Writing a new chapter for Apponaug
This could be stretching it, but think of the Village of Apponaug as a bookshelf.
There are a lot of books of different sizes. Some have worn bindings, others look to be relatively new. A number of them wear new covers, although you know they’re old. And then there are some that have a traditional look, such as the Walgreens, the Fire Station 1 and Pawtucket Credit Union, that are new but have been designed to blend in with the rest of the books.
Some books leave no doubt of their contents. They even shout it, like Central Baptist Church, City Hall, the Post Office, Honey Dew Donuts and Place Jewelers. Others have an air of intrigue. They look to be homes, but if you’ve been watching you’ve seen them transform with new siding and fresh paint. They have become offices and contemporary housing, although they retain a colonial look. House of Hope has done that. And then there are some pretty ragged books, like the saw tooth building that was once part of the Apponaug Mill and the former Gulf station at the Four Corners.
City planners refer to the saw tooth building with its jagged roofline and broken windows as one of two “bookends” to the village. The other bookend has yet to be built, or for that matter approved by the City Council.
It’s the proposed boutique 127-room, six-story Wyndham Hotel to be built on the east side of the railroad on Station Street overlooking Apponaug Cove. The proposed hotel has been the subject of a couple of community meetings. Apponaug Waterfront Development LLC has filed for a zone change – the land is zoned light industrial and would require a general business zone for a hotel – that could come before the council as soon as May 19.
Close to being a bookend with the saw tooth building is the former Gulf station that offers the prospect of conversion, actual demolition and a reconstruction, sooner than later.
The Historic District Commission recently approved demolition of the service station and the adjacent building housing Gannon Signs, U.S. Nails and Piezoni’s pizza, to make way for a Cumberland Farms. The existing Cumberland Farms further south on Post Road will become the future home of Piezoni’s and possibly other businesses, Mayor Scott Avedisian said. The plan still needs approval from the Planning Board and dimensional relief from the Zoning Board.
But that didn’t stop the mayor from identifying the proposed Cumberland Farms as a significant step in revitalization of the village.
Avedisian is excited for several reasons.
He’s pleased that Cumberland Farms has been receptive to the suggestions of the Planning Department, including such details as the color of the flagstone for walls, lighting and a mansard for the gas pump canopy. The landscaping will include knee walls adjacent to the sidewalk with wrought-iron railing. And although a single story, the convenience store will have dormers giving the appearance of a second floor with residential housing.
Also being discussed is the possibility of the gifting to the city of a portion of the lot abutting state-owned land, which is now used for parking. The parcel runs along Hardig Brook. The thought is that this could be part of a greenway that runs along the brook once the Apponaug circulator has been completed. The circulator calls for the construction of five roundabouts to replace existing traffic signal intersections and a new intersection that incorporates an extension of Veterans Memorial Drive west to Centerville and Toll Gate roads.
Construction is projected to start this spring and be completed in three years.
As a part of the project costing $33.6 million, much of Hardig Brook, now running though a culvert, will be “daylighted.”
The project will restore two-way traffic to Veterans Memorial Drive and reduce the number of vehicular trips in front of City Hall from 30,000 to 5,000 daily, making for a more pedestrian-friendly village center. Complementing the effort to revitalize the village has been a new village zone allowing for mixed use of buildings and easing setback and parking requirements.
As for the saw tooth building, which is owned by the state, Avedisian and planners envision a mixed use of offices, retail and conceivably some residential. With the brook once again exposed to the daylight, planners like the thought of a plaza where group activities could happen or people could simply enjoy a coffee or sandwich while taking in the sun. That would make for one bookend.
“We’re talking with the state about its potential use,” Avedisian said of the saw tooth building.
It’s not going to all happen overnight.
It has been decades since one-way traffic was implemented on a “temporary” basis to relieve congestion. And for decades, plans of a village bypass have been on the boards. Avedisian notes that it is now happening. In the last month, a Christopher Motors building came down and an agreement has been reached for construction of a Verizon tower next to the fire station to replace the antenna on the former mill water tower, which will also come down.
In the meanwhile, a major reconstruction of the City Hall tower has been completed and landscaping of the front of the building with new plantings is set to start.
“There’s a lot of excitement going on in this village right now,” said the mayor.
You might say some old books are being dusted off and being fitted with new covers while some all-together new volumes will be added to the shelf.