ATTLEBORO -- A deal to buy half a rundown downtown block is done clearing the way for the single biggest redevelopment plan since the city's revitalization effort for the center started 20 years ago.
Under the plan, two factory buildings on Union Street between Park and Mill streets will be transformed into as many at 119 apartments, many classed as affordable, while three decaying commercial structures will be demolished.
The deal was first made public last month, but all parties had not signed off at that time.
But Mayor Paul Heroux now says the deal is done.
He was ecstatic in a Facebook post on Friday.
“Great news. The Union (Street) district deal closed today,” he said. “This eyesore of central prime real estate now has a new owner who is going to invest in our city.”
Heroux said he’s been working on the project for more than a year.
Economic development director Catherine Feerick, hired by Heroux in December, was instrumental in the effort.
The mayor said he will address the city council about the plans on Tuesday.
“This is a very big deal and great day for Attleboro,” he said.
Bob Jones who owns the southern half of the block under the names Mill Properties LLC and GAM Realty formed a new company called 1 Union Street Realty LLC and bought the northern half of the block from J.M. Glassman and Sons Nominee Trust for $1.2 million—about $327,000 above its city assessed tax value, and will be developing the property.
The Glassman property encompasses about 1.3 acres while the Mill and GAM properties encompass about 2.7 acres.
According to his attorney Jack Jacobi, Jones intends to develop the block in phases with the Foster Building, which Jones already owned, being the first phase.
Initial plans call for the development of 59 apartments in the five-story Foster Building at 37 Union, which was made notorious after police raided an S & M club on the fourth floor of the structure in 2000 prompting some wags to label the city "Paddleboro."
As many as 60 units could be put into Jones's Composite Modules building at 61 Union, but plans aren't complete and that number could change, Jacobi said.
The announcement about the Union Street development comes as other downtown projects are close to getting underway.
Developer Marco Crugnale is about to close a deal with the Attleboro Redevelopment Authority to buy a 1.5 acre lot on the corner of South Main and Wall streets to build 136 units of market-rate apartments called Renaissance Station South.
Crugnale hopes to break ground in September.
Crunale built the 80-unit Renaissance Station North on the north corner of South Main and Wall streets in 2015.
Meanwhile a six-acre parcel of ARA property on the east side of Riverfront Drive which once was the home of the public works yard and a municipal dump is being cleaned and is expected to be marketed to developers in about a year.
That property lies in the heart of the city’s Transit Oriented Development zoning district which allows for intense mixed use development.
Eliza Datta and her company E3 Development, LLC of Newton and Affirmative Investments of Boston are teaming on the Union Street project and plan to finance it partly with historical preservation money as well as affordable and workforce housing funds from the state.
The apartments in the Foster building will be offered at below market rates.
It was not immediately clear what will happen to Composite Modules, a maker of medical devices, but plans for that structure are not scheduled to be implemented for at least a couple of years.
Jacobi said Jones will be seeking permits from the city immediately in order to meet state deadlines for the historic and affordable housing programs.
Phase II of the development will be the renovation of Composite Modules. Inc.
The third phase will see the demolition of rundown commercial structures including, the Sun Market building and 61-67 Park Street.
There are four store fronts in the Park Street building, but only one is occupied. That business is Express Nails and Spa.
The Guatelinda Bakery fronts on Union, but is located in a back part of the Park Street building.
The spa and bakery will be able to remain until their leases expire, which could be a few years, Jacobi said.
The former Kidstown building next to the Foster building is unoccupied and will be razed to create a parking lot for the Foster apartments.
While some who've posted comments on the internet criticized the construction of apartments, Jacobi and most city officials believe that bringing people into the center to live will revitalize downtown.
Building apartments and encouraging people to live in the center is “the key” to revitalization, Jacobi said.
One of the biggest reasons people will want to live in the center is because that’s where the MBTA commuter rail line is located which many use to get to work in Boston or Providence. Living near the train is considered a great convenience. With more people living in the center, more businesses are expected to locate there.
Because the project benefits the city, Heroux said he has pledged $290,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money to help make it happen.