PAWTUCKET — A developer is proposing that the former St. Mary's School at 163 George St. and the adjacent brick building that once served as a convent be turned into an apartment complex, along with a new building to be constructed behind the two.
The city's Planning Commission recently held a public hearing on the proposal by I.D. Holdings LLC, whose principal owner is listed as Jeffrey Karll. Karll is a businessman and restauranteur who formerly operated the Cresta Ristorante in the Apex property on Main Street.
The design plans, drafted by Pawtucket-based architects Lerner Ladds Bartels, propose the renovation of the two existing buildings at 163 and 167 George St. for approximately 30,000 square feet of space. To the rear of these, a new multi-story building would be erected measuring approximately 68,000 square feet in size.
The use of all three buildings will create 106 rental units, with a majority being in the studio or one-bedroom style and about six two-bedrooms. The proposed complex will be called the Clock Tower Residences after a tower that will be restored on the former school building.
The plans show a driveway entrance off George Street running between the former school and convent buildings and opening onto a circular cul de sac. There would be some parking spaces along nearby Delaney Street, but most of the parking for the tenants and guests would be provided by the new structure, which will feature one parking lot at street level and another underneath the building. This parking will be accessed by a ramp-type driveway off Randall Street.
The proposed new building is of a more modern styling than its two historic counterparts (St. Mary's School dates back to 1890). The plans show a rectangular divided structure, six stories high on one side and seven stories high on the other, with the parking garage underneath.
According to attorney Michael Horan, representing ID Holdings LLC, Karll's target market is college students and young adults who are working professionals. He said the bulk of the units, around 60, will be “efficiency” style at 400 to 800 square feet, and will be affordably priced in keeping with similar type housing in the local area. The remainder will be mostly one-bedrooms, with only about a half dozen two-bedroom models.
Currently, the school building at 163 George St. is unoccupied and 167 George Street has been serving as the temporary headquarters for S.H. Pihl, the contractors on the I-95 Pawtucket River Bridge project.
Planning Director Barney Heath said the project was reviewed by the Planning Commission and discussion was continued to the next Planning Commission meeting on April 16. He said several neighbors who were at the public hearing raised some concerns about the project in regard to parking, unit density, increased traffic in the area, and the height of the proposed new building.
Heath said that he shares some of these concerns as well, and noted that the developer will have to seek relief from the Zoning Board of Appeals on several issues, including the unit density, height, and number of parking spaces. However, he also said that precedents have been set for granting zoning variances on some of these same issues for other mill redevelopment projects in the city.