Tourister developers talk Wednesday


The would-be developers of the former American Tourister plant in Warren will appear before the Warren Planning Board Wednesday night — but it’s not what you think.

Officials from Brady Sullivan, the Manchester, N.H.-based development firm that plans to turn the old mill into upwards of 200 apartments and 90,000 square feet of commercial space, have been expected for months to present their formal application to the planning board by December. However, though they will appear before the board Wednesday, there’s still no formal plan.

Instead, developers will appear in an unofficial capacity as a way to keep Warren abreast of their internal planning for the project. The idea is to keep board members in the loop as they work out the details of their plan before they present it formally.

Planning board chairman Fred Massie called the move “a bit unusual,” and stressed that board members will do nothing other than listen to what Brady Sullivan developers have to say.

“We do not vote on what they are presenting or provide either positive or negative statements that would reflect our later decision-making process during their formal application,” he said.

Brady Sullivan officials held a similar meeting in October, when they appeared before the board to give a rough overview of their plans.

Brady Sullivan, which is partnering with Starr Development Partners of Belmont, Mass. on the project, purchased the mill earlier this year for $2.6 million. Unlike Meredith Management, which five years ago walked away from a previously approved development plan for the property, the partners — together comprising Tourister Mill LLC — plan to stay with the mill after construction is complete, as both not only develop mill spaces but also work as property managers.

The partners’ plan is to break the mill development into several phases, starting first with apartment and commercial units and branching out toward additional commercial space later.

Due to flood plain regulations, no residences would be built at ground level; instead, commercial spaces — coffee shops, perhaps a gym, small eateries and office space — would be on the first floor. Apartments would be above that, and the plan also includes the construction of a third floor atop the main mill building.

Since the plan is to redevelop the property using historic tax credits, the development would be required to follow state and National Park Service guidelines. That means that the exterior will not look vastly different from its current appearance, they said in October.

Preliminary plans show 691 parking spaces on the property, 147 of them inside one of the mill’s buildings. Public access along the mill’s 1,400 feet of waterfront, and rehabilitation of the sea wall along the Warren River, was a consideration of the previously approved Meredith Management plan. However, developers said at the October meeting that no decisions have been made as to whether the waterfront will be opened to the public.


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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.