The latest plan for the development of the former Tourister mill complex right across the river in Warren shows 316 mostly two-bedroom apartments mixing with about 106,000 square feet of commercial space when the two-phase project is completed in about five years.
It is that balance of residential and commercial space that generated the only real criticism of the plan during a public information session of the Warren Planning Board Monday evening, Jan. 27.
“This is a new dawn for this site,” said Spencer Morris of Cole Street and a member of the Technical Review Committee that has already recommended approval.
The impact on the community with this balance of residential and commercial space still needs to be assessed, he said, especially because the Tourister mill complex has always had such a massive economic impact on Warren.
“How will it impact the community?” Morris said.
Davison Bolster, a former Town Council and Planning Board member, was a bit more blunt.
“I think the proportion is too much residential, which could mean families with kids (in school) we have to pay for," he said. "I’m looking for more commercial.”
Bolster also asked what type of commercial tenants are anticipated. Will they be destination businesses that offer higher quality jobs? he said.
"This town needs jobs," Bolster said.
Chris Starr, a representative of the developer, Tourister Mill LLC, a joint venture of Brady Sullivan Properties in Manchester, NH, and Starr Development Partners LLC of Belmont, Mass., said: “There is no scientific study on the proper balance of residential and commercial.”
But the fact that the mill has lain vacant for so many years as a commercial structure indicates that its use as a mostly business complex seems unlikely. That’s why the developers are looking for specialty retail and a mix of service businesses and restaurants to become tenants.
Starr opened the presentation on the latest plan for the complex by saying that Brady Sullivan Properties "specializes in redeveloping underutilized and abandoned buildings."
In addition to the mixed use, Starr said, the project will include a 2,000 square foot walkway along the Warren River shoreline and about 2.4 acres of green space on the 14-acre property or about 17 percent of the site.
Bruce Hagerman of Crossman Engineering fine-tuned some of the details. He said only the historic mill building and several adjacent buildings will be redeveloped. The newer warehouse will be demolished to make room for a new building to be constructed in phase II.
Hagerman also said the 1,300-foot-long seawall along the shoreline will be raised to prevent flooding from high tides.
Russell Crossman of Crossman Engineering said the impact of traffic has been studied extensively already, especially where it will come from and within Warren itself at three intersections: Main and Water streets; Main and Miller/Market streets; and Main at Campbell streets.
“There is an acceptable level of service all the intersections studied, with some reserve,” he said. "We still need the state DOT to okay the project so it won’t burden the roads.”
Approximately 50 percent of the residential traffic for the complex will come from the north on Route 114 through Barrington, about 30 percent will come from the south from Bristol on Route 114, and about 20 percent will come from the east from Massachusetts, he said. About 40 percent of the commercial traffic also is expected to come from the north with 60 percent split between the south and east.
Ninety percent of the apartments will be two-bedroom units, some with lofts, according to Paul Satos, architect for the developers. Ten percent will be one-bedroom units.
“That’s the best combination to market,” Satos said.
The glass-enclosed penthouse apartments on a fourth floor to be added to the historic mill building will have “spectacular views” over the water, he said.
The meeting was not a public hearing, said Planning Board Chairman Fred Massie, but the board was accepting public comments.