New Hampshire

Cranston Print Works plan pursued


The former Cranston Print Works facility on Cranston Street has stood empty for about a decade. Trees have grown in the gutters and holes have eaten through the roof.

According to Planning Director Jason Pezzullo, the property’s buildings are in a rough state. But that can change. Owners and applicants CPW Apartments LLC and CPW True Storage of Manchester, New Hampshire will appear before the Planning Commission on March 7 for approval of the master plan and zoning of the property; The zoning change will then be presented to City Council at its March 16 ordinances committee meeting.

“We were excited to see that [project] getting to this point for a long time,” Pezzullo said, adding that his department has been working with the applicant for about two years.

Founded in 1824 by William Sprague, Cranston Print Works is the oldest textile printing company in America. In the proposed rezoning ordinance, the city recognized the historic value of the property and its structures while also acknowledging the land’s great potential for reuse and redevelopment.

“The City of Cranston believes that it is in the best interests of the City’s economic wellbeing and community interests to support the redevelopment, revitalization and growth of the Printing Works property so that it again makes a significant contribution to the industrial and commercial area the city can afford the assessment basis,” says the preamble to the ordinance.

Pezzullo said the city is waiting for the master plan to be submitted, but the applicant has proposed multifamily development and self-storage for the property. The plan has changed since the joint site tour attended by Council members and Planning Commission members in August 2021. At the time, individuals heard from the proposer to get a better understanding of the location and scope of the overall proposal.

Pezzullo said the proposal is more modest than what the proposer originally put forward, but it’s not too different from what was proposed in 2021. He believes there are around 130 units for future residents; this number is almost half of what the applicant originally proposed. One of the major differences between the proposed plan and what was shown in 2021 was that the original plans called for detached single-family dwellings towards the rear of the development and another dwelling closer to the dam area. Due to environmental concerns there, it looks like the single-family homes won’t be feasible.

The majority of the property is currently classified at Zone M-1 (Industrial) with a small portion at Zone B-2. The applicant is seeking a rezoning to M-1 with conditions. Currently, M-1 zoning does not allow for residential uses and has restrictions on commercial uses. For this development only, the planning department would like to make an exception to providing an affordable housing component on the property. Pezzullo said this will be discussed in more detail when they get around to it.

The ordinance before City Council Committee members includes five conditions that allow for expansion and redevelopment, including multi-family housing units.

As for the permitted uses of the property, the ordinance provides that all uses, including self-storage and mini-storage, are in the City Code in the M-1 industrial zone zoning plan by operation of law or by special use permit at the Cranston Print Works project. In addition, multi-family housing units and associated facilities for residents (e.g., gym, health club) will be permitted as allowable within the M-1 zone district.

A maximum of 150 units is allowed for density. The maximum building height is set at four stories and 50 feet—with an additional 10 feet for rooftop mechanical equipment. The terms state that the height limit does not apply to the existing bell tower located on the property. The maximum batch coverage is 60 percent.

Off-street parking will be provided in a minimum two-unit ratio. Commercial uses, including self-storage and mini-storage, offer a minimum of 10 off-street parking spaces.

All signs existing on the property at the time the ordinance is passed are legally permissible. Existing signage may be replaced with a sign of equal or smaller square footage, or a smaller height and width.

This project will be a big investment and Pezzullo added that some sort of tax implications will be part of the applicant’s filing. He believes the developer will need to work with the state because of the site’s historic assets.

Prior to the current applicant, Pezzullo said several previous owners tried to do something with the property, but the plans never came to fruition. He’s excited to have CPW Apartments LLC and CPW True Storage (Brady Sullivan Properties) bring their ideas because of their track record of getting things done and being successful in Rhode Island and New England.

If the project’s master plan and zoning change is approved in March, the next step would be to submit a preliminary plan, which will take time.

Looking ahead, Pezzullo said a proposed site like this will be beautiful.

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