By Joe Cohen
Standard-Times Staff Writer
NEW BEDFORD — A new owner of the Regency Tower was chosen Wednesday with a pledge to overhaul the 15-story landmark and convert it from apartments into condominiums that will support downtown revitalization.
The condominiums will be offered at market-rate prices, with 25 percent of the units set aside as affordable housing.
City officials praised the move and said the Regency — which has been problem-plagued and was taken from its owner in foreclosure — could be transformed and provide another step forward for the city’s downtown, along with supporting the “creative economy.”
The winning proposal was from Trinity Financial, a Boston-based firm that officials indicated has a much better-than-average reputation among developers. The firm bills itself on its Web site (TrinityFinancial.com) as “urban developers” and says it is “energized by the broader issues of revitalizing neighborhoods, strengthening commerce and fostering opportunity.” It has been in business since 1987.
MassHousing, a quasi-public entity that had lost as much as $25 million on the Regency and had taken ownership in foreclosure, chose Trinity Financial from among a number of bids. Spokesman Tom Farmer would not say how many bids were received nor from what firms. Officials indicated there were several bids.
Trinity bid $1.9 million and agreed to perform a range of expensive work on the building involving the facade, windows, roof and other repairs and improvements. Mr. Farmer said MassHousing did not promise to make funding available to Trinity, although it did not say it would not, either. “They have a proven track record with us,” he said.
Trinity will take the 123 units of rental housing that now exist and, by making changes to the first, second and 15th floors, will have 138 units, of which 35, or 25 percent, will be designated as affordable housing. Of the new units, seven will be for either artists’ working and living space or luxury penthouses. The upper floors of the Regency, located at 800 Pleasant St. at Route 6, have spectacular distant views, including the Elizabeth Islands and Martha’s Vineyard on clear days.
Mr. Farmer said under Trinity’s proposal, current tenants of the building would be allowed to stay as renters but could be see rental rate increases of up to 10 percent a year.
Trinity has until Dec. 15 to complete a purchase-and-sale agreement with the Property Acquisition and Disposition Corp., a unit of MassHousing that handled the Regency sale.
Vincent A. Droser, a Trinity project manager, said the firm was pleased to have been chosen. “We especially look forward to working closely with Mayor Scott Lang and his economic development and housing team. Trinity shares Mayor Lang’s vision of a restored Regency Tower that is filled with residential owners who want to take advantage of the great shopping, restaurants and expanding arts scene in the downtown.” Mr. Droser said Trinity intends to make the Regency a “premier residential address.”
“We are anxious to get started,” Mr. Droser said, with a tentative timetable of the end of January for acquisition, a spring close on construction financing and doing the work on the building over spring to fall 2009, with completion toward the end of 2009 or early 2010.
Matthew A. Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, said, “Trinity Financial is an outstanding firm that has done work throughout the state.”
Mayor Lang said Trinity’s plan would add to the residential component of the downtown revitalization. “I think this is going to be a great project … geared toward first-time buyers, as well as people looking to move out of a house and into the city.” Mayor Lang said “it has ‘Donald Trump’ views.”
Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny, D-New Bedford, said he had been concerned about the fate of the Regency and of how the process of choosing a new owner would play out because of the politics of development and spending in Massachusetts. Sen. Montigny said: “The main interest I had with MassHousing was cleaning up the mess there. This was the same old story: Connected developers and the taxpayers lost big on this project.
“My request was that they bring in a quality developer, hold them accountable … a developer that cannot walk away after sucking the project dry.”
Sen. Montigny said he has helped bring a great deal of money to downtown and has encouraged development of the arts and culture as an economic driver. “This fits neatly into that — a place where people want to stay,” he said.
Contact Joe Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org
November 13, 2008
Source URL: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081113/NEWS/811130347/-1/TOWN1001
By Joe Cohen