Norwood residents are encouraged to attend a meeting being held at the Norwood Boys & Girls Club (42 Frederick Street) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday to go over plans regarding the proposed development of residential housing on the site of the former Christopher Rhodes Elementary School.
For about 70 years the approximately 10-acre parcel was the site of Rhodes School, closing in 2008. The building had a brief occupancy by the Rhode Island School for the Deaf but has been vacant since 2011. Developer Hugh Fisher (of h.a. Fisher Homes) then purchased the property for $325,000, which was approved by the Warwick City Council unanimously back in February.
The plan unveiled back then was to build a target of 29 single-family homes on the land, which garnered praise from the council and residents who were more than happy of the prospect of a derelict building being demolished to make way for more property tax paying citizens. The offer far surpassed another one from back in 2017, also by Fisher, for $117,000.
Reached on Monday, Fisher said that the purpose of the meeting is to provide neighbors of the proposed development an opportunity to raise specific concerns and questions ahead of the development’s hearing before the Planning Board on Sept. 11, 2019.
“We always lay things out and run them by people in the city to make sure we're on the same page,” he said.
Without divulging too many details – Fisher would prefer to give those at the meeting on Thursday – he said that the initial surveying process has taken into consideration the size of the parcel and how many homes will be able to feasibly fit on the land. He said the updated estimate was “pretty close” to the estimate given earlier this year.
Addressing concerns of possible rats being disturbed by the demolition of the building – which Fisher has volunteered to undertake at no expense to the city – he said that he will have experts available at the meeting to answer specific questions, but that he was also doubtful rats would be a significant problem.
“There's usually no food in an abandoned building, but we're prepared to deal with that if any issues come up,” he said.
Fisher also mentioned that he had already conducted an archaeological survey of the land to ensure that there were no significant historical artifacts – such as Native American relics – that would be disturbed by the work. Although his results would need to be confirmed by the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office, he said that there were no such findings on the Rhodes property.
While the plan still needs to be approved by the planning board, Fisher said that he was in the process of lining up the project so it can move forward in a timely manner once approvals are obtained. He thanked Ward 2 Councilman Jeremy Rix for his stewardship of the plan and Mayor Joseph Solomon for his involvement moving the plan forward.
“Everyone is looking forward to getting this building down and getting those homes built,” Fisher said.
Rix said on Monday that he was hopeful people would show up to have their concerns addressed.
“It's mostly about people getting the details that they need. The timeline of when the buildings will be coming down. Approximately how long that will take and what exactly that will look like,” he said. “He's going to have folks at the meeting to address those specific questions and I'm looking forward to the meeting just like everyone else.”