Preservation Society Receives CHDO Designation

The Preservation Society of Fall River, Inc., was recently designated a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) under the HOME program by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This designation makes the Preservation Society eligible to receive HOME funds set aside for CHDOs – private nonprofit, community-based organizations that develop affordable housing for the communities they serve.

“This changes everything, Board of Directors James Soules said. “By receiving CHDO status, the Preservation Society now has access to federal funds that will be vital to redevelopment projects that provide, not just affordable housing to the city, but rehabilitated history in Fall River.”

This certification will enable the Preservation Society to better serve its mission to protect and preserve Fall River’s historic properties, showing that historic preservation and affordable housing can work together hand in hand.

After purchasing its first property, the Dr. Isaac Fiske House – an Underground Railroad Station on Pine Street – in 2018, the Preservation Society is in the process of searching for its next property to redevelop utilizing CHDO funds.

In order to qualify for designation as a CHDO, an organization must meet certain requirements pertaining to its legal status, organizational structure, and capacity and experience. The Preservation Society worked with Fall River’s Community Development Agency Housing Department on its application.

2021 Welcome From The Preservation Society

2021 Welcome Video

Jim Soule, President of the Preservation Society’s Board of Directors, welcomes members new and old to the New Year in the video below, giving a recap of the last year’s efforts by the Preservation Society while looking forward to what’s to come in 2021.

You can watch the video message on our YouTube channel here.

With the start of the new year, the Preservation Society of Fall River is kicking off its Annual Membership Drive! Member dues and donations make up a large part of PSFR’s budget, so your continued support is valued and appreciated! 

To join or pay this year’s dues, you can download our membership form below and mail it to our office or you can join online here.

City Council Awards Sale of Bedford Street Police Station

The City Council voted to award the sale of the former Central Police Station at 158 Bedford Street to Wethersfield LLC of Chelsea, Massachusetts, for $10,000 at its meeting on August 11, 2020.

Developer Mark Lederman intends to develop the property into 30 market-rate apartments and said he intends to demolish the interior and preserve as much of the historic facade of the building as possible. However, Lederman noted that architectural plans for his proposal are still in development and the end result will depend on the size of units that can fit within the existing exterior.

“What’s really going to determine is if we can physically fit the units within the structure,” Lederman said at the meeting. “And based on the square footage and the window layout as far as egress windows, I think we can do it. We’re going to have to get a little creative.”

“Our goal is to keep the facade of the building and keep it looking as historically and architecturally intact as possible,” added Lederman. “Perhaps We may have to cut a few windows in, maybe in the back, do something for the venting of the new heating systems, but again hopefully that will be small and won’t really affect the facade too much. But our intention is to try and keep the envelope of the building intact.”

Ahead of the meeting, the Preservation Society submitted a letter to the City Council requesting more information on what processes are in place to follow up on the conditions of sale and provisions in the purchase and sale agreement to ensure the city’s best interests are protected.

The Preservation Society noted that similar provisions in past purchase and sale agreements have so far failed to protect historic properties like the Nathaniel B. Borden School and Healy School, where the purchase and sale agreements for those sales are inexplicably missing.

The Preservation Society previously submitted a letter to the City Council Committee on Real Estate ahead of its July 29, 2020, meeting requesting information on the vetting process of bidders as well as details of the partially-signed purchase and sale agreement.

City Tax Title Attorney Matthew Thomas described his vetting process of the bidder, which included conversations with various vendors Lederman has worked with, and noted this level of vetting isn’t generally conducted for other city sales.

Thomas also outlined a variety of conditions of sale and provisions in the purchase and sale agreement to ensure the project is completed, including a project timeline, performance bond, and reverter clause.

Two previous owners of the property were the subjects of separate criminal investigations in Florida, one for an alleged real estate scam, which resulted in the City reclaiming ownership of the property for back taxes.

Read the Preservation Society’s Letters:

Details Emerge in N.B. Borden School Purchase & Sale Agreement Search

After a Massachusetts Public Records Request and months of searching, the city of Fall River is still unable to locate the missing purchase and sale agreement for its sale of the Nathaniel B. Borden School.

