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.
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.”
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.”
After a Public Records Request failed to produce the purchase and sale agreement for the City of Fall River’s sale of the N.B. Borden School, the Preservation Society of Fall River has requested the City delay any demolition permit for the property until the document can be found.
The historic c. 1867 school at 45 Morgan Street was sold to current owner T.A. Restaurant by the City in 2012 along with several other vacant schools. The City’s requests for proposals included multiple protections in the conditions of sale that would ensure each redevelopment project was completed or the City was compensated.
A similar 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 the sale like a project timeline, required documentation, and proven financials to complete the redevelopment.
Members of the Preservation Society’s Board of Directors appeared at the Feb. 18, 2020, City Council Committee on Real Estate meeting to ask that the City verify the N.B. Borden School purchase and sale agreement didn’t include the same conditions of sale as in the N.B. Borden request for proposals and the Osborn School purchase and sale agreement.
The Committee on Real Estate tabled the matter so city officials could search for the document.
Because the property is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Fall River Significant Structure List, the N.B. Borden School had a six-month demolition delay. However, the delay expired on Oct. 18, 2019, and the owner immediately parked construction equipment on site and began clearing out the warehoused trash inside the building.
At the risk of losing this historic 153-year old property and its over $800,000 of previously assessed value, the Preservation Society believes City Officials should give proper due diligence to the handling of Fall River’s historical real estate before irreparable damage is done to the public interest.
Do you think the N.B. Borden School should be redeveloped?
The Fall River Historical Commission received a letter of intent to demolish Sagamore Mill No. 1, located at 140 Ace Street, from the property owners on Dec. 13, 2019.
The letter of intent begins the city’s six month demolition delay ordinance for the property, which prevents the historic mill from being destroyed until June 13, 2020.
The Historical Commission will discuss the demolition at its Jan. 21, 2020 meeting at 6 p.m. in Government Center and has invited the property owner to discuss possible alternatives to demolition as well as the public.
Sagamore Mill No. 1 (c.1887) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Fall River Register of Significant Structures.
The Bristol County Savings Charitable Foundation awarded the Preservation Society of Fall River a $6,500 grant to purchase and install a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit at the Dr. Isaac Fiske House (c.1833) — a Fall River Underground Railroad site.
“The Preservation Society is very thankful for the support of the Bristol County Savings Charitable Foundation,” Board of Directors President Jim Soule said. “This grant will not only make the property more energy efficient, but also help preserve this piece of Fall River history for years to come.”
The Preservation Society acquired 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.
The Bristol County Savings Charitable Foundation distributed $353,600 in grants to over 40 organizations in the region at its check presentation event on Dec. 19, 2019. Nine Fall River area grant recipients, including the Preservation Society, received a total of $64,500.
Work has begun at the historic Dr. Isaac Fiske House as part of the Preservation Society’s Community Preservation Act-funded project.
The City Council appropriated $69,000 for the project at its June 20 meeting, which includes the repair and replacement of seven windows and the installation of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units for four of the apartments in the historic house.
The Preservation Society acquired the Fiske House, an Underground Railroad site located at 263 Pine Street, in September 2018. The building is currently a multi-tenant apartment and office of the Preservation Society.
The Fall River Historical Commission received a letter of intent for the demolition of the Border City Mill No. 3 smokestack from attorneys representing Stanley Street Treatment and Resources (SSTAR) on Nov. 25, 2019.
The historic Border City Mill No. 3 burned down on Feb. 20, 2016, during a 3 a.m. fire. The smokestack is the only remaining piece of the building to survive the blaze.
SSTAR recently applied for its third building permit in an attempt to develop a $6.7 million facility at the mill’s former location of 75 Weaver Street. The organization’s first two attempts were denied by the city. SSTAR’s originally announced plans in November 2016 to build an $11.7 million included a 60-bed detox facility for outpatient treatment.
The mill is one of three Border City textile mills and dates back to the 1880s. Border City Manufacturing was first organized in 1872 as a cotton mill. The four-story Border City Mill No. 3, about 400 feet long and 70 feet wide, was once used by Harvey Probber furniture manufacturing.
The cause of the fire was not determined after investigation by Fall River Fire, Police, and the State Fire Marshall’s office.
The Fall River Historical Commission expressed interest in asking SSTAR representatives to incorporate the surviving smokestack into designs of any new facility constructed there earlier this year.
Border City Mill No. 3 was listed on the Fall River Register of Significant Structures, which requires a six-month delay to any demolition so all parties involved can discuss possible alternatives.
President of the Preservation Society of Fall River’s Board of Directors Jim Soule has joined the City of Fall River’s Bedford Streetscape Oversight Committee.
Soule recently attended one of the first committee meetings to advocate for historically-sensitive designs to be incorporated into the Bedford Streetscape project as a way to help highlight the city’s Downtown Historic District.
During the City’s Purchase Streetscape project, the Preservation Society submitted suggestions to the City asking for the use of historically sensitive streetlights and building materials for things like curbing in streetscape projects.
Preservation Society Vice President James Souza has been selected to serve on Mayor-Elect Paul Coogan’s transition team’s Arts, Culture and Tourism Subcommittee.
Coogan announced a 62-member transition team on November 22, 2019, that included eight subcommittees: Finance; Economic and Workforce Development; Housing and Urban Development; Public Safety and Health; Education; Arts, Culture and Tourism; Infrastructure, Environment and Community Maintenance; and Public Integrity.
