the cost of keeping the PawSox at McCoy Stadium, the team is going through a careful process in planning its next move. Furthermore, a structural study of McCoy Stadium is already underway.
Over the last several months, PawSox officials–including chairman Larry Lucchino–have expressed a desire to work with Pawtucket on developing a ballpark plan. Though they attempted to move to Providence last year, the PawSox have a lease at McCoy Stadium through the 2020 season, so they are certainly in a position to take their time.
It should be noted that upon taking over in 2015, the PawSox ownership commissioned Populous for a McCoy Stadium study. Lucchino claims that the study outlined a cost of $50 to $65 million to renovate McCoy Stadium into a more modern AAA venue, though that report has never been released to the public.
Leshinsky: Hire the local company to study McCoy
PAWTUCKET – The owner of a company that’s done extensive work on Pawtucket’s resurgence is urging state officials to give him the job of studying McCoy Stadium’s future.
Michael Leshinsky, whose Warwick-based Leshinsky Finance LLC is the only Rhode Island company of four companies that bid for the job of studying the home of the Pawtucket Red Sox last week, said his company is best suited to tackle the job.
“I hope the McCoy study is done locally by a Rhode Islander and not an outsider,” he posted.
Leshinsky told The Breeze there’s no way an outside company can stack up to the experience his company has in Rhode Island. He brokered the deal on developing The Guild on Main Street and completed a feasibility analysis along the Roosevelt Avenue corridor, two of many local projects. The former Oak Hill resident recently moved just over the Pawtucket line into Providence.
“To me it’s logical,” he said. “I know Pawtucket, I know Rhode Island.”
As part of his analysis on economic development in downtown Pawtucket, Leshinsky said he analyzed loads of data for the area around McCoy Stadium, right down to shopping trends, eating habits, and what people enjoy doing with their spare time.
The importance of knowing an area cannot be understated, says Leshinsky. Having lived and worked all over the country, he knows that not everything works everywhere. Dunkin’ Donuts, for instance, failed quickly in Minnesota.
Leshinsky says he has many ideas for improving the experience in and around McCoy Stadium, from more complex initiatives like strategic commercial development in a mostly residential neighborhood to simple upgrades like adding wireless Internet access at the stadium.
The three other companies submitting bids last week were Generator Studio LLC of Missouri, Populous Architects of Missouri, and The S/L/A/M Collaborative, of Connecticut. Officials will now evaluate the proposals to see who they like best.
Populous, with its extensive experience on stadiums, is the only other company he could see getting the bid, said Leshinsky.
The study of the stadium and surrounding neighborhood is due to begin in August and finish by December. The cost of the study is expected to be in the range of $100,000, shared equally among the state, city and team.
The study of McCoy is meant to decide whether McCoy is a viable long-term home for the PawSox beyond the end of the team’s current lease in 2021.
Pawtucket firm wants to take swing at McCoy study
Locally-owned Leshinsky Finance bidding to work on stadium feasibility report
Pawtucket Times19 Jul 2016By BRENDAN McGAIR firstname.lastname@example.org
Media gather on the field at McCoy Stadium in June as the team and local officials announced that they would seek bids from companies to prepare a feasibility study on the future for McCoy Stadium. At left, Michael Leshinsky is one of the partners in Leshinsky Finance, a locally-based firm that is involved with several projects around the city, and is one of the companies under consideration to prepare the McCoy report.
PAWTUCKET – Michael Leshinsky has an office that overlooks a vast industrial complex that will soon bustle as a beer-making operation/tourist attraction.
The 35-year-old can look out the window daily and see the potential for the home of Isle Brewers Guild, located in a part of this city known as Kellaway Center. The startup brewery is a major client of Leshinsky’s, hence why his voice crackles with enthusiasm when describing what this endeavor can do for Pawtucket.
The fact that Warwick-based Leshinsky Finance LLC has an office in Pawtucket, where Leshinsky lives with his wife Amy and two young daughters, should give him a substantial leg to stand on when it comes to studying the future of McCoy Stadium, the home of the Pawtucket Red Sox, and the land that surrounds the 74-year-old structure.
Leshinsky thinks his firm represents the best fit to conduct research on McCoy with the blessing of the PawSox, the city, and the state. The out-of-state firms who also have come forward cannot match his strong ties to the community.
