By DALE P. FAULKNER
Sun Staff Writer
WESTERLY — The new owners of 18 duplexes on Bowling Lane hope that their plans to renovate the units will help bring the street on par with other neighborhoods in town.
“This is a beautiful town, there’s no reason why this street shouldn’t meet the standards of the rest of the town,” said Jordan Fallman, asset manager for Origen Property Investments, the company that purchased the units in August.
Boston-based Origen bought the units from Gilbane Real Estate LLC, which acquired the properties when they went into receivership in September 2012 under the ownership of Westlake Housing of Austin, Texas.
Rhode Island Housing, the quasi-public state agency that provides funding for affordable housing projects, has provided deferred payment loan funds and other assistance for the properties since about 1998. The agency, which no longer maintains a financial interest in the property, sought successfully during the receivership to preserve the affordability of the development for at least three years as a condition of acquisition, said Mary Kