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Q&A with Herb Weiss

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You may have seen our newest member, Herb Weiss posting in the Pawtucket Renaissance thread. Herb is the Economic & Cultural Affairs Officer for the City of Pawtucket and he has graciously offered to answer questions about developments in Pawtucket, specifically about the thriving arts community in the city.

Herb posted this exhaustive list of past, present, and planned developments in the city in the other thread:

Here's an article about redevelopment of Pawtucket, using the arts -- Herb Weiss, Economic and Cultural Affairs Officer.

Pawtucket

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Herb's a great guy, and very helpful. He's been known to tour people like myself around and point things out during any given business day, or weekend. He's a great ambassador.

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He's been known to tour people like myself around and point things out during any given business day, or weekend. He's a great ambassador.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Well I was thinking something like that might be something we could ask him to do for a group of us from here at UrbanPlanet if there were enough interest. Does the lack of posts here denote a lack of interest? :(

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Well I was thinking something like that might be something we could ask him to do for a group of us from here at UrbanPlanet if there were enough interest. Does the lack of posts here denote a lack of interest?  :(

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I am here an available to answer questions...Here's a hot news tip. The 500,000 sf Hope Webbing mill at 1005 Main Street has been purchased for reuse as live work lofts for lease, studios for lease, performance space, restaurant, retail and light industry (50,000 sf already rented to woodwokers from Providence). The closing will be finalized today.

The developers will develop this site to be a major art destination stop in Rhode Island. They were attracted to Pawtucket by this mill, the growing arts communilty and a City government that is very artist friendly. Those cruizing UrbanPlanet to this thread heard this first.

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I am here an available to answer questions...Here's a hot news tip.  The 500,000 sf Hope Webbing mill at 1005 Main Street has been purchased for reuse as live work lofts for lease, studios for lease, performance space, restaurant, retail and light industry (50,000 sf already rented to woodwokers from Providence).  The closing  will be finalized today.

The developers will develop this site to be a major art destination stop in Rhode Island.  They were attracted to Pawtucket by this mill, the growing arts  communilty and a City government that is very artist  friendly.  Those cruizing UrbanPlanet to this thread heard this first.

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I was wondering the status of the old train station... Will it become another restaurant? Will it be restored back into a train station to help draw in the Bostonians? How important is this development for the continuing efforts of Pawtucket?

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Yes, that is a good question. Where does the train station stand, now that the city council has decided not to take by emminent domain? Is that the end, is it getting knocked down?

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Last I heard from the Pawtucket Foundation was that even though the city has decided to not take it by eminent domain, the zoning board can stop developers plans to turn it into a CVS, apartments and an auto parts store (ick) by not granting the variances needed to convert it into commercial/residential. The last meeting I heard of was March 9.

The Pawtucket Foundation's Save our Station page

ArtInRuins: Pawtucket Central Falls Station

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I don't know how many people I speak for but there definitely isn't a lack of interest in the opportunity given here. Welcome Herb and thanks much for lending your time. Sorry if I've been a ghost lately but things have been hectic and I probably won't even be back on here during the next five days or so. That being said, I look forward to some interesting point exchanges when I come back. Once again, welcome Herb and thank you for joining us.

Now going back to the station, my question is about what other zoning changes/plans do the two cities have in store as far as development in the surrounding area of the station. There is a desperate need to maximize the space around this station for it to work (dense space for work, live, and play), it essentially needs to be the focal point of any core revival. Much like the Providence station in relation to Capital Center. How radical are Pawtucket and Central Falls willing to be to truly take advantage of the stop?

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I am here an available to answer questions...Here's a hot news tip.  The 500,000 sf Hope Webbing mill at 1005 Main Street has been purchased for reuse as live work lofts for lease, studios for lease, performance space, restaurant, retail and light industry (50,000 sf already rented to woodwokers from Providence).  The closing  will be finalized today.

The developers will develop this site to be a major art destination stop in Rhode Island.  They were attracted to Pawtucket by this mill, the growing arts  communilty and a City government that is very artist  friendly.  Those cruizing UrbanPlanet to this thread heard this first.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That is fantastic news!

