Proposed Dowling Village condos would be ‘final piece’ of development

Proposed Dowling Village condos would be ‘final piece’ of development

A conceptual plan shows the 21-unit condominium proposed for an area of Dowling Village with access to Old Louisquisset Pike.

NORTH SMITHFIELD – The developer of Dowling Village appeared before the Planning Board last week to discuss plans for a 21-unit condominium complex on Old Louisquisset Pike, a component he’s calling the “final piece” of the 15-year project off Route 146A.

Brian Bucci, owner of Bucci Development, and his attorney, John Mancini, told board members the complex would be divided into two buildings, one with 15 units and the other with six. The buildings would be constructed on a patch of land behind Planet Fitness and Dowling Village Boulevard that currently includes several single-family homes, only one of which is occupied.

“The area, as you’ve seen if you’ve been there, is dilapidated,” said Mancini. “The developer has not yet incorporated this into Dowling Village.”

Though the complex will officially be part of the Dowling Village project, the parking lot and sidewalks will not have access to Dowling Village Boulevard due to concerns with the steep slope leading up to the road. Instead, the complex will access Old Louisquisset Pike, a primarily residential street that also includes the Rock Cliff Farm housing development.

The complex, according to the developers, will mark the final major addition to a project that has been in the works since 2004. Except for a small commercial pad located between Texas Roadhouse and Buffalo Wild Wings, the proposed lot is the last remaining portion of the property slated for development. Another residential building, consisting of 81 units, is currently under construction on a parcel to the right of Lowe’s.

As the development approaches the end of active construction, Mancini told board members the details of the buildout have changed since the original plans were approved in 2004. The original special use permit approved by the Planning Board in 2004 allowed for mixed commercial and residential use with the number of residential units capped at 76 – later increased to 81 – and the maximum footprint not to exceed 751,000 square feet. Though the current development only covers 552,000 square feet, Mancini told board members the developer is finished with the commercial portion of development and has decided to increase the residential portion due to market changes. If the Planning Board approves the additional residential units, the total footprint of Dowling Village would cap out at about 575,000 square feet, well below the original footprint approved by the board.

“From a big picture perspective, I want to clean up that area, keep my commitment to finishing Dowling Village,” said Bucci.

The garden-style style condominiums, Mancini said, would include two bedrooms each and be priced between $230,000 and $250,000, or $1,500 and $1,700 monthly if rented out as apartments. Though Bucci said these prices would place the units in the affordable range, Town Planner Tom Kravitz noted at least four of the units would need to be sold under deed restrictions in order to meet the town’s requirements for affordable housing. Under the current plan, the complex would include 45 parking spaces, slightly more than two per unit.

At the current application stage, the project does not require a formal vote of approval by the board, though Bucci told members he wanted to gauge the town’s response before moving ahead with the next application step.

“I don’t want to get into a whole protracted situation. If the town’s like ‘We don’t like it,’ then I’ll go pack my bags, work on something else,” he said.
Members were generally receptive to the project, with one member, David Punchak, suggesting they increase the number of parking spaces to allow for visitors. Only one member, Megan Staples, said she was opposed to the project due to her concerns about parking and fire truck access.

“I am not in favor only because from the engineering standpoint, I do not feel it could work,” she said.

Staples added she would prefer to see commercial development on the property, an option Bucci said he has no intention of pursuing due to the parcel’s access on a residential street.

In addition to his appearance before the Planning Board, Bucci also recently met with town officials and members of the Conservation Commission and North Smithfield Land Trust to resolve concerns over access to Booth Pond, a property located behind Lowe’s. The property was jointly purchased by the town and the Land Trust in 2014 with the understanding Bucci would provide an easement through his property at Dowling Village once construction was complete. As construction continues on the 81-unit residential building, Land Trust board member Carol Ayala told The Breeze local conservationists sought an update on the project and reassurance that the agreement still stood.

At the meeting, she said, Bucci reaffirmed his commitment to provide an access point once construction is complete, a date he estimates will occur in another 15 months.