City wants to level River Street mill

NEXT RE-DEVEL­OP­MENT TAR­GET

Woonsocket Call - - Front Page - By RUSS OLIVO ro­livo@woonsock­et­call.com

WOONSOCKET – Bor­row­ing a strat­egy that other com­mu­ni­ties have used to re­store aban­doned, blighted real es­tate to the tax rolls, the city has pe­ti­tioned into receivership the own­ers of the de­funct fac­tory com­plex known as Do­rado Prop­er­ties LLC.

Though Do­rado rep­re­sents sev­eral struc­tures, the im­me­di­ate tar­get of the Su­pe­rior Court ma­neu­ver is 719 River St., a ram­bling wood and brick build­ing in such dis­re­pair it’s not just an eye­sore but a threat to pub­lic safety, city of­fi­cials say. Built in 1890, the mill is owned by one­time Do­rado prin­ci­pal Robert Pic­ciotti Jr. of Nar­ra­gansett, who owes some $737,000 in back taxes and util­ity fees on the par­cel, in­clud­ing 2.2 acres of land over­look­ing the Black­stone River.

Though the city pe­ti­tioned Do­rado Prop­er­ties into receivership months ago, the mat­ter is get­ting some at­ten­tion now be­cause the Law De­part­ment wants the City Coun­cil to au­tho­rize the de­mo­li­tion of the prop­erty. The job is ex­pected to carry a price tag of around $150,000, a tab the city would be re­quired to cover, at least pre­lim­i­nar­ily, ac­cord­ing to City Solic­i­tor John DeS­i­mone.

The­o­ret­i­cally, the city would be re­im­bursed, but when and to what ex­tent are ques­tions DeS­i­mone and lawyer John A. Dorsey, the cour­tap­pointed re­ceiver in charge of the par- cel, are ex­pected to ex­plore with mem­bers of the coun­cil dur­ing a work ses­sion in City Hall tonight.

DeS­i­mone says the whole point of the receivership petition is to force the owner’s hand to do some­thing with a prop­erty that’s es­sen­tially been aban­doned. If the city does noth­ing, he said, it’s very likely the par­cel will lan­guish for the fore­see­able fu­ture, con­tin­u­ing to pose a pub­lic safety haz­ard with­out gen­er­at­ing any fis­cal ben­e­fit for the city.

In a receivership petition, the court typ­i­cally ap­points a man­ager of sorts – the re­ceiver – the set­tle up the debts of the own­er­ship en­tity that is the tar­get of the ac­tion. In this case, the court has ap­pointed Dorsey to over­see the liq­ui­da­tion of Do­rado’s real es­tate as­sets at 719 River St.

As re­ceiver, Dorsey is now call­ing for the de­mo­li­tion of the 83,000-square-

foot prop­erty as a first-step to­ward get­ting the par­cel ready for re­sale. The pro­ceeds from such a trans­ac­tion could be put to­ward the owner’s debts, in­clud­ing the de­mo­li­tion costs and over­due taxes

With the court’s ap­proval, Dorsey has al­ready ob­tained bids for the de­mo­li­tion of the par­cel, ac­cord­ing to DeS­i­mone.

The city solic­i­tor says receivership is a par­tic­u­larly use­ful tool in this case, be­cause it gives the city a great deal of lever­age over the fate of the par­cel with­out ac­tu­ally as­sum­ing the risks of own­ing it. Given its his­tory as a tex­tile pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity, for ex­am­ple, the site may re­quire some en­vi­ron­men­tal re­me­di­a­tion in the fu­ture.

Though the time­line is un­cer­tain, DeS­i­mone be­lieves the like­li­hood that the city will be even­tu­ally be re­im­bursed for the de­mo­li­tion is very good, since the city ini­ti­ated the petition. Al­ter­na­tively, the city has noth­ing to gain and a wors­en­ing pub­lic safety is­sue on its hands if it al­lows the par­cel to re­main idle.

“It’s a no-brainer be­cause, let’s face it, it’s a pub­lic safety is­sue, and prob­a­bly you’re go­ing to find haz­ardous waste there,” said DeS­i­mone. “Ob­vi­ously, the owner of the build­ing has pretty much aban­doned the prop­erty.”

City Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Dan Gen­dron said he’s been briefed on the pro­posed de­mo­li­tion and wants to hear more de­tails about the plan be­fore he takes a firm po­si­tion on it. Among the ques­tions he has are how much the de­mo­li­tion will cost and how likely it is that the city will be re­im­bursed – for all or part of it.

“It’s a wise thing, per­haps, to do th­ese things with­out tak­ing own­er­ship of the prop­erty,” said Gen­dron. “I’m not say­ing I’m against it, I just want to know what our chances are of get­ting our money back – at any point.”

Of­fi­cials are keenly aware the pub­lic safety nui­sance the build­ing poses. Not long ago, Gen­dron said, the city hired a com­pany to erect a tem­po­rary chain-link fence around it.

While other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have turned to receivership as a sort of re­de­vel­op­ment tool, DeS­i­mone said the petition against Do­rado Prop­er­ties is a first for the city. He said he filed the petition shortly af­ter he was ap­pointed solic­i­tor in Jan­uary.

Tax As­ses­sor El­yse Pare, the for­mer deputy tax as­ses­sor in Providence, said the law de­part­ment in that city had used receivership pe­ti­tions to gain some lever­age over prop­er­ties in the hands of ne­glect­ful own­ers.

The city has pre­vi­ously at­tempted to drum up in­ter­est in the par­cel by list­ing it for sale in an auc­tion of tax-delin­quent prop­er­ties, but no one seems in­ter­ested, given the ex­ist­ing con­di­tion of the site.

Back taxes have been ac­cru­ing on the par­cel at the rate of about $17,000 a year, not in­clud­ing in­ter­est and penal­ties, ac­cord­ing to city records. The tab cur­rently stands at $737,832, in­clud­ing $16,443 in un­paid wa­ter and sewer fees.

The fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions associated with 719 River St. rep­re­sent only a por­tion of Pic­ciotti’s debt to the city. He owes roughly $1 mil­lion in back taxes and fees on sev­eral parcels, in­clud­ing $219,000 on a 3,025-square-foot struc­ture lo­cated at 787 River St., ac­cord­ing to the as­ses­sor’s records.

No ac­tion is ex­pected at tonight’s work ses­sion, but if the coun­cil reaches a con­senus of ap­proval on the pro­posed de­mo­li­tion, mem­bers may put it up for a vote at a reg­u­lar meet­ing in the near fu­ture.

Photo by Joseph B. Nadeau

The Do­rado Prop­er­ties mill com­plex on River Street is be­ing tar­geted for de­mo­li­tion by city of­fi­cials who say the own­ers owe $737,000 in back taxes on the prop­erty.

Photo by Russ Olivo

The mill com­plex, a com­bi­na­tion of brick and wood struc­tures in vary­ing states of de­cay, spans 83,000 square feet di­rectly over­look­ing the Black­stone River.

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