The same day that the four firms were announced – the three others are Generator Studio LLC of Missouri, Populous Architects of Missouri, and The S/L/A/M Collaborative, of Connecticut – Leshinsky wrote on his LinkedIn page, “I truly hope that the McCoy Stadium Study is done locally. A Rhode Islander and not an outsider looking inward!”
“I want to do whatever I can to help Pawtucket,” said Leshinsky during an interview last week. He was holding a 196-page response that his finance team put together and submitted to the state. It contains endless amounts of facts and figures that affirm why he believes
McCoy Stadium can continue to serve as the main hub for Triple-A baseball.
“Under the right circumstances, absolutely,” said Leshinsky. “Some changes would have to be made, but look at the population. It’s not in the middle of nowhere, so why couldn’t it?”
Even though he went to high school in Minnesota and received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Michael Leshinsky visited Rhode Island often as a child; his uncle had a place in Narragansett.
“I always looked forward to coming here,” he said.
Moving to the Ocean State to obtain a bachelor of science degree from Johnson & Wales and a master of business administration from Providence College helped to strengthen Leshinsky’s R.I. ties. While commuting to Boston University for his master’s degree in real estate finance, he started to seriously warm up to the idea that Pawtucket could hold the same potential as, for example, Patriot Place in Foxboro.
“Pawtucket is right there,” says Leshinsky, who took $100,000 of his own money to invest in real estate ventures in the city – making nice apartments as he describes it.
“I’m a big believer in putting money where your mouth is,” said Leshinsky.
Leshinsky now lives in the Oak Hill section of Pawtucket. There are days when he walks to his office located on 461 Main Street, the same building that serves as the headquarters for Isle Brewers.
Word of Leshinsky’s efforts to engrain himself deeply into Pawtucket quickly spread with city officials hiring him to conduct a study of how the land across the street from city hall on Roosevelt Ave could best be used.
“They have the right administration in place that gets it and understands it,” said Leshinsky.
Leshinsky went to work on crafting what a soup-to-nuts analysis of McCoy Stadium would entail “as soon as I found out” that the floor was open for bidders to come forward. Like the other finalists, he now waits for a rendering that will serve as the official kick-off to the McCoy study.
On July 3, 2015, Leshinsky and his family attended a PawSox home game that was followed by fireworks. A year later, he finds himself in a position that no other Rhode Island citizen can claim: throwing his name into the hat for a study that figures to play a vital role in determining whether the PawSox remain at McCoy beyond the terms of its current lease, which ends after the 2020 season, represents the best fit.
“At the end of the day, I want to be able to say that I bettered a community or did something for the greater good,” said Leshinsky, believing that the trump card he holds –knowing the ins and outs of Pawtucket – provides him with a substantial leg up over his McCoy competition.
Investor agrees to buy Times building
PAWTUCKET – An investor with a track record of success in the city plans to buy the building where The Times has operated for nearly a century.
Michael Leshinsky, of Leshinsky Finance, is one of three partners involved with the Isle Brewers Guild, a company developing a craft beer consortium of Narragansett Brewing Company and several other breweries just up the road on Main Street.
Leshinsky told The Breeze he and the owners of the five-story Times building at 23 Exchange St. have a purchase and sale agreement in place but no closing date yet. He said he plans to buy the building for $700,000. The structure, owned by R.I.S.N. Operations, has a taxed value of $862,800.
Leshinsky said he “was really attracted” to the brick building and has “always liked it.” One of the initial hurdles he faced when he first toured it a year ago was deciding what to do with the space where the old newspaper press is on the back half of the building. That area on the first two floors is not conducive to residential units. He said he recently found a tenant to fill that 25,000-square-foot space, though he’s not yet announcing who it is.
The top three floors are targeted for residential space, said Leshinsky, at three to four apartments per floor. The upper floors have great views of the city looking down the hill toward City Hall and the river, he said.
Other tenants expected to take up space are The Times and Leshinsky Finance, said Leshinsky. He currently has an office in the brewery building.
Leshinsky added that the project will not be feasible without the right mix of historic tax credits, which he’s working on now. Even if the building was given to him, the planned rehab wouldn’t be worth it without those credits, he said. Particularly expensive items include removing columns and taking out the old press.
