PS: Bedford Streetscape can highlight historic district

The Preservation Society of Fall River supports the overall goals of the streetscape initiative, but would like to offer suggestions on ways the project could enhance the city’s historic downtown.

The Preservation Society strongly advocates for the use of historically sensitive streetlighting and curbing for the Bedford Street streetscape.

Prior streetscape projects utilized a variety of modern streetlighting and curbing that does not accurately reflect the neighborhood or mesh with the historic materials when they meet.

We also support the recommendations made in Fall River’s recent Downtown Urban Renewal Plan, which calls for streetscape design guidelines to help promote storefront unity and a cohesive identity for the neighborhood.

A member of the Historical Commission could help facilitate these ideas if one were appointed to the Streetscape Oversight Committee. Historic materials and designs could be used as a way to promote economic development and walkability in the downtown area and could even be used to attract developers for vacant historic properties like the Bedford Street Police Station.

Historic district safe from billboard

After discussions with Mayor Jasiel Correia II, the Preservation Society of Fall River is happy to confirm that the Mayor’s Office is no longer pursuing digital billboards at two of the previously proposed locations – South Main/Market Streets in the city’s downtown historic district and the Water Department property off Route 24 near the historic waterworks building.

The issue was previously tabled by the City Council Committee on Health and Environment at its April 6 meeting where the Preservation Society voiced concerns over the impact a digital billboard would have on the historic core of Fall River.

During a meeting with members of the Preservation Society’s Board of Directors to discuss historic preservation issues in Fall River, Mayor Correia stated the decision and said that other locations for digital billboards were being explored.

The Preservation Society applauds this decision, which will preserve the historic skyline of Fall River and the structures that make it up.

Bedford Streetscape Oversight Committee formed

An oversight committee for the upcoming Bedford Streetscape project has been created with a handful of city officials joining appointees by Mayor Jasiel Correia II and City Council President Cliff Ponte.

The Bedford Streetscape Oversight Committee consists of City Planner Bill Roth, City Engineer JR Frey, and City Councilors Steven Camara and Leo Pelletier.

Correia nominated business people Jerry Donovan from Eagle Event Center, Charlie Merrow from Merrow Manufacturing, and Merrill Cordeiro from Cordeiro Insurance.

Ponte nominated Michael Benevides from Portugalia Marketplace, Pam Sabre Auto, and attorney Arthur Frank.

The City Council had previously asked the Administration to create an oversight committee for the East Main and Purchase Streetscape projects, but one never materialized.

N.B. Borden School Owner’s Letter To Demolish

Because the owners of the historic Nathaniel B. Borden School have failed to appear at multiple public meetings, Fall River residents have not been able to express any concerns about the proposed demolition. The property owners have directed that any questions about the demolition can be answered in their original letter of intent to demolish sent to the Historical Commission.

The letter can be downloaded here, but its contents are copied below:

“March 25, 2019
RE: NB Borden School
Map I-8 Lot 1-45 Morgan Street

Dear Commission Members,

I write you today in regards to above referenced property. In 2012, we purchased the property with the intent of renovating the existing abandoned NB Borden School for the purposes of either residential apartments and or office/commercial space.

In 2014 we applied for and received a zoning variance allowing the subdivision of the parcel, leaving the existing building on one parcel to be utilized as office space and storage warehouse while creating a parking facility for our adjacent restaurant on the second parcel. We have invested well over $100,000 in repairs/upgrades and have currently completed approximately 80% of the parking facility.

Over this time we have worked extensively with our Engineer, Architect and several contractors in an attempt to develop the property with the intent of leaving the structure standing. As with many of the sold school properties in the City, the restoration/re-use of the structures is very difficult and the cost of such makes the projects economically unfeasible. The cost to complete the needed renovations was estimated to be approximately 3.5 million dollars. The estimated costs of demolishing the building will be approximately $400,000. We are often approached by residents in the City regarding the project and most request to have the building razed. Additionally, it is becoming more of a safety concern for the neighborhood the longer the building sits vacant.

