Old R.I. Reform School to be Lifestyle Center


History will meet contemporary lifestyle center design in December, when Chapel View opens in Cranston, R.I. A historic old school and church will be reborn as a village-style retail, residential and office complex.

The $72 million project, by Johnston, R.I.–based Carpionato Properties, will incorporate new facilities into much older campus buildings, says Kelly Coates, a Carpionato senior vice president.

“These buildings are so beautiful,” he said. “The oldest is 112 years old.” Chapel View involves the conversion of what had been the Sockanosset Boys Training School, a state-owned correctional and educational facility not unlike the one immortalized in the 1938 movie Boys Town. The Sockanosset school, founded in 1898, closed in 1995.

Carpionato is creating a seven-building complex that will house 220,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, 80,000 square feet of offices and 80 residential units totaling 70,000 square feet. The 30-acre site is near routes 2 and 37 as well as interstates 95 and 295.

This project involved careful collaboration with both the Cranston Historical Society and the Rhode Island Historic Preservation & Heritage Commission. Thankfully, those parties were familiar with Coates’ work — and had a great deal of faith in him, says Frank Del Santo, the historical society’s president. “Anything he’s done has been outstanding,” said Del Santo.

Whatever the development challenges (a 40-foot variance in elevation among them), they generally translated into opportunities on the design end, which combines Victorian Gothic elements and a modern supermarket. “It’s a very exciting project,” says Mary McCarthy, vice president of corporate business development at Boston-based Cubellis Associates, the architect.

The heart of the site is the granite Victorian chapel that will be converted inside into an upscale restaurant.

Among the architectural tests was the joining of three former dormitories into a single facility with both retail and residential space. The structures were sound enough, Del Santo says, but they had fallen into considerable disrepair. “Birds, pigeons were in there,” he said. “It was quite a mess.”

Carpionato had to replace slate roofs, and Italian masons rebuilt a roughly two-foot-thick stone wall surrounding the property.

With the exception of the Shaw’s supermarket anchor and the chapel, the buildings will combine ground-floor retail with residential and/or office space above. The homes, ranging from 700 square feet to 2,200 square feet, will cost from about $300,000 to roughly $1.5 million.

The retail will include five to seven restaurants, and such high-end merchants as Bombay Co. All the tenants but Shaw’s are adapting their storefronts to the Victorian design. Rents range from $20 per square foot to $40 per square foot, with CAM charges between $5 per square foot and $7 per square foot.

“We’ve gotten a significant amount of interest [from national retailers], and also from mom-and-pops,” said Mark Briggs, Carpionato’s director of leasing. “The key is to find the right combination.”

The trade area’s population is 198,443, and the average household income exceeds $66,468 a year, the developer says