Historic Lymansville Mill set for modern revival
Owner plans 100 apartments
NORTH PROVIDENCE – It’s hard to believe, says Bob Terino, but this building was once a proud center of industry, the first mill in Rhode Island to use water-powered Scotch looms in the weaving of cotton.
The Lymansville Mill is the oldest mill in North Providence, and it looks its age, but Terino believes he can transform it into a modern example of a great living space.
The vacant complex off Woonasquatucket Avenue, known today as just the Lyman Mill, is a “disgrace” and a “carcass of an old building” that serves no purpose other than as a dumping grounds and habitat for criminals, homeless people, and animals, said Terino.
The developer is planning 100 apartment units he says anyone would want to live in. The “Lyman Lofts” will be “medium-income” homes that are marketed to middle class “workforce” tenants, he said.
“When this is done it’s going to be beautiful,” said Terino, a North Providence native whose parents were active in town life. Terino’s grandmother worked her first job in this mill after coming here from Italy in 1907, and he can’t help to think how surprised she would be to know that her grandson would one day own that mill.
“It’s something I want to be proud of,” he said. “This is my legacy, the greatest thing I’m ever going to do.”
At 69 years old, said Terino, some might think he’s crazy for going all in on such an expensive project, but he has no doubt that he’ll succeed.
“I’m betting everything I own, every dollar and then some, on the success of this project,” he said.
Others are also confident in the success of the new residential complex, as Terino and his partners have secured state historic tax credits of $2.5 million and federal credits of $2.5 million for the nearly $13 million project. The idea of historic tax credits is one of the best ones Rhode Island leaders have had in a long time, he said, as the credits have been used to bring so many of Rhode Island’s old mills back to life.
Terino went before the Town Council last week to ask for members to consider a tax stabilization agreement similar in structure to the one agreed to between the town and the new owners of Fatima Hospital that gradually phases in taxes over a 10-year period.
Total taxes on the property are all the way down to $48,000 and expected to drop even more this year based on the poor condition of the property, said Terino.
In return for the tax incentives, North Providence gets a revenue generator, as the town receives gradually increasing property taxes, impact fees of $1,000 from each unit, and new car tax revenue from every car owner who lives there, said Terino.
“It’s kind of a windfall for the town, I think, and it’s a salvation for me, quite frankly,” he told the council.
A real “money-maker,” said Terino, this complex will draw “the kind of people you want to live in the town.”
“It’s like motherhood, how can anyone be against it?” he said.
Council President Dino Autiello, who had invited Terino to present his project, said he thinks the project to restore the dilapidated mill building is “a really good idea for this town.” He said he likes that the redevelopment won’t bring many new students into North Providence schools, as it won’t be marketed to families with children.
The council referred the matter to three of its subcommittees for further review.
If Terino doesn’t get his project off the ground, he says he will be forced to abandon the property. He said estimates for tearing the structure down have reached $1 million and higher.
“Nothing good happens with a building like this,” he said.
Terino and Joe Santoro bought the Lyman Mill back in 1986, when the majority of tenants here were linked to the jewelry industry. Back in 2009, they had an agreement to sell the property to a developer, who told tenants before the deal was even finalized that they would eventually have to leave. The deal never happened, as that developer became involved with three former corrupt councilmen, said Terino, and the damage was done. Within six months, all but one tenant, Fernando Originals, had decided to leave.
The costs just for heating the building were astronomical, with more than 40,000 gallons of oil consumed annually, and the partners experienced “tremendous loss” as a result, said Terino. The building is no longer heated and “leaks like a sieve,” he said.
Located at 184 Woonasquatucket Ave., the 1809 Lymansville Mill is an industrial complex originally developed by Daniel Lyman on 13 acres of land at a bend in the Woonasquatucket River. There are seven major buildings, predominantly brick, ranging in height from one to three stories.
Terino, who once played on the grounds here back when he was attending the Lymansville School, said he plans to keep the original L-shaped mill and tear down much of the lower wood structure that was added over the decades. The total square footage would shrink from about 170,000 square feet to 125,000 square feet. The beautiful old exposed brick and the big windows of the mill will be its best and most prominent features both inside and out, he said.
Terino imagines a housing complex that plays on the waterfront and provides an oasis of quiet living for those who live there. He wants amenities like a full gym, meeting rooms, tennis courts, a canoe/kayak launch and picnic areas. “This is a place I would want to live in,” said the Federal Hill resident.
Unlike many mill redevelopment projects, there is more than enough parking here, with about 250 spots available, said Terino. One- and two-bedroom units will range between 800 and 1,300 square feet and likely go for between $800 and $1,300 in rent, he added.
According to Terino, total development of the property should take about two years after work starts.