Historic Waterfront Mill Conversion Going Ahead

100 Market Rate Loft Units to be Ready in Fall 2010.
Riverside Mill Apartments Could be Ready this Summer
By Brian Boyd

NEW BEDFORD — Plans to transform a historic mill building on the Acushnet River into 100 market-rate apartments are moving forward after months of legal wrangling.
Developer Steve Ricciardi closed last month on the property, the former Whitman Mill No. 2 at 10 Manomet St. He will likely break ground this winter, and the new apartments could open this fall, according to Ricciardi.
City officials said the project will help save a mill building and bring welcome development to an area with much potential. The apartment building will be known as Victoria Riverside Townhouse Lofts.
“This is an overwhelmingly positive development for the city, reclaiming a mill building that could have fallen into blight and disrepair and turning it into valuable asset in an area of the North End of the city that is poised for growth development over the next few years,” said Matthew A. Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.
Ricciardi has successfully converted a city mill building into housing before — The Lofts at Wamsutta Place started accepting tenants in September 2008.
“We’re just about 100 percent occupied here at The Lofts at Wamsutta Place,” said Rhonda Robitaille, who is the property manager at the Wamsutta apartments and will also run the new development. “It’s exciting to do it again and be part of all the history involved in these buildings.”
Robitaille is a property manager for Ricciardi’s Acorn Management Co.
The building being used for the new apartments was constructed in 1896 by William Whitman, based on the plans of Charles Makepeace, an internationally famous architect at the time. At its peak, the mill was equipped with 177,608 spindles and 4,610 looms, Robitaille said.
The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, she said.
The exact date of the ground breaking has not been decided yet. The rental rates have not yet been decided either.
The new apartment building will have one- and two-bedroom apartments, either in the style of townhouse lofts or one-story lofts. They will be on average 1,000 square feet in size. There will also be underground parking.
Ricciardi had a tumultuous time getting the project approved.
In September 2008, the Zoning Board of Appeals denied a special permit needed for the renovation. Board members at the time cited safety concerns and the opposition of an abutter for their decision.
Ricciardi filed suit in Land Court, which remanded the case back to the zoning board; the board denied the permit a second time in April.
Both parties also filed cases in Superior Court that hinged on whether the zoning board had missed certain filing deadlines, thus automatically granting approval for the project to go forward. Last July, Superior Court Justice Merita A. Hopkins ordered the city clerk to issue a certificate approving a special permit.
Mayor Scott W. Lang said Thursday the apartment building will complement the overall development along the Acushnet River, where there will be a mix of commercial, recreational and retail uses.
“It’s going to be a fantastic project,” Lang said. “We’re excited to have people living up against the river.”
Anyone interested in the new apartments can call Robitaille at (508) 984-5000.
January 08, 2010
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