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IN PROGRESS: American Broad Loom mill

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Artists get zoning approvals for conversion of former mill

By TATIANA PINA

Journal Staff Writer - Monday, March 1, 2004

CENTRAL FALLS -- Three men proposing a $1.2-million project to convert the former American Broad Loom mill to a space for studio loft-apartments, a cafe and gallery, cleared a major hurdle last week when the Board of Zoning Review granted the special permits and variance they need to proceed with plans.

Damon Carter, 30, Benjamin Burbank, 26, and Nicolas Radecki, 29, all artists who live in Providence, went before the Zoning Board of Review last Thursday to present their proposal.

The men want to convert the mill on 404 Roosevelt Ave. into 15 studio-loft apartments, a cafe, and a gallery. They want to build rooftop gardens on parts of the building that would save energy by keeping the building warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

The American Broad Loom mill is on land zoned "m2," or planned unit development, which means a developer can introduce a combination of uses such as residential and business, according to Merrick Cook Jr., director of planning and development.

Burbank, Radecki and Carter received a special permit for an eating and drinking establishment, which would be the cafe they plan, Cook said. They also received an exhibition hall permit to show work of artists who live in the condos and the work of visiting artists, as well as a permit to play music in the cafe and to sell liquor if they are able to get a liquor license.

The men were granted a variance that will allow them to build condominiums. The permits and variance are contingent on the men getting the funding to do the work, Cook said. Burbank said the group's next step is to reach an agreement for a loan with a lending institution.

The meeting took more than three and half hours as the men made their proposal and people reacted to it.

George Gagnon, the owner of True-Scent Candle on 396 Roosevelt, which abuts American Broad Loom, said he feared that a cafe with music and alcohol would disrupt what he says is a quiet neighborhood. Gagnon lives in an apartment in the building that houses his candle business.

"It's a development area. I understand the condo part. I can't see an area that is very quiet and residential and turning it into a party and alcoholic place. I felt like it was going to turn into some sort of RISD student party. If they are going to have condos, why have music?" Gagnon said.

Gagnon claims the men had parties with loud music in the building and that people who came blocked driveways. He questioned why Mayor Charles Moreau was in favor of the project before the Zoning Board of Review even made up its mind and residents had their say about the project.

Burbank said that the group is not looking to have a large nightclub and heavy drinking but rather a small cafe where people can drink wine or beer and listen to jazz.

"We are not putting a club in there. We want something small. We have to abide by the laws that are on the books. We are not trying to say let's bring in the neighborhood drunks and have them sit in there and collect as many quarters as we can," he said.

From The Providence Journal

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I was in this space last weekend. It's coming along nicely. A lot of the units are framed in (or in the process of being framed in) and things are starting to really look like something. There is one unit pretty close to being complete and its just a lovely space. I'm not sure if I would want to live in that particular location, but the lofts themselves will be beautiful regardless. I think they are listed at http://www.ricir.com Im not sure of when occupancy will be.

Liam

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