The owners of a Metacom Avenue rowing machine company have purchased the so-called Wightman’s Farm property at 500 Metacom Ave., and another to the south, for $1.25 million.
An LLC formed by WaterRower at 560 Metacom Ave., purchased the 17-acre residentially zoned tract from Wightman’s Farm LLC, the former ownership group headed by Warren’s Avila family, recording the sale at Warren Town Hall on xx Jan. xx.
The sale came as part of a package deal in WaterRower’s ultimate goal — to buy their 560 Metacom Ave. home from the Avilas, who had been their landlords there since WaterRower moved to Metacom from the Cutler Mill in 2003.
“The landlord has a different business model than we do; we want a nice home that we can control, his model was to try to maximize profit” from the property, WaterRower’s Peter King said. “We are continuing to grow. A lot of (the sale) was just wanting to own the building so we could clean it up and modernize.”
As for the large tract of open space next door, “we’re not really sure yet what we will do there. “For now though it’s just nice to have that open space next door. It’s zoned R-10, so whether we develop it or not, I’m not too sure.”
Zoning on the land has been an issue in Warren for several years, after the Avilas tried unsuccessfully to have the zoning changed from residential to commercial.
Dozens of hearings were held on the issue. Supporters of the Avilas said the family had a right to try to use the land as they saw fit; opponents worried that re-zoning it to commercial would threaten one of the largest tracts of open space left on Metacom, and also detract from the quality of life of nearby residents, including those at the end of Adams Lane. The town council ultimately rejected the Avilas’ request about a year ago, and the residential property went on the market soon after.
WaterRower, which keeps its corporate offices in the UK, employs about 100 area residents and exports about 80 percent of its rowing machines and other products overseas. Warren is its sole production facility.
Mr. King said work on sprucing up the plant has already begun, and there are long-term plans to continue to improve the plant and property.
He said that while large commercial properties were available elsewhere in Rhode Island, WaterRower’s owners and employees are established here and never really considered leaving, even when owners decided that they wanted to own, not rent.
“We’re pretty entrenched here,” Mr. King said. “We like it. A lot of the employees walk to work, kind of like when factories employed a lot of people in town. We wanted to stay local, and we didn’t see any reason to move.”