And thanks for letting us know...that is pretty awesome.

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Yes, that is a good question. Where does the train station stand, now that the city council has decided not to take by emminent domain? Is that the end, is it getting knocked down?

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The old train station is very important to the city. We believe that it is a key economic development project for that area of the our community and will have a major impact in that neighborhood. Currently, the City Council defeated the Administrations attempt to take the train station property by eminent domain. The City Council voted to give the developer a zoning change to allow commercial development on the Pawtucket portion of the site. The developer's purchase and sale agreement called for the rezoning. 'A second vote by the City council resulted in giving thumbs down to the zoning change. So, at this time nothing is happennig. Both sides are assessing the impact.

However, the City of Pawtucket is moving forward to push for a commuter rail stop to be placed at this station. Federal and state grants are allowing data to be compiled to determine the feasibility. Mayor James E. Doyle is doing everything he can to keep the developer from tearing down the train station.

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The old train station is very important to the city.  We believe that it is a key economic development project for that area of the our community and will have a major impact in that neighborhood.  Currently, the City Council defeated the Administrations attempt to take the train station property by eminent domain.  The City Council  voted to give the developer a zoning change to allow commercial development on the Pawtucket portion of the site.  The developer's purchase and sale agreement called for the rezoning.  'A second vote by the City council resulted in giving thumbs down to the zoning change.  So, at this time nothing  is happennig.  Both sides are assessing the impact.

However, the City of Pawtucket is moving forward to push for a commuter rail stop to be placed at this station.  Federal and state grants are allowing data to be  compiled to determine the feasibility.  Mayor James E. Doyle is doing everything he can to keep the developer from tearing down the train station.

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That is great news...

Another questoin i have has to do with the Hope site. Are there other buildings within that general area that will also be turned into condo style apartments, thus creating a village style section for the would be tenents...

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That is great news...

Another questoin i have has to do with the Hope site. Are there other buildings within that general area that will also be turned into condo style apartments, thus creating a village style section for the would be tenents...

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Yes, the Union Wadding mill on Goff Street (probably 500,000 sf. Will give you an update about this property soon...

Here's an article about the Hope Webbing mill site that was in the Projo today.

Investors see Hope as urban village

Developers say the Hope Webbing complex will become a self-contained community, with its own restaurant, bar, gym, theater for live performances, and boutiques.

01:03 PM EST on Thursday, March 24, 2005

By JOHN CASTELLUCCI

PAWTUCKET -- A factory complex idle for more than a decade was purchased yesterday by a group of investors who plan to transform it into an urban village, complete with a restaurant, office suites, artists' lofts and, oh, yes, a bowling alley.

Journal photo / Steve Szydlowski

Ron Wierks, of Urban Smart Growth, stands in the bowling alleys on the top floor of the Hope Webbing mill complex in Pawtucket. The sprawling complex, which once employed more than 1,000 people, will be transformed into an urban village, say the devlopers, in a five-year, $25-million project.

Hope Webbing, the 115-year-old factory complex in Woodlawn that once employed more than 1,000 people, was bought by an investors' group led by California developers who specialize in acquiring historical buildings and adapting them to new uses.

Ron L. Wierks, East Coast representative of Urban Smart Growth, the developers' property management and construction arm, said everything of historical significance on the 13-acre Hope Webbing site will be preserved, including the bowling alley that the mill owners built for their workers.

Wierks, who led a tour of the former textile factory with Michael R. Gazdacko, the project manager, said the bowling alley will be transformed into a lounge where people who live and work in the former factory complex can relax.

"We take old buildings and we try to keep the historic integrity and make them useful again," Wierks said.

He said the first tenants of the renovated Hope Webbing complex will probably be the light manufacturing firms -- a furniture refinisher, a woodworker and a metal stamping company -- that are being displaced from the Eagle Square mill complex in Providence, which Urban Smart Growth is cutting up into apartments.

