PROVIDENCE – A largely vacant, five-story office building in downtown Providence could be converted beginning this summer to 44 micro-loft apartments with ground-level retail, under a proposal advanced by property owner Case Mead Assoc. LLC.
The property, of 68-76 Dorrance St., is managed by former Providence Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr. He plans to convert the structure purchased by his father in 1968 to four-levels of compact lofts, estimated to be about 275 square feet.
The renovation is expected to cost $7.7 million, according to documents released by the R.I. Commerce Corp., whose board on Monday authorized up to $2.2 million in Rebuild Rhode Island real estate tax credits for the project. The credit, to be paid out over five years following occupancy, represents 30 percent of the cost of the renovation, according to Commerce RI documents.
The project also will receive a sales tax exemption on the renovation, according to Commerce RI.
The renovated apartments will be marketed to young professionals who want to live and work downtown. “It keeps the downtown a 24-7 kind of downtown,” said Jesse Saglio, managing director and head of the investments group for Commerce RI.
“This is an important but high-cost renovation,” Saglio said.
Until two years ago, Paolino Properties, the real estate company the former mayor’s great-grandfather founded, occupied one floor of the building. The company has since relocated, and Paolino said the original building is no longer feasible as office space. “Buildings like that in today’s day and age, they’re very tough to use as office space,” Paolino said.
The market demand for micro-apartments is strong in Providence, he noted. Existing micro-loft apartments above the Providence Arcade routinely have a waiting list.
The loft conversion on Dorrance will be high quality, he said. “You’re going to think you’re in SoHo, New York,” he said.
In an interview Tuesday, Paolino said he hoped to begin construction by summer. He has not determined as yet, he said, whether to seek additional public development incentives, such as a city property tax reduction through a tax stabilization agreement.
The building, occupying the corner of Dorrance and Weybosset streets, was built in 1890. It was valued by the city Assessor’s Department in 2014 at $1.6 million, according to online records.
Paolino said he has already purchased a parking lot beside the building, which will be needed to create a new stairwell egress for the apartments.
The exterior of the building will be redone to reflect the historical treatment, he said. That work is now being researched.
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