Rehab of old Standard-Times building clears hurdle

By Dan McDonald
NEW BEDFORD – The City Council’s Finance Committee Monday night approved a tax increment financing (TIF) plan for the former Standard-Times building downtown.
Boston developer New Bedford Urban Renaissance LLC is in the midst of renovating the building, which is located at 555-557 Pleasant St.
Monday night, the Finance Committee voted 6-2 in favor of the agreement, with Councilors Jane L. Gonsalves and John T. Saunders dissenting. The full council will now consider the agreement at its meeting Thursday.
The eight-year agreement calls for 100 percent of the increase in property valuation to be exempt in fiscal 2013. That exemption is reduced to 95 percent in both fiscal years 2014 and 2015. That number is ultimately reduced to 5 percent in 2020. Under the agreement, the exemptions would end after that year.
“The point is to give them some running room to make sure they can tenant out the property,” said Derek Santos, the director of business development for the New Bedford Economic Development Council.
The projected value of the tax exemptions total $496,308, according to the TIF agreement, and the downtown property is valued at $409,600.
Santos said the city is currently receiving $11,000 in annual tax revenue from the property. Once the exemptions are taken into consideration, the city will receive $463,000 in projected new taxes over the length of the TIF, said Santos.
“To see this iconic structure restored, it’s going to be tremendous,” he said.
New Bedford Urban Renaissance LLC plans on sinking $6.35 million in construction improvements and new equipment in the building, according to the TIF agreement.
The developer closed on the five-story, 34,000-square-foot building on April 20, buying it from Jamochamax Realty Trust for $650,000, according to the Bristol County Registry of Deeds Southern District.
Crews are still in the demolition stage, said Shiawee Yang, president of New Bedford Urban Renaissance LLC. The building’s large, antiquated printing press, she said, has been “mostly removed,” from the building.
“That turned out to be a bigger and dirtier job than we expected,” Yang said.
The project, she said, could be complete “in the neighborhood” of 18 months to two years.
Yang said the plan is to have retail space on the ground floor and office space on the above floors. She said tenants have yet to be lined up for the building.
The Renaissance Revival-style building, which was built in 1894, has been vacant for more than 15 years since The Standard-Times moved to its current Elm Street location in 1995. The paper occupied both that five-story building and the former Boys Club, now the adjacent Market Street condominiums.
Yang touted the Finance Committee’s vote as a “very positive” development
In other business, the Finance Committee tabled another TIF agreement involving a downtown property. This one featured a proposed call center moving into the third and fifth floors of the Webster Bank building, located at Union and Pleasant streets. The committee will take that matter up at a later date, said Gonsalves, the committee’s chairwoman.
June 22, 2011 12:00 AM
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