The Hope Webbing development is expected to take five years and cost $25 million. Wierks said that the key to the project was the state historic tax credits the General Assembly passed four years ago. The state credits, combined with the 20-percent historic tax credits offered by the federal government, have made it worthwhile for developers to acquire dilapidated mill buildings and fix them up.

The investors' group that bought Hope Webbing consists of several family trusts, a financial firm, and a limited liability corporation headed by Lance Robbins, a Berkeley, Calif., lawyer who specializes in development work, and Frank Gamwell, head of a construction management company that has done projects for Disney, the University of California at Los Angeles, and Amgen, the West Greenwich, R.I.-based biotechnology firm.

A deed filed in City Hall yesterday showed the investors group paid $2.575 million for the Hope Webbing complex, though it is largely empty. One of the few remaining tenants, Cooley Inc., a local manufacturing company, uses part of the 600,000-square-foot complex for warehouse space.

Wierks said the developers plan to transform the half-dozen buildings in the complex into factory space for light manufacturing companies, 80 to 130 office suites for businesses and 150 to 200 loft-style apartments for artists.

The plans call for the complex to be a self-contained community, with its own restaurant, bar, gym, theater for live performances, and boutiques.

The courtyard, now a desolate area full of potholes and fallen bricks, will become a warm weather performance venue, with musical concerts and live dramatic performances, Wierks said.

Urban Smart Growth will have its East Coast regional office in the mill complex. Wierks said the developers are hoping to turn Hope Webbing into a destination, and plan to retain ownership until it catches on.

Mayor James E. Doyle called it the largest such project in the city in recent memory and predicted it would help boost's Pawtucket's reputation as a mecca for the arts.

The section of Woodlawn where the factory complex is located, between Main Street, Esten and Warren avenues, and Dudley Street, has already begun to draw artists. They've acquired mill buildings and turned them into lofts and studios even though the area is outside the special district the city created seven years ago to offer breaks on artists' sales and income taxes.

"It's going to have a big spillover effect in Woodlawn," Doyle said, providing construction jobs for people in the neighborhood as well as new sales for local businesses.

Doyle said the redevelopment of Hope Webbing will continue the trend of artists moving into Pawtucket from Providence, helping to fulfill city officials' dream of revitalizing the city by luring artists into dormant mill buildings.

Things didn't look so promising for Hope Webbing in July, when the bleachery, a building in the complex with the Hope sign visible from Route 95, caught fire and burned to the ground.

At the time, M&P Management, a group of New Jersey-based investors, was negotiating to buy the factory complex out of receivership. In September, M&P Management paid $900,000 for the property and went looking for a buyer. Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, the big hardware chain that recently opened stores in Warwick and Cranston, was rumored to be interested in acquiring the mill complex and tearing it down for one of its stores.

Wierks said Urban Smart Growth has no such intention. The company, which has done projects in Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., Bloomfield, N.J., and Columbus, Ohio, as well as Providence and North Providence, is planning to nominate the complex for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Properties.

"We've been doing this since 1984, in Los Angeles," Wierks said. "That's where we created the idea of working with old buildings."

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Here's an excellent article about affordable artist housing issues in Pawtucket. This article was published today in the Providence Phoenix.

HOUSING CRUNCH

Although the plight of artists and affordable housing has gained more attention since Eagle Square, things are not necessarily any better

BY ROBIN AMER

AN ITEM LISTED for the March 15 meeting of the Providence City Plan Commission

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I'm so excited about Hope Webbing. Phew. I'm relieved that Lowe's didn't get to level it as Home Depot did a couple of years ago in Providence with the Silver Spring complex.

THese are good times for us mill huggers. The Foundry, Rising Sun, Ashton in Cumberland, Royal Mill in West Warwick, and now Hope Webbing. It looks like the state tax credit program as well as the enlightened and energetic work of people like Mayor Doyle and Herb Weiss are saving the state's industrial architectural heritage.

Let's hope that the General Assembly keeps the tax credit in place. I remember that last year Costantino and some others on the House Finance Committee were talking about scrapping it.

