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Providence Journal,
December 21, 2005
By Mark Reynolds

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

Gargantuan condo for sale in North Providence

Steven Lancia has turned an old mill loft into what he says is the biggest condo of its kind on the East Coast.

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Steven Lancia is a guy who builds things like the oversized Dunkin' Donuts Coolatta drinks on billboards all over the country.

His company created the fake trees at Mohegan Sun, the ones with the realistic bark. It is responsible for cartoonish sculptures at Universal Studios and rock-climbing walls aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

So the 41-year-old's condominium in the old Geneva Mill was bound to be a little different.

At 14,000 square feet, Lancia says it's the largest single condo on the East Coast. It has an indoor pool, a factory-size living room, four bedrooms, six bathrooms and a floor plan inspired by Lancia's favorite motorcycle.

That's right, a motorcycle, a 1946 Indian Chief. Lancia really liked the curve of the Indian Chief's back fender.

"We took the shape of that fender and we overlaid it on the floor plan and that's what came out," he says.

Three years later, the cavernous living space is the focal point of a project that aims to revitalize the entire 134,000-square-foot Geneva Mills. Built in 1880, the mills produced wool.

Earlier this month, Lancia listed the unit for sale, asking $2.5 million. In the meantime, Lancia is building 18 other condos, each smaller in scale, with the hope that the remodeling of the mills will revitalize the Geneva section of North Providence.

The brick exterior of the complex needs additional refurbishing to become a trendsetter. But it offers great potential, according to Lancia. Lancia has already reengineered the tall brick smokestack.

He says he will adorn it with large, 4-foot letters. Arranged vertically, the letters will say Geneva, he says.

A cafe planned to take up about 7,000 square feet might even borrow the smokestack for its name. It could be called The Smokestack Cafe, Lancia says.

Meanwhile, Lancia says he plans to phase out his storage business on the site, which is nestled between Whipples Pond and Douglas Avenue. Geneva Pond and the Geneva Diner lie across the street.

Lancia plans to finish the 18 condos soon. The one- and two-bedroom units are already listed at prices between $239,000 and $420,000. Altogether, they comprise 30,000 square feet.

Of course none of those are as large as Lancia's digs.

Lancia says he was too sentimental about a large sweeping skylight to make the unit any smaller.

Scaling down the condo would have required him to section off a huge glassy opening. The window showers the living area with sunrays by day and sprinkles it with starlight at night, says Lancia, who lives in the condo with his daughter, Sophia.

"To break that skyway in the middle, it kind of broke my heart," Lancia recalls. "From a design standpoint, that skylight is what really makes that unit."

At $2.5 million – the unit is easily the most expensive condominium ever listed for sale in North Providence.

Lancia argues that the unit's space, access to downtown Providence and ample parking make it worth that kind of money.

He says condominiums under construction downtown, adjacent to the Westin Hotel, are listed at $2.6 million even though they offer only 2,800 square feet.

The mills complex has new electric, plumbing and windows. Lancia agrees when someone suggests that he will surely reap a profit if he sells his condominium unit for $2.5 million: His real estate company, Immortal Land Development, purchased Geneva Mills for $266,560 in 1999, according to records on file at Town Hall. The entire property is assessed at $2.5 million, according to town records.

A North Providence High School graduate, Lancia purchased the building to use as a production plant for his company, Symettry Products Group.

At its outset, in 1982, the company produced foam packaging for electronics shipping.

In the mid-1980s the company branched out, producing decorative architectural materials such as ornate cornices and finials.

Later, the company expanded, using materials other than foam for creations that began to appear in theme parks around the company.

The company used the Geneva Mills complex only briefly before it occupied a second building in Lincoln.

Not long after that, Lancia began to think about creating living spaces in the old mill. He says he won't move out. He and his daughter will simply take up smaller living quarters in the mills complex.

He says they're fond of the location and the geese, which pass through the area two times a year, making use of the ponds on their migrations north and south.

Meanwhile, they'll enjoy the space and sunlight. "It's nice," says Lancia. "In the morning you get up and the sun's everywhere."

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