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Providence Journal,
September 16, 2005
By Karen A. Davis

07 Feb 06: Plans for American Tourister Scrutinized
06 Apr 28: Royal Mill Clock Tower Tolls Again
06 Apr 9: Herb Weiss takes message on the Road
05 Dec 21: 14,500 sf Condo
05 Oct 30: The High Life
05 Oct 10: Jefferson Place goes condo
05 Sep 16: Pearl Street Lofts
05 Sep 1: The old Bomes Theatre
05 Aug 13: Brown purchases Old Stone Bank
05 Aug 11: Providence: Boom or Bust?
05 Aug 9: Taco Truk
05 Jul 15: SBER buys US Rubber
05 Jul 6: Sports Complex
05 Jun 21: Providence Kickball
05 Jun 17: Sasaki presents Vision 2020
05 Jun 16: State fixes Armory
05 Jun 15: Capital Center development
05 Jun 02: Trolley Barn demolished
05 May 13: Downtown BID team deployed
05 Apr 13: New Westin Tower revealed
05 Apr 17: Duany suggests redo public squares
05 Mar 25: Feldco re-negs on affordable units
05 Mar 21: A Better way for Warwick?
05 Feb 27: Interview with Buff Chace
05 Feb 25: 32-story condo tower proposed downtown
05 Feb 21: Developers want to buy Fidas

Industrial chic

Pearl Street Lofts and condominiums turn a blighted building into an attraction.

Three years ago, the hulking, abandoned buildings next to Central High School stood as a distant reminder of the central city's once vibrant economy.

The complex's once-popular furniture store, facing Broad Street, sat vacant. The brick buildings became occasional canvases for graffiti. And the many arched windows were broken or boarded up.

That image of Pearl Street is a thing of the past, according to developers who are working on a project to convert the mill complex into 38 loft apartments, 19 condominiums and commercial and warehouse space.

The Armory Revival Co. has spent much of the last two years working on the $20-million project, which it touts as removing blight from the landscape while providing moderate and affordable housing in a historic building that had sat vacant or underutilized for many years.

Contractors worked yesterday installing plumbing fixtures in the apartments, many of which are complete or nearly complete. A scheduled grand opening for the Pearl Street Lofts was only several hours away. Work on the condominiums is not as far along, with contractors still drilling and working to construct some units.

The project incorporated the two mill buildings and surrounding streets to create a residential complex that includes a courtyard, and units with high ceilings, oversized windows, rooftop decks and individualized floor plans.

B.J. Dupre, a partner in the Armory Revival Co., said the project maintains the property's industrial flavor by including exposed brick walls, exposed heating and air ducts hanging from the ceilings, and wood or polished concrete floors in many of the units.

The project also includes renovation of the former Harold's Furniture Building into a commercial space that could be used as a restaurant and 48,000 square feet of commercial warehouse space.

About 14,000 square feet of warehouse space is already being used by Trinity Repertory Company as storage for props and set facades. Officials from the theater company have also said they will use the space to build stage sets and give technical training to stage hands.

Four of the apartments, with monthly rents starting at about $750, have already been rented; 9 of the 19 condominiums, which range in price from $159,000 to $300,000, have been sold, Dupre said.

The 38 apartments feature 30 floor plans. Several first-floor units include spiral staircases to the basement.

The condiminiums feature four private rooftop decks and two common decks for residents who do not have private decks.

Mark van Noppen, another partner in Armory Revival, said the neighborhood west of downtown is experiencing a rebirth, with the relatively new Public Safety Complex and several residential projects.

In a statement, van Noppen said the proximity to the highway and downtown and the affordability of the housing is attracting residents to the area.

The company was able to renovate the buildings with help from municipal tax breaks and historic tax credits.

The Pearl Street mill complex dates to 1848. It was once home to the New England Butt Co., which manufactured cast iron butt hinges. By the 1880s, the company had become a manufacturer of braiding equipment, according to Armory Revival records. Other buildings or additions were constructed in the 1850s, 1865 and 1951.

While buyers and renters have been attracted to the loft-style units with industrial flavor, ample parking and serene views of a nearby soccer field and tennis courts, the proximity to downtown and Route 95 may be the biggest attraction, Dupre said.

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