Owners, commission celebrate successes at Phillipsdale Landing in East Providence

New bicycle lane will soon be installed at First Street as part of pilot program

By Mike Rego
Posted 4/15/21

EAST PROVIDENCE — After both parties admittedly said they took a risk in joining forces over five years ago, the owners of the Phillipsdale Landing property in Rumford and the East Providence …

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Owners, commission celebrate successes at Phillipsdale Landing in East Providence

New bicycle lane will soon be installed at First Street as part of pilot program

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — After both parties admittedly said they took a risk in joining forces over five years ago, the owners of the Phillipsdale Landing property in Rumford and the East Providence Waterfront Commission are now thoroughly enjoying their ever-burgeoning relationship.

At the April meeting of the commission, Preston Halperin, a partner in the Landing’s proprietary Bourne Holdings LLC real estate firm, provided an update on the goings-on there, speaking about the successes the company has had over time and lauding the role the body has played to date.

Bourne Holdings LLC purchased the property in 2014 and immediately set about a plan for restoring the numerous buildings on the grounds, some of which Mr. Halperin said were on “fire watch,” had frozen pipes and other outdated infrastructure, contained various environmental contaminants and only one was occupied.

Since, the company has invested some $3 million of its owner monies and has worked collaboratively with a host of new tenants to repurpose the former heavy industrial site into what is now one with thriving light industry and other uses.

“We’ve brought it where it is clearly to it’s best point in the last six years,” Mr. Halperin said, adding “initially we really needed the support of the Waterfront Commission to get there…Without the Waterfront Commission’s help along the way we could not have made the progress we’ve made.”

Both Mr. Halperin and Waterfront Commission Chairman Bill Fazioli referenced their first encounters over what was then a mattress recycling business on the property, which they said drew the fear and ire of local residents. The company, which has since departed, deconstructed mattresses, selling off the component parts.

The operation was housed in a 70,000 square foot building, one of a dozen on the site, all of which placed on the National Historic register in 2005 around the time the commission was formed and some grand plans were being speculated about for the location.

Mr. Halperin said upon purchase his company embarked on a strategic plan to go building by building, completely eliminating the old heating system used throughout the property and replace it with individual natural gas or propane units. Electrical connections were updated as part of “modernizing” the inner-workings of each structure.

Mr. Halperin said his firm went from renting space to “fly by nights” to attracting “really good quality tenants.”

Among the first was Lindquist Studio, a maker of high-end leather goods. Several similar companies who “fabricate…create things,” he continued.

Next included Amaral Custom Fabrications, a restorer and fabricator of unique fine art pieces, formerly located in Bristol. Owner Paul Amaral recently penned a renewed rental agreement for five more years.

Another was Studio Dunn, owned by Asher Rodriquez-Dunn, which builds custom electrical and furniture pieces. Mr. Halperin called the business “just the kind of individual tenant we were looking for.”

Still another is Ark Woods & Services, a designer and builder specializing in the use of reclaimed woods.

One of the largest tenants is the food bank “We Share Hope,” which Mr. Halperin described as a “terrific community asset.”

More recent tenants include a classic cars storage operation, which Mr. Halperin said was using its own resources to refurbish a space with wood beams, sky lights and after modifying the surface found what he called a “beautiful stone floor” underneath.

Two wine distributors are rather new occupants, one which stores the beverages in large canisters for distribution to restaurants and another which imports vintages from Portugal.

Mr. Halperin said with excitement a recent agreement signed with the Lynden Group, a locally owned business logistics firm which will utilize a larger building on the site and renovate a small structure at the front of the Landing entrance for use as its offices. He deemed Lynden a “wonderful tenant to bring to the community.”

The Landing, Mr. Halperin continued, also has embarked on a category of consumer uses of the property with a Cross Fit studio, a training space for sports cheerleaders and one rented by the Providence Youth Hockey for dry land training.

In sum, Mr. Halperin said the Landing currently has over 20 tenants and space occupancy has risen from some 70 percent to 90 in recent years. He referred to a “big flurry” of interest over the last 60-90 days, positing it as possibly being a post COVID-19 pandemic response. Regardless, he said it availed Bourne Holdings to a “tremendous improvement in the quality of tenants” seeking out space.

Mr. Halperin added as opposed to his company’s dealing with other boards and municipalities, the Waterfront Commission is “always looking at the bigger picture…what’s good for the long run…we feel you come from this from a business perspective.”

Said Mr. Fazioli of Bourne Holdings efforts to date, the company “took an area that was somewhat derelict and brought in good companies that provide resources to the community and jobs.” He said its investment has “really stabilized the property.”

The chairman called the growth of the Phillipsdale Landing a “good story five years in the making…Some of the companies that have moved in there really have turned the property around.”

Commercial space
Piggy-backing on the topic of the recent growth in interest from businesses, Mr. Fazioli said the commercial storage space available in the city has been gobbled up the past several months.

A lease was just signed for one of the largest remaining, a 70,000 square foot location at the Narragansett Park Drive development, and another at the former Speidel jewelry distribution center on Fairmont Street off Waterman Avenue across from the East Providence Police Headquarters is likely to be occupied soon.

Director’s report
Commission Executive Director Chris Martin briefed the body on some pending matters, including one related to the proposed mixed-use redevelopment of the East Pointe site adjacent to Phillipsdale Landing off Roger Williams Avenue. Mr. Martin said he expects the owners to soon submit a preliminary draft proposal to commission in the next few weeks.

The Providence-based real estate firm of Churchill & Banks, representing the company seeking ownership of the approximately 30-acre parcel, Noble Development, LLC, came before the commission late last year with its concept.

The preliminary plan calls for splitting the land into two distinct sections: the “coastal” and “inland” lots. The coastal proposal, taking its name from its proximity to the Seekonk River, would include mixed residential units of single family and townhouse/duplex residences. Important to the design, it would also afford the city community at-large access to the river’s shoreline.

Mr. Martin also told the commission of ONE Neighborhood Builders recent purchase of “Sutton Place” on Sutton Avenue, a 36-unit affordable housing complex. The $3.3 million sale allowed the city to surpass the state mandated threshold of maintaining 10 percent of its housing stock be categorized as “affordable.”

In addition, the commission is nearly launch of a pilot bicycling program, which will install a dedicated lane of travel on First Street. Mr. Martin called it a “great demonstration project” and one that “if successful would be a really great thing to copy around the city…make more bike connections across the city.”

Next meeting
The next meeting of the Waterfront Commission is scheduled for Thursday, May 20. The meeting this month was held on a Wednesday, April 14, to accommodate Mr. Fazioli’s schedule.

As part of his duties as the city’s Director of Planning and Economic Development division, Mr. Fazioli has been participating in community forums with residents in each of East Providence’s four wards as the Planning Department embarks on the updating of the city’s overall Comprehensive Plan, which was last done in 2010.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.