Residents settling in as Regency construction is finished

By Dan McDonald
NEW BEDFORD Paul Rochefort, like seemingly everyone else associated with The Regency rehabilitation, considers his penthouse apartment and talks first and mostly about the view.
To the south, he can see the whole of the city’s historic downtown, which from his perch is punctuated by church spires. The vista stretches into the neighborhoods on the South End peninsula and the harbor’s hurricane barrier. On sunny days, Rochefort says he can see the tip of Martha’s Vineyard and Cuttyhunk Island. Directly to the east is the city’s working waterfront, the Acushnet River and the Route 6 bridge.
Rochefort sometimes watches that bridge raise several times a day. “It doesn’t go straight up; it twists,” he said.
To the west, he says he can see 500-foot “cooling towers” located on the other side of Fall River on a clear day.  “They’re 16.6 miles away.”
The 140-foot Regency, with its 16 floors, is the tallest building in the city.  After months of planning and $30 million worth of work to the 23-year-old building, more people are enjoying such panoramas.
Ninety-four of the 129 units are now occupied.
Less than two years ago, the tower could only dream of such an occupancy rate.
In October 2009, all but 33 of the tower’s units were vacant. That was three months after Trinity Financial, a Boston-based financial firm, finished buying the property, which MassHousing foreclosed in 2005. Before the foreclosure, the building suffered from a lack of upkeep. Water damage and facade damage were commonly heard gripes, although Elizabeth Isherwood, a Trinity spokeswoman, says that “not one brick, ever” fell from the tower.
Trinity closed on construction financing at the end of March last year and began a massive overhaul that renovated the entire building. The project included insulation upgrades, roof, window and facade replacement. Apartments were gutted and revamped.
Robert McPherson, 52-year-old who is retired from the Navy, lived through the changes. With the exception of one six-month move to Union Street in 2005, McPherson has lived in the building for the past decade, he said.
Before the renovations, McPherson said the property “just wasn’t maintained.” He said he moved out of the building because there were concerns about its structural integrity. Some, he said, thought it would be condemned.
He had to move once inside the building during the rehabilitation project.  He now lives in a three-bedroom apartment with his wife, Dellcine, and his daughter, Brittney. He pays $1,460 per month for a three-bedroom and says he is “absolutely elated” with the renovations. He says the management company is properly vetting potential applicants for the apartments.
Rochefort, a 65-year-old retired financial manager, moved from his home in Seekonk into the top floor just before last Christmas with his wife, Joanne.
“City living means less traveling,” said Rochefort. “My car doesn’t move for three or four days sometimes.”
Rochefort says he pays $2,125 in rent per month for the 1,200-square-foot apartment, which features bamboo flooring, granite countertop and a 52-foot-long, 11-foot-wide balcony. His rent is the most expensive in the building, he said.
The building now consists of 33 affordable units all of which are occupied and 96 market-rate units, said Mathieu Zahler, assistant project manager, Trinity Financial Inc.
“It’s a good mix. It’s a healthy mix,” said Matthew Morrissey, executive director of the city’s Economic Development Council.
The building’s new occupants means there are “new residents with additional spending capacity” residing within walking distance of the downtown’s shops.
“The building is coming back in a way that is a symbol of where the city is going,” said Morrissey.
March 08, 2011 12:00 AM
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