Plan would subdivide Leviton, save mill
The City Planning Board will consider a minor subdivision tonight that could be a major development for the Warwick Station Development District and the preservation of the iconic Elizabeth Mill tower on Jefferson Boulevard.
MICO LLC, the Warwick development company run by Michael Integlia Jr. and his son Michael Integlia III, is seeking approval to subdivide the 80-acre Leviton Manufacturing property into five parcels. In an unusual move, the division would bifurcate the sprawling manufacturing building to create two buildings. The most southerly would be devoted to a trucking and warehouse operation while the northerly end would be the mill that was built in 1875. Thomas Jefferson Hill built the steam-powered mill and named it for his wife. Two of the remaining parcels, which are open land, would become sites for future development. The third, which is mostly 30 acres of wetlands abutting the Airport Connector, would be left undeveloped.
Assuming board approval and an agreement between MICO and Leviton, the action represents a significant development in city efforts to save the mill from the wrecking ball and establish it as a signature on the fringe of the station district. At this time last year, another group proposing to develop the property planned to tear down the historic mill and other buildings to reduce property taxes.
“We have pledged to seek an adaptive reuse of the Elizabeth Mill,” Michael Integlia Jr. said in an interview Saturday.
That building, he said, is about 100,000 square feet and could lend itself to a mixed development, including offices, retail and, possibly, some residential.
Integlia said his company has had a long-standing interest in developing the Leviton property. They first expressed an interest about six years ago. Other developers, however, advanced plans for a far more intense development, including a combination of offices and retail that, Integlia says, would have transformed Jefferson Boulevard into a commercial corridor and a six-lane highway.
City Planner William DePasquale isn’t surprised that Integlia appears to have put together a deal that works for Leviton and the site. As DePasquale pointed out, Integlia knows the city and has a feel for what will work here. In the past 15 years, Integlia has built 1.5 million square feet of office space in Warwick, a lot of it in Metro Center and on Jefferson Boulevard. The company is currently building headquarters for Coastway Community Bank in Metro Center.
DePasquale feels subdivision of the property is critical to development of the Leviton site.
Integlia said with city approvals and as soon as he closes with Leviton, the portion of the building to be separated from the historic mill will be sold to Dean Warehousing. The company is presently leasing space in the building. Integlia said Dean would use all 500,000 square feet of space to consolidate its Rhode Island operations. He said it would be used for some light assembly work and warehousing, but not for manufacturing.
Hazardous waste from the days when the property was used for manufacturing has been an issue, but Integlia said test wells indicate that has been stabilized. He credits Leviton with addressing the issue and taking mitigating action. Nonetheless, he said the 30-acre parcel with the wetlands, plus an easement for a power line and sewers, poses some environmental challenges. He talked of donating the land to a conservancy group.
Asked if plans for expansion at Green Airport played a role in his decision to pursue the property, Integlia said he can imagine the day of international flights to Paris and London. With a well-educated Rhode Island workforce, Integlia sees the potential of international companies looking for offices here.
The City Planning Department recommends approval of the subdivision with stipulations. They include easements for access and the Division of Water; approval of future development on four of the lots; that the separation of the mill building occur within six months of the subdivision; and that the developer post a performance bond on the work being done to subdivide the property. The board will meet at 6 p.m. in the lower level conference room in City Hall.