By JOHN HOWELL When Anthony Albanese Jr. of ALBACO LLC bought the former Hunter's Garage in Pawtuxet Village, he didn't know what he would find. He had heard the horror stories about buried tanks and contaminated ground. And then came the questions from
When Anthony Albanese Jr. of ALBACO LLC bought the former Hunter’s Garage in Pawtuxet Village, he didn’t know what he would find. He had heard the horror stories about buried tanks and contaminated ground. And then came the questions from neighbors: What would he do with the property? Would it complement the village?
As it turned out Albanese was not the only one who had an eye for the site next to the bridge overlooking the Pawtuxet River falls.
“I had so many proposals, I had to take the sign down,” Albanese said in an interview Tuesday. He said he had inquiries from scores of businesses interested in renting the building. Proposed uses ranged from a tattoo parlor to a motorcycle shop.
Now, Albanese is looking to take on a project that he says will become a welcoming gateway to the village. Using the existing building footprint, his plan is to add two stories that would house two commercial spaces as well as four one-bedroom and four two-bedroom apartments. He imagines one of the commercial spaces as a restaurant.
“It’s deceiving, it’s a lot bigger than you think,” Albanese said. The garage offers about 4,500 square feet, meaning that the overall project would be more than 13,000 square feet if built as now conceived.
But the project has a long way to go from architect rendering to the point when construction starts. The first of the hurdles is the Warwick Historic District Commission, which has informally reviewed the proposal on two occasions and formally considered it once, Albanese said. He said the commission has reservations.
There are multiple reviews. Albanese lists the Warwick Zoning Board of Review, the Warwick Planning Board, the Coastal Resources Management Council, the Department of Environmental Management and the Pawtuxet River Authority – and that’s not all of them.
Neither ALBACO LLC nor Albanese are strangers to Pawtuxet. Including the former Hunter’s Garage, the company owns 11 properties in the village. Albanese and his family live in the village.
“We love the village,” he said, “We’ve always looked at the building as an opportunity … what can we do to make it a beautiful building?”
He said the first phase of work included cleaning up the property. He said they expected to find two buried tanks, but came up with four. On the positive side, there was no contaminated land.
“I was pleased the property came up clean,” he said.
Albanese will conduct a Zoom informational meeting on Jan. 14 starting at 6 p.m. to outline plans to the community and get feedback. He anticipates questions over lighting, noise, parking and traffic. The Zoom number is 846 8032 6778 and the passcode is 840739.
K. Joseph Shekarchi, who is representing Albanese, said Tuesday that his firm would be looking for input from the Zoom meeting. As his colleagues in the House of Representatives elected him speaker on Tuesday, Shekarchi said he is scaling back his business and that an associate would handle the case.
Concerns over the project have focused on the size of the building relative to other properties and an erosion of the residential neighborhood. The Warwick side of the river is predominately residential although some of the land is zoned commercial, whereas the Cranston side is largely commercial.
Asked when he would like to start construction, Albanese said “tomorrow,” but realistically he projected it could take a year to obtain the necessary approvals and line everything up. As for the project cost, Albanese had one word: “Ouch.”