It is for these reasons that we are requesting a permit for demolition from the City of Fall River Building Commissioner. The demolition of the property will allow for the completion of the parking facility as well as the potential of residential construction along a portion of the Whipple Street frontage. Thank you for your time an attention regarding this matter.

Kevin Santos”

Real Estate Committee Passes On N.B. Borden School

Nathaniel B. Borden School

The City Council invited the Historical Commission, Preservation Society, and the owner of the Nathaniel B. Borden School to a Committee on Real Estate meeting to discuss concerns about the proposed demolition and possible alternatives.

However, T.A. Restaurant President Kevin Santos, the owner of the property, did not attend the meeting after previously indicating he would.

Committee Chairman City Councilor Leo Pelletier said he would meet with Santos following the meeting to discuss the demolition.

Pelletier sent a letter to the Historic Commission stating that after discussions with Santos, he belived Santos had exercised all options on the property and intends to demolish it after the demolition delay expired on Oct. 18, 2019.

Pelletier also stated that Santos said he had no intention of discussing the matter further at any future meetings.

City Councilor Leo Pelletier’s letter can be downloaded here.

Preservation Society’s CPA projects get final approval

With the City Council’s approval of Fall River’s $296 million budget for fiscal year 2020 at its June 20 meeting, the last hurdle has been cleared for the Preservation Society’s two Community Preservation Act projects.

The FY20 budget included $1.834 million in appropriations for 14 projects approved by the Community Preservation Committee at its May 13 meeting.

The Preservation Society submitted applications for two projects this year — Preservation Design Guidelines and work for the historic Dr. Isaac Fiske House on Pine Street.

The $50,000 appropriation for the preservation design guidelines will help guide the city’s local historic districts and serve as an educational resource for property owners and city officials alike.

The $69,000 appropriated for the Preservation Society-owned Fiske House is the first phase of work outlined in its recent building assessment. The project will include the repair and replacement of some windows and the installation of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units for some of the apartments.

Not only will the repairs and upgrades help preserve the property, they will also help make the building more energy efficient.

Preservation Society supports plan to daylight the Quequechan

The Preservation Society of Fall River voiced support for a plan to daylight the Quequechan River proposed by local nonprofit Green Futures at a Massachusetts Department of Transportation meeting for its 2020-2024 Capital Investment Plan.

Green Futures member Al Lima presented a vision that would reveal Fall River’s historic waterfalls that were diverted into culverts and covered during construction of Interstate-195 in the 1960s. The plan presents a set of options that could unearth or “daylight” some portions of the Quequechan River through the Downtown neighborhood and connect it with the waterfront.

Preservation Society members attended the May 23 meeting at the Fall River Public Library and spoke in favor of the plan and any project that would return some historic element of the Quequechan River’s waterfalls.

In MassDOT’s initial summary of comments from the public meetings, it revealed a recorded increase in public support for daylighting the Quequechan River.

Source: MassDOT 2020-2024 Capital Investment Plan Update (2019)

Petition: Support the preservation of Lizzie Borden’s elementary school

The Preservation Society of Fall River has started a petition to demonstrate the support any plan to save and reuse Lizzie Borden’s former elementary school, the Nathaniel B. Borden School on Morgan Street, would have.

Although nothing can be done to stop the demolition of this private property after the delay has expired, the Preservation Society of Fall River would like to demonstrate the support any plan to save and reuse this historic building would have.

The current owners originally submitted their 2012 plan to redevelop the N.B. Borden School with petitions that had a total of 19 signatories.

We ask Fall River residents, along with preservationists and history fans around the country, to show that support for preserving this piece of Fall River and Lizzie Borden history has only grown!