Arts, Culture and Tourism
Patrick Norton: Executive Director, Narrows Center for the Arts (Chair)
Sandy Dennis: Co-Founder, Creative Arts Network
James Souza: Owner, New Boston Bakery; Vice President, Preservation Society of Fall River
Walter Fraze, Jr.: Owner, Walter Fraze, Jr. Law Office
Kathleen Castro: Professor of Arts & Humanities, Bristol Community College
Scott Lopes: Assistant Vice President of Training & Development, BayCoast Bank
Tony Rodrigues: World Language Instructor, BMC Durfee High School
Finance Transition Team
Joan Medeiros: Vice President, Bristol County Savings Bank (Chair)
Carlos Da Cunha: Senior Vice President & Senior Lending Officer, St. Anne’s Credit Union
Jose Pacheco: Owner, Pacheco Realty Company
Carl Taber: Executive Vice President & Chief Lending Officer, Bay Coast Bank
William Eccles, Jr.: President & CEO, Bank 5
Matthew Schondek: President & CEO, Fall River Municipal Credit Union
Robert Camara: Public Employees Representative, City of Fall River; Retired Fall River Fire Department
Sergeant Joseph Castro: Member FRPD; Chairman of the Insurance Advisory Committee, City of Fall River
Economic and Workforce Development
Joseph Marshall: Founder & President J. Marshall and Associates (Chair)
Karl Hetzler: President, H&S Tool; President, Fall River Industrial Park Association
Frank Marchione: President & CEO Boardwalk Crossing; President, Bristol County EDC
Michael Lund: President, Borden Light Marina, Inc.
Louis Gonsalves: Owner, Juiced Cafe
Michael Benevides: Owner, Portugulia Marketplace
Diane Nadeau: Executive Director, Bristol County Training Consortium (Retired)
James Pimental: Vice President/Organizer, Bricklayers, Local 3
Bradford Higson: Owner, Higson Seafood
Housing and Urban Development
Ronald Rusin: Owner, Ron Rusin Real Estate (Chair)
Carole Fiola: State Representative, 6th Bristol District
Steven Long: City Councilor, City of Fall River
Deb Fastino: Director, Coalition for Social Justice
Kathleen Schedler Clark: Executive Director, Steppingstone, Inc.
David Underhill: Member, Fall River Housing Authority; Member, Joint Tenant Council; Member, Fall River Housing Authority
Aaron Tetrault: Owner, Fall River Pawn Brokers
Public Safety and Health
Mark Costa, Assistant Chief Probation Officer (Chair)
Thomas Quinn, Bristol County District Attorney
John LaPointe, Fall River Police Department (Retired)
Alan Silvia, State Representative, 7th Bristol District
Natalie Mello, President Bank Street Neighborhood Association
Carlos Caesar, President Flint Neighborhood Association
James Cusick, Fall River Fire Department (Retired)
Laura Ferreira Washington, Program Director, Steppingstone, Inc.
Dr. Henry Vaillancourt, Director of Public Health, City of Fall River (Retired)
Traci Almeida: Coordinator of Graduate Admissions & Licensure, UMass Dartmouth (Chair)
Dr. Armand Desmarais: Professor Emeritus, UMass Dartmouth
Melissa Panchley: Senior Property Manager, Karam Financial Group
Dr. Edward Costar: Administrator, Fall River Pubic Schools (Retired)
Rick Sahady: Administrator, Fall River Public Schools (Retired)
William Kelly: Professor Arts & Humanities, Bristol Community College (Retired)
William Kenney: Attorney, Law Office William Kenney (Chair)
Rev. Robert Nemiocovick: Pastor, Blessed Trinity Church
Kim Gosson Almeida: Director of Benefits Operations, Brown University
Antonio Teixeira: Community Activist
William Whitty: Former Mayor & City Councilor President, City of Fall River
August Venice: Community Activist
Roberta Brooks Tetrault
Infrastructure, Environment and Community Maintenance
Rebecca Collins: President, Collins Construction, Inc. (Chair)
Daniel Raposa: Director of Buildings and Grounds, Fall River School Department (Retired)
Michael Grimo: IT Professional, Senior Executive, (Retired)
Byron Holmes: Engineer, City of Fall River (Retired)
Alfred J. Lima: Community Activist
Arnaldo Paquette: Community Activist; Former Director of Operations, BFI, Inc.
Terrance Sullivan: Director of Community Utilities, City of Fall River (Retired)
James Terrio: Director of Administrative Services Water Department; Clerk, Watuppa Water Board (Retired)
Michael Dunn: Senior Project Manager, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Executive Office of Technology Services and Security
The City Council voted to send the Preservation Society’s proposed ordinance changes for increased protections on city-owned historic properties to the Committee on Ordinances and Legislation for discussion.
The resolution was approved at the City Council’s Oct. 22, 2019, meeting and invited representatives from the Preservation Society and Historical Commission to meet with the Committee, City Administrator, and City Counsel.
The meeting date has yet to be determined.
The Preservation Society recently submitted a proposal to change the city’s ordinances to better protect city-owned historic properties. They are:
Twelve-Month Demolition Delay
The city adopt a twelve-month demolition delay ordinance for all city-owned historic buildings. This would not replace the current six-month delay for private properties. The twelve-month delay is a recommendation of the 2018-2022 Massachusetts State Preservation Plan and would give a more realistic time-frame to find alternatives to the demolition of historic properties that’s acceptable to the neighborhood and the community at-large.
Preservation Restriction Deeds
An ordinance that requires the sale or disposal of all city-owned properties 50 years and older be subject to review for preservation restrictions on their deeds as a condition of any agreement. The Massachusetts Historic Commission suggests properties 50 years and older may be considered historical in value. A preservation deed restriction could be waived by the Fall River Historical Commission if deemed unnecessary for the property.