Two multi-million dollar developments are being endorsed by the administration as desirable extensions of the medical-business corridor of Kent Hospital and for office development in and around the Airport Connector and City Centre.
Tomorrow night, the Planning Board will consider master plan approval for Tollgate Hill Farms, a two-phase project on Toll Gate Road. Construction could begin as soon as next spring on the first phase, a 54,000-square-foot assisted living facility with 112 beds. The second phase of construction would call for a total of 54,000 square feet of office space on two lots in four buildings.
A separate project at One Metro Center Boulevard, overlooking the Airport Connector, would be a 100,000-square-foot office building similar in design to that on the opposite side of the connector. The project has gained a zoning waiver of the height restrictions to 78 feet for a shielding of roof heating and air conditioning units.
City Planner William DePasquale said the Class A office park would serve to develop a cluster of office buildings bordering on City Centre. Developer Michael Integlia & Company acquired the property when he bought and subdivided the former Leviton Manufacturing site on Jefferson Boulevard. The Metro Center building would be on one of those parcels.
The Toll Gate Road site, of nearly 11 acres, gained city approval as an office park in 2007. At that time, the plan was to build 93,000 square feet of medical office and 62,000 square feet of general office space.
That plan never left the drawing boards and, since then, Stephen Soscia, principal at Mutual Property of Warwick, acquired the land. Soscia is working with Kaplan Development Group LLC of Jericho, New York to build, own and operate the 58-room assisted living facility as part of its affiliate, All American Assisted Living.
In an interview yesterday, Ben Wells, vice president of business development for Kaplan, said the development aims to respond to the needs the company has seen following the Great Recession with an “affordable product.” He said prices would be in the range of the mid-$3,000 per month per individual. Units would consist of two bedrooms with a living area that would have a kitchenette. The units would all have bathrooms.
The objective of pairing tenants, he said, is to foster an environment where people look out for each other. Socialization would be promoted with a wide variety of activities. Transportation for shopping, outings and medical appointments would be provided. The development would have two wings, with the west wing overlooking Route 95 as a “memory care unit.” This would provide a secured environment with a total of 13 units capable of housing 24 people. The wing would have its own dining room.
Wells estimated the cost of the project at $9 million to $10 million. He said, while building codes for assisted living facilities don’t require it, the building would be steel frame construction. Kaplan operates 14 assisted living facilities in seven states, he said.
“This would be neighborhood-friendly,” attorney K. Joseph Shekarcki, said of the development situated between Route 95 and the National Grid power lines that cut through a portion of the land. As the site was already approved for offices, the project would not require a zone change.
DePasquale sees it as complementing medical offices on Toll Gate Road. At a neighborhood information meeting held Thursday night it was also pointed out that the assisted living facility would have a reduced impact on Toll Gate Road when compared to projections for the larger office park. According to a study prepared by Crossman Engineering, the office park, if built as approved in 2007, would generate 4,044 weekday trips. The new proposal would be less than half of that.
Trish Reynolds of the Warwick planning department also notes that the development takes into consideration the preservation of some features of the land reflecting its agricultural history. The proposal calls for some stonewalls, use of old farm equipment as decorative features, small groves and a walking path.
Shekarchi said the development would bring good high-paying jobs to the city as well as tax revenues.
“Tollgate Hill Farms, the newest development by Steven Soscia, will join his many other high class developments in this city. This assisted living facility will be a perfect transitional use for the property – blending the residential character of parts of Toll Gate Road with the medical use that exists due the doctor’s facilities and Kent Hospital. As we continue to see an aging population in the city, this is a perfect fit for answering the need for assisted living facilities. This true assisted living center will allow us to fill a major need in the community,” Mayor Scott Avedisian said in a statement released yesterday.
“This is quite an investment in the state and the city,” said Soscia.
He pointed out that the assisted living and offices provide a good transition to residential neighbors. He said the effort would be to give the facility a “rural feel” with the use of split rail fences and other elements reflecting the land’s agricultural history. Among properties owned by Mutual are the AAA and Landmark buildings on Centerville Road and the Ocean State Theatre on Jefferson Boulevard.
In a release, Integlia notes that the office park designed for Metro Center complements the recently completed Coastway Community Bank on the south side of the connector. The Coastway building was the third and final phase of the company’s Metro East Office Park, which is now fully occupied.
Integlia has yet to announce how it plans to develop the former Elizabeth Mill building that was part of the Leviton purchase. Integlia has sold much of the sprawling manufacturing operation to Dean Warehouse, but the brick mill with its distinctive tower were not part of the Dean acquisition and under the zoning agreement with the city is to be separated from the rest of the property. Initially the city hoped portions of the original mill including the tower could be preserved as an historic and signature feature of City Centre, the land between the airport terminal and Jefferson Boulevard. However, as Integlia has not been successful in finding a tenant or buyer for the former mill, the administration has softened its position and is open to options for preserving some of the building.