During the search, it was discovered that the purchase and sale agreement was the only document missing from the city’s building file on N.B. Borden School at Government Center.

In the continuing pursuit for the missing purchase and sale agreement, more facts and irregularities have come to light about the property’s sale as well as more questions. Therefore, the Preservation Society has updated its N.B. Borden School fact sheet to include all the most recent developments since its initial release in October 2019.

The historic c. 1867 school at 45 Morgan Street was sold to current owner T.A. Restaurant by the city in 2012 during a time when Fall River was disposing of several vacant school buildings. The city’s requests for proposals included multiple conditions of sale to ensure each redevelopment project was completed or that the city was compensated.

Despite T.A. Restaurant’s redevelopment proposal only being half a page long and missing multiple minimum criteria such as developer credentials and a schedule for project implementation, the proposal was allowed and accepted over two others.

A Public Records Request for the bid and sale documents of another historic school sold by the city at the same time — the c.1892 Osborn School at 160 Osborn Street — produced a similar request for proposals by the city and a purchase and sale agreement that included conditions of sale like a project timeline, required documentation, and proven financials to complete the redevelopment.

Because the N.B. Borden School’s missing purchase and sale agreement can’t be located, city officials and residents are unable to confirm the conditions of its sale, which could save the building from the current owner’s intent for demolition.

The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Fall River Significant Structure List.

*Drone photo courtesy of William Costa.

BayCoast Bank Awards Grant To Preservation Society

The Preservation Society of Fall River was awarded a $6,500 grant sponsorship from BayCoast Bank to purchase and install a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit for the c.1833 Dr. Isaac Fiske House — a Fall River Underground Railroad site.

“We at the Preservation Society are extremely grateful for the sponsorship by BayCoast Bank,” said Jim Soule, President of the Board of Directors. “This grant brings us one step closer to completing our HVAC project for the Fiske House, which will reduce energy costs and help preserve its historic exterior.”

The grant was approved by the BayCoast Bank Executive Committee on June 16, 2020.

The Preservation Society purchased the Fiske House, located at 263 Pine Street, in September 2018. The building is currently a multi-tenant apartment and office of the Preservation Society.

PS: Sagamore Mill No. 1 Demolition

The Preservation Society of Fall River opposes the planned demolition of the c.1887 Sagamore Mill No. 1 building at 140 Ace Street.

Sagamore Mill No. 1 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Fall River Register of Significant Structures. It was purchased by an abutter of 26 years in January 2019, who initially planned to redevelop the building into apartments.

However, after less than a year of ownership and with no major work done to preserve the structure, the property owner now intends to demolish the 133-year old mill to construct a set of five two-story commercial condo buildings.

A six-month demolition delay on the property expired on June 13, 2020.

The Preservation Society believes that qualified developers can utilize a variety of alternative funding mechanisms like state tax credits and grants to make these redevelopment projects economically feasible and worthwhile.

Until the city strengthens its ordinances so that property owners must demonstrate efforts to restore historic resources before demolition, residents will continue to lose what has always made Fall River home – piece by piece.


The Preservation Society of Fall River, Inc.
Board of Directors

Off The List

Two historic buildings on the Preservation Society’s 2019 Most Endangered Properties list didn’t make the 2020 iteration of the list because of positive developments towards an end goal of preservation. They are:

Central Fire Station, c. 1920 (165 Bedford Street)

The historic fire station on Bedford Street has been a longstanding regular on past most endangered lists by the Preservation Society. However, a Community Preservation Act grant recently funded a new roof for the building – a vital first step in preserving the building – and also included a preservation restriction on the deed of the property, all but ensuring its future preservation.

229 Highland Avenue, c. 1899

This historic Queen Anne-style house has been owned by the Fall River Housing Authority since 1985, but has remained empty for several years. After making the Preservation Society’s most endangered list last year for the first time, the Preservation Society reached out to the Massachusetts Housing Authority to inquire about the future of the property, which indicated future plans to redevelop the property.

Preservation Society welcomes new Directors

The Preservation Society of Fall River is happy to announce five new members to its Board of Directors.

Peter Belanger and Andrea Belanger have been serving on the Board since joining in December 2019.