One mill saved, another torn down

Just as the finishing touches are put on the new Knitting Mill Apartments in the former Wampanoag Mill No. 2 building on Alden Street, demolition resumed at the King Philip Mills complex on Kilburn Street.

Out of the 100 apartments designated for residents aged 62 and older at Knitting Mill Apartments, 60 percent are already leased, according to the Herald News article from June 7.

That same day, state representative Alan Silvia posted an update on his official Facebook page from a tour of the King Philip Mills demolition site with state senator Michael Rodrigues and local developer Robert Kfoury.

The Preservation Society paid for a preliminary structural investigation of the King Philip Mill smokestack in 2014, which found that it still met current state safety standards.

The city of Fall River also used Community Preservation Act funds in 2016 for a complete feasibility study of possible reuses for the King Philip Mill complex.

Liberty Affordable Housing of Rome, New York, bought the 150-year old Wampanoag Mill building and has invested approximately $27 million rehabilitating the historic property.

Kfoury, owner of Fall River-based RK Construction, was awarded the King Philip Mills auction in January 2018 after the auction’s original winner, Richard J. DeRosas, president of Chelmsford-based Paramount Development Group Corp., failed to sign the purchase and sale agreement and was denied an extension by the city.

Demolition of King Philip Mills began in May 2018 with Kfoury initially saying he would invest $4-8 million in the project to create 26 single-family homes and a small park with access to Cook Pond.

State Rep. Alan Silvia made a comment on his Facebook page the following day saying, “Loft and waterview apartments are planned for the mill building between Charles and King Philip Streets,” which will be the only surviving building of the more than 750,000-square foot complex.

First ever ‘Most Preserved Properties List’ released

At the close of National Preservation Month, the Preservation Society of Fall River would like to celebrate properties throughout the city that have returned from the brink to become icons in their neighborhoods once more.

With this, the Preservation Society is pleased to announce its first ever “Most Preserved Properties List.”

Although many of the city’s historic properties are endangered, it’s equally important to recognize the properties of the past recently restored to find places in the community of today.

This list aims a spotlight on some of the most preserved historic properties in Fall River over the last several years.

Lafayette-Durfee House (94 Cherry Street)

The 1750 home of Thomas Durfee and his son Col. Joseph Durfee was frequently visited by the Marquis de Lafayette during the American Revolution. As Fall River’s only restored colonial house open for public tours, the property has gone through major renovations in recent years. Community Preservation Act funding has helped build new drains and a historically accurate roof, repair the exterior stone wall, restore the windows, and rebuild the fireplaces.

Commonwealth Landing (1082 Davol Street)

The former Quaker Fabric Corp. mill was bought in 2010 and 103 market-rate apartments were built on the third, fourth and fifth floors of the building in addition to commercial space on the first floor. Commonwealth Landing opened in 2017.

Curtain Lofts (420 Quequechan Street)

The 140-year-old Wampanoag Mill No. 1 hosted outlet stores from 1976 until 2009. The building was bought in 2010 and converted into 97 apartments over five floors for residents ages 55 and older.  Curtain Lofts opened in 2011.

Cornell Mill (649 Alden Street)

The 192,000 square foot granite mill anchoring the east end of Alden Street was bought in 2016 and converted into 101 market-rate apartments. Cornell Mill Lofts opened in 2018.

Portugalia Marketplace (489 Bedford Street)

The two-story brick building, formerly Norbert Manufacturing, was converted into the 15,000 square-feet Portugalia Marketplace in 2013.

Tipsy Toboggan (75 Ferry Street)

The two-story small building, once part of the Travis Furniture complex, opened as a ski-lodge inspired restaurant named the Tipsy Toboggan in 2012.

Fall River Knitting Mill (69 Alden Street)

In late 2017, work began converting the 150-year old former Wampanoag Mill No. 2 into a100-unit apartment complex. The granite mill will be housing for residents ages 63 and older. In addition to the apartments, the building will have a 5,000-square-foot senior center leased to the city for $1 a year.