The entire project is expected to cost $10 million to $12 million, he said, adding that he believes he has “the right tenant mix” to make the project work.
Another job taken on by Leshinsky was the 2015 Roosevelt Feasibility Analysis examining the risk and opportunity of building a multi-use $43 million facility in downtown Pawtucket. Leshinsky Finance is also bidding to do the planned feasibility study at McCoy Stadium.
Leshinsky is also considering what might be done with the flat roof of the The Times building, including a possible rooftop bar or restaurant.
Leshinsky said he expects the rehabilitation of the Times building and immediate surrounding vicinity to “improve the whole area” and “trickle down to City Hall.”
The developer said he plans to “preserve as much as I can” of the 1920 building, including the white lettering near the roofline.
The Breeze reported two years ago that the Tai-O Group was interested in buying the building, but that deal never materialized. The owners have been shopping the 32,000-square-foot property since at least 2007.
Gamm’s grant starts $5 million theater project at Times building
PAWTUCKET – An arts grant for Pawtucket’s downtown theater is expected to fuel a $5 million investment in one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.
The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts last week awarded a $211,500 State Cultural Facilities Grant to the Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre at 172 Exchange St. to plan for and design a new space in The Times building, located just up the road at 23 Exchange St.
Oliver Dow, managing director at The Gamm, told The Valley Breeze that representatives for the theater are excited to win their biggest grant ever on its highly rated application. He said it’s “really the beginning of a long slog” on “a big project that still needs a lot more financing.”
According to Dow, the move to an expanded space on the two lower levels of The Times building would cost some $5 million. The move into a new and expanded space would cost a significant amount because of the costs associated with building out a theater, including work on the structure, grid, and lighting systems.
The grant, said Dow, will pay for planning, design, environmental cleanup and some construction at the new location. A significant cost driver for the project will be the removal of an old printing press in the building, he said.
Those at the theater are still in the very early stages of raising funds, said Dow. The entire process of moving to the new facility could take three years, he said.
The rear side of The Times property is appealing because it gives the theater the added ceiling height it was looking for, said Dow.
Michael Leshinsky, one of the principals in the Isle Brewers Guild downtown and the man planning to purchase the mostly vacant Times building and transform it into a modern mixed-use facility, told The Breeze he’s excited to have the Gamm coming to the building. He said he and co-investors plan to build a “very attractive and beautiful location for them.”
“We’re not going to spare any expense,” he said.
The addition of the Gamm at the Broad Street gateway to the city will also be “great for the surrounding area,” he said.
Leshinsky says he has an agreement in place to buy The Times building for $700,000. He expects to add residential units and commercial spaces, including a headquarters for his company, Leshinsky Finance.
The arts grant is specifically for the work at The Times building and can’t be used to explore moves to other locations, said Dow.
He said the theater doesn’t even have a lead gift yet for a capital campaign. Developing the new location would obviously go a lot faster if the money was in place, he said.
The total square footage of the theater will likely expand by about 50 percent, he said, and actual seating is expected to go from 135 seats currently to about 200 seats. Increasing the size of the theater is “not going to change the intimacy of the audience experience,” said Dow. He said the goal of the entire project is to improve conditions primarily for both actors and audience.
The intent with the move and expansion, said Dow, is to create a “gathering space and focal point” that contributes significantly to the surrounding community and engages with neighbors, which include both the Pawtucket Library and YMCA of Pawtucket. A significant factor in the grant application process was how the money would help the theater boost community engagement, he said.
Dow said there are ongoing conversations about possible agreements for parking at the facility.
The Gamm Theatre has long had issues with its current space, sandwiched between Tolman High School and the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center, including lack of parking and interior space.
Other grants received by Pawtucket organizations include a $150,000 Preservation Grant to repair the roof of the Pawtucket Public Library and a $50,000 Cultural Facilities Grant for the Mixed Magic Theatre to expand its facility.
Mayor Donald Grebien said all three grants will contribute to making Pawtucket more of a destination.
“Pawtucket prides itself on its robust arts district and its historical significance,” said Grebien. “We are very thankful for these preservation and cultural facilities grants that will ensure that residents and visitors continue to enjoy these destinations for many years to come.”