John Silva, Jennifer Smith, and Jahnna Khoury joined the Board in April 2020 and have been participating in virtual meetings during the state’s ongoing social distancing guidelines.

Peter Belanger is a construction supervisor and a founder of the Narrows Center for the Arts, formerly serving as president of its Board of Directors. He’s volunteered for local events like the Narrows Festival of the Arts (Spindle City Fest) and Fall River Celebrates America.

Andrea Belanger is a leader for a local real estate team with volunteer experience at events like the Narrows Center for the Arts, First Night Fall River, the Healthier Cities project, and the first ever Fall River Youth Council.

John Silva works in human services as a community outreach advocate and brings 30 years experience in banking and finance. He is also a local realtor and participates on several community boards and steering committees. John is a former board member of the Preservation Society of Fall River, previously serving from 2009-2015.

Jennifer Smith works as a certified medical assistant at a local medical office and previously volunteered with the Salvation Army Women’s Program.

Jahnna Khoury works as a family support specialist and musician. Jahnna serves as a member of the Board of United Neighbors.

2020 Most Endangered Properties List

Fall River is home to thousands of historic properties, but many are at risk of being erased from their communities – either by neglect or demolition.

Because the Preservation Society believes the city should be a leader in protecting its historic resources, its directors have examined current and former municipal-owned buildings and determined the most endangered properties for 2020.

Two of the properties on this year’s list are currently privately-owned after sales by the city, but they are on the list to demonstrate that by selling historic properties without ensuring they are protected and reused, the best interests of Fall River and its residents are exposed to irreparable damage.

1. Nathaniel B. Borden School, c. 1867 (45 Morgan Street)

The historic school was sold by the city in 2012 after issuing a request for proposals that included multiple conditions of sale to ensure any redevelopment project was completed or the city was compensated.

After quickly contradicting and abandoning the original plan to redevelop the property into apartments, the current owner plans to demolish the building for a parking lot.

A public records request failed to produce the purchase and sale agreement for the city’s sale of the school, so the Preservation Society requested the city delay any demolition permit for the property until the document can be found.

However, workers have spent recent months clearing the building and the owner has ignored all requests to meet and discuss possible funding mechanisms to support redevelopment or alternatives to demolition. The Historical Commission’s demolition delay on the property expired in October 2019.

2. Central Police Station, c. 1915 (158 Bedford Street)

The old police station has been vacant ever since the new facility was built more than a decade ago, but the City Council Committee on Real Estate recently voted to issue another request for proposals to sell the property – only this time without any preservation restrictions.

The renewed push to sell the property comes after two interested parties reached out to the city regarding the building. At least one has plans to demolish it and construct a new structure.

Some City Councilors have suggested the station be demolished in the event a sale fails to materialize, despite the city having no plan for the future of the property or its environmental remediation as well as such action going directly against the city’s own Downtown Urban Renewal Plan.

The Preservation Society submitted a letter requesting that the city give higher priority to proposals that included historic preservation and suggested the city conduct an environmental assessment to increase chances of redevelopment.

3. King Philip Mill, c. 1871-1892 (372 Kilburn Street)

Demolition at King Philip Mills began in 2018, but one of the historic mill buildings still remains standing after unexpected asbestos abatement followed by an investigation of the demolition by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Environmental Protection.

The city sold the property to a private developer in January 2018 at a tax title auction after the highest bidder missed a deadline and was disqualified by the former mayoral administration. The owner’s plan includes the construction of 26 single-family homes and redeveloping the one remaining mill building into apartments.

A Community Preservation Act-funded feasibility study in 2017 established avenues for reuse of the nearly 1-million square foot granite complex.

4. The Armory, c. 1895 (72 Bank Street)

The Armory has been vacant since years of neglect caused structural concerns and forced tenants to leave in 2015. Emergency Community Preservation Act funds helped pay for repairs to the roof and chimney and, for now, the city is using the building for storage.

With no plan for the future use of the building, the Armory continues to remain at risk the longer it’s unoccupied. The Preservation Society recently inquired about the vegetation growing out of the parapets on the repaired roof and was informed that the Department of Community Maintenance would be clearing it this spring. The Community Preservation Committee just approved funds for removal of vegetation and repointing of some of the more severe sections of the roof.