PS- a memory about the Hope Webbing building. I live about a mile south in the Summit area of Providence. I remember every so often outside my house I would smell this almost sickly sweet scent like corn syrup or cotton candy. I was a mystery what was causing it for some time. Until I discovered the culprit on a happenstance drive down Esten St. in Pawt. - the Hope Webbing bldg was being used to manufacture candy.

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I'm so excited about Hope Webbing. Phew. I'm relieved that Lowe's didn't get to level it as Home Depot did a couple of years ago in Providence with the Silver Spring complex.

THese are good times for us mill huggers. The Foundry, Rising Sun, Ashton in Cumberland, Royal Mill in West Warwick, and now Hope Webbing. It looks like the state tax credit program as well as the enlightened and energetic work of people like Mayor Doyle and Herb Weiss are saving the state's industrial architectural heritage.

Let's hope that the General Assembly keeps the tax credit in place. I remember that last year Costantino and some others on the House Finance Committee were talking about scrapping it.

PS- a memory about the Hope Webbing building. I live about a mile south in the Summit area of Providence. I remember every so often outside my house I would smell this almost sickly sweet scent like corn syrup or cotton candy. I was a mystery what was causing it for some time. Until I discovered the culprit on a happenstance drive down Esten St. in Pawt. - the Hope Webbing bldg was being used to manufacture candy.

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Glad you have the mories about this mill. Here's another article about the Hope Webbing mill and the developer's vision to transform the 13 acre site into an artist village. -- Herb Weiss

03/24/2005

Old Hope site sold; in line for makeover

David Casey

PAWTUCKET -- The Los Angeles-based company that purchased the six-building, 600,000 square-foot former Hope Webbing mill complex for $2.5 million Wednesday plans to invest an additional $20-$25 million to transform the late 19th century brick-and-timber behemoth into a veritable Greenwich Village.

Ron Wierks, the director of operations for Urban Smart Growth

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The city has been hoping for this revival for some time now... with the re-relocation of DMV, why isnt the old apex building the clear front runner, considering the smooth transition, and making the DMV a more plesent atmosphere...? Is it in the hands of the city or is it more of a state venture. Sorry one last thing.... if the dmv were to leave the city would it hurt the progress that the local government has been pushing forward?

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The city has been hoping for this revival for some time now... with the re-relocation of DMV, why isnt the old apex building the clear front runner, considering the smooth transition, and making the DMV a more plesent atmosphere...? Is it in the hands of the city or is it more of a state venture. Sorry one last thing.... if the dmv were to leave the city would it hurt the progress that the local government has been pushing forward?

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We believe that the DMV will be moved to Cranston this summer. The Governor is pushing to move MANY of the state agenceis scattered throughout the state to the Cranston complex (it's state property). Apex is privately owned and the City can only describe its vision to that individual, who ultimately will develop the property that wayhe wants.

I do not believe that moving the DMV will hurt the City's efforts. The users do not come into the City and spend their money. However, we were able to assist a restaurant (Crazy Burger) to get a loan interest loan to open in the old Newport Creamry site at Apex.

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I think having Pawtucket thought of in the same breath as a visit to the Registry can't really be good for the city. After spending an eternity in the Registry, people are only going to want to leave and get as far away as possible.

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I think having Pawtucket thought of in the same breath as a visit to the Registry can't really be good for the city. After spending an eternity in the Registry, people are only going to want to leave and get as far away as possible.

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That is the truth. State agencies were put in Cities througout the state in hopes of having a positive impact on the host community. The DMV really did not bring a lot of money into the City. Waiting in long lines for service did not give people much time to drive around to seasrch out a restaurant. They probablly lost their appetite too.

For those who are interested, Pawtucket's first published artist resource directory will probably be back from the printer at the end of the week. We were able to compile the names of hundreds of artists and creative sector companies. Those seeking one of a kind art work or creative sector services can easily identify the appropriate artist or company by the table of contents listing a comprehensive listing of headings. In Pawtucket, we consider artists to be small bssinesses. The intent of publishing this directory was to get customers into our City to buy art work or services to support the City's creative community.

