Slow and steady. That’s Mosaico’s pace when it comes to cleaning up the Bristol Industrial Park.
It’s been nearly three years since Mosaico Business and Community Development Corp. bought the mill complex, located at 500 Wood St. And while to passersby, change might not be obvious, the current and prospective tenants couldn’t be more pleased.
“They’re doing pretty good for the amount of time they’ve (owned the park),” said Anne Kachadorian, owner of Black Duck Marine Canvas. Ms. Kachadorian has been leasing space “in one of their good buildings,” for the past three years.
“They came in and asked us what our concerns were and if there was anything we wanted fixed,” she said. “So I told them about the broken window pane, and about the dim light where our sewing machine was. They fixed that right away, which impressed me, because they didn’t have to do that. I’m pleased so far.”
One major improvement is the renovation of the interior of the old on-site fire station, located in building 115.
“When you walked in the door, there was a huge hole in the floor,” said Diana Campbell, executive director of Mosaico, a non-profit redevelopment agency.
Thick wooden beams that spanned the sub floor from one side of the building to the other had rotted, and the floor gave way to age and overuse. There is no air conditioning, and a heating unit is currently being installed.
Mosaico added bathroom facilities and is working to repair the windows.
“Since this complex is on the National Register of Historic Places, we have to replicate the windows that were on the building when it was first constructed,” Ms. Campbell said. “So it’s going to take some time.”
Mosaico’s first task was to repair the roofs, add more lighting and bring all the electrical systems up to code. A large number of windows outfitting the complex are broken, and the expansive parking lot is marred with potholes.
“We’ve received a grant to cleanup one area where the DEM (RI Department of Environmental Management) determined there was petrolium-laced soil contamination,” Ms. Campbell said. “It’s not anything big, and so we’re able to cap it. The beauty is, we get an entirely new parking lot with this.”
Repairing the buildings will take more work. Some of the granite- block buildings date back to 1864 when Augustus Bourn purchased land and buildings on the corner of Franklin and Wood streets to build the National Rubber Co. Others, such as the building and brick tower that housed the steam heat-generating furnaces that heated the entire complex, were built in the late 1800s. Other portions were built as late as the 1950s.
Buried beneath an array of discarded junk was a remarkable find: A 50s-era Cummins power generator. It had about 339 hours on it, and if sold today would be worth about $100,000, Ms. Campbell said.
“This is going to be used to power the entire sprinkler system,” she said.
A lack of adequate fire prevention – sprinklers and alarms – now tops Mosaico’s to-do list.
“We can’t have tenants move in unless we have sprinklers, per the fire marshal,” Ms. Campbell said.”Since everything we do is done with grants, we progress as fast as we get them.”
Another improvement has been the clearing out of a 41,970 square-foot building, No. 215, which would generate $10,000 a month if rented in its entirety. Part of the building housed East Bay Surplus, which has long since left the park.
“It took us a long time, working on it off-and-on, to clear this out,” Ms. Campbell said. “We found tires, old mattresses, and lots of other junk.”
Ms. Campbell is hoping that by 2020, the Bristol Industrial Park will once again be the economic hub it once was. To do so will cost at most $6 million.
“We lived by that whistle,” she said of an old factory alarm that would sound several times during the day, signaling the start of work, lunch break, and the end of work. “We had to be in the house by the time that last whistle came.
“My family is four generations here in Bristol,” she continued. “My family worked here and we lived just over on Magnolia Street. Reviving this (park) is my way of giving back.”
Since funding for most of the repairs comes from federal grants, Ms. Campbell said that even when the industrial park is revived, the cost of rent will always remain low.
“It’s geared more toward low-to-moderate income workers,” she said.
Rent is anywhere from $3 to $4 a square foot. With 25 current tenants – 70-percent capacity, Mosaico takes in between $20,000 to $28,000 per month.
“Sometimes in lieu of rent, we’ll ask them to help out (cleaning up),” Ms. Campbell said.
To date, Mosaico has been granted $600,000 in federal funds. And for every $35,000, at least one job has to have been created, Ms. Campbell said.
Another caveat to the federal funding guarantees that at least 51-percent of park employees are from low-to-moderate income families. All potential employees of park tenants are screened by Mosaico, and tenants have acknowledged this criteria when they signed their lease.