5. Stanley Street Fire Station, c. 1902 (229 Stanley Street)

The oldest fire station still in use in Fall River was the last built in the city to house horse-drawn fire trucks.

The building was temporarily closed because of mold concerns last year for the second time in less than two years, requiring abatement. When the station needed a new roof a few years ago, the city opted for an asphalt roof instead of applying for Community Preservation Act funding to replace the original slate. Previous mayoral administrations have suggested selling the historic fire station and constructing a new facility to better meet the needs of the department, but with no legal commitment to the structure’s preservation, the future of this piece of Fall River Fire Department history is uncertain.

  • View the 2019 Most Endangered Properties List here.

Central Police Station RFP Fast-Tracked And Allows Demolition

The City Council Committee on Real Estate voted to authorize a Request For Proposals for the historic Central Police Station at 158 Bedford Street, but it will be the first time the City goes out to bid for the property without protections against demolition.

Committee Chairman Leo Pelletier opened the March 3, 2020, meeting saying, “As you know, there’s a strong push by me, and maybe some of my Council certainly, to get rid of that police station in a fast fashion. The fastest we can go the better.”

The renewed push to sell the property comes after at least two interested parties recently reached out to the City regarding the c. 1915 historic building, with at least one with plans to demolish it and construct a new structure.

“I know we got some opposition from the Preservation Society, but again you know, that place has been empty for 22 years.” Pelletier said. “We tried to dump it two, three times, and you go by there and nothing’s changed and it’s not going to change until we decide to have somebody that can do something with it or the city knocks it down. It just can’t stay that way.”

The Preservation Society submitted a letter and appeared at the meeting to request that the City give higher priority to proposals that included historic preservation and suggested the City conduct an environmental assessment to increase chances of redevelopment.

City Tax Title Attorney Matthew Thomas described the police station’s Request For Proposals (RFP) as similar to the last four issued by the City. However, Thomas suggested the City’s previous unsuccessful attempts to sell and redevelop the property were related to restrictions preventing buyers from demolishing the building and he recommended removing demolition protections from the RFP this time.

Two previous owners of the property were the subjects of separate criminal investigations in Florida, one for an alleged real estate scam, which resulted in the City reclaiming ownership of the property for back taxes.

“Maybe this is time, the last shot basically, as Councillor Pelletier said, to do the right thing and give someone an opportunity,” City Councillor Brad Kilby said. “Other than that, it can’t just sit there. There’s public safety hazards.”

A Self-Imposed Deadline

Thomas said he expected to complete the RFP by March 6, 2020, and the City will host site visits to the property on April 7 with the expectation of getting responses by April 24. He also said the City’s preferred use for the property was market-rate housing on the upper floors and commercial on bottom. The suggested bid price will be $81,550, but the City will allow lower bids with justification.

A purchase-and-sale agreement would have to be executed by June 12, 2020, with a June 2022 construction start date, and a June 2023 deadline for a certificate of occupancy.

“So I know it seems like a long period, but for a project like this in a strategic area like this, to have it done correctly and make sure that the I’s have been dotted and the T’s have been crossed, this is pretty much the quickest time frame that you can go,” Thomas said.

Interested parties will also have to conducts a Phase 1 HAZMAT environmental assessment in order to become a prospective purchaser, so they’re not in the line of liability from the contamination currently at the property.

“We have to bend a little bit, us, the City, the Mayor, the Councillors, and try to get this squared away,” Pelletier said. “If we don’t, then it’s going down and who’s going to pay? I mean, the taxpayers, and what’s going to be there after that? I don’t know. We’ll make a parking lot and get $45 a month for maybe 80 spaces.”

Center Police Station Proposal Review Team

  • Mary Sahady, Fall River’s Custodian of Tax Possessions
  • William Roth, Fall River’s City Planner
  • Michael Dion, Community Development Agency Executive Director
  • Leo Pelletier, City Council Committee on Real Estate Chairman
  • To Be Announced, Another City Councillor