For more information about this project call Diane Agostini at 724-5200.

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I am here an available to answer questions...Here's a hot news tip.  The 500,000 sf Hope Webbing mill at 1005 Main Street has been purchased for reuse as live work lofts for lease, studios for lease, performance space, restaurant, retail and light industry (50,000 sf already rented to woodwokers from Providence).  The closing  will be finalized today.

The developers will develop this site to be a major art destination stop in Rhode Island.  They were attracted to Pawtucket by this mill, the growing arts  communilty and a City government that is very artist  friendly.  Those cruizing UrbanPlanet to this thread heard this first.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Just curious. Are you aware of any restaurant chains or coffee shops moving into Pawtucket- -or significant retail establishments? A Starbucks would be nice, ha, ha.

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I heard that Crazy Burger from south county is moving up to Pawtucket.. maybe opening up shop in the old newport creamery in the apex bulding? Is this actually going to happen Herb? I hope that this is true.. coffee shops and good interesting non-chain places to eat are what I miss about living on the west end... I try to find places here in Pawtucket but apart from China Inn, Stanleys, Modern Diner and sometimes East ave Cafe (they don't seem to be as good as they once were) I have not run into much. I would LOVE if a good non-chain coffee shop opened up here!

Patsfan.. did you take a look at that house on Daniels street? how is the search going? I've been running into a bunch of people that I knew from Providence that have moved into Pawtucket in the last year like my wife and I...Its looking better all the time.

Herbs.. I think that we have a friend in common? Ryan Lesser? He's a good friend of mine and I've heard him mention your name I believe. I just bought a house in Pawtucket 5 months ago.. moved over from the west side.. I'm really interested in getting involved in any of the meetings going on regarding the Central Falls / Pawtucket train station discussion. I think it would be a HUGE boost to this area if it were hooked up to the commuter rail line!

HERE is a link to a review of Crazy Burger.. yum!

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I am glad you are living in Pawtucket! Crazy Burger, to be called Mad House Cafe, will hopefully get off the ground by June. The City will give them a loan of $100,000. The owners are seeking a liquor license and this request is working its way through City Hall.

Hope you will get active in Pawtucket community activities. We are a smaller community than Providence and being in Pawtucket is almost a small town like experience. Would like to see you get involved in the arts festival -- call me at 724-5200 and introduce yourself. I will tell you about other activities that you might be interested in volunteering for. Also, I'll be your advocate within City Government too.

Finally, another restaturant that you can check out is Cafe Neva located on Benefit Street in Pawtucket. Right on the corner of Benefit Street and Newport Avenue. This is like an eastside restaurant but in Pawtucket with more affordable entrees. It has received good reviews in the projo, providence Phoenix and Rhode island monthly. Check it out.

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Patsfan.. did you take a look at that house on Daniels street?  how is the search going?  I've been running into a bunch of people that I knew from Providence that have moved into Pawtucket in the last year like my wife and I...Its looking better all the time.

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Hey Bloody,

I've been swamped with papers and projects for school, so unfortunately, I won't have time to resume house hunting until about the end of June. Do you know the name of the realtor handling the sale of your neighbor's house? I didn't see it in the listings. (I checked realtor.com and riliving.com) Did you say it was next door to 9 Daniels Street--so probably 11 or 13? I enjoyed your conversation with Herb. He seems really enthusiastic about the city. Thanks again for the tip. Take it easy.

Tom

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I am pleased that people are looking at Pawtucket as a great location to move to -- so for those who need a REALLY good relator, call Aqueda Del Borgo at 728-1962; or Teresa Level at 475-5874. Both live in Pawtucket. For those looking to purchase a commercial building or mill, call Len Lavoie at 954-0951.

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I am pleased that people are looking at Pawtucket as a great location to move to -- so for those who need a REALLY good relator, call Aqueda Del Borgo at 728-1962; or Teresa Level at 475-5874.  Both live in Pawtucket.  For those looking to purchase a commercial building or mill, call Len Lavoie at 954-0951.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Thanks, Herb. I've heard good things about Teresa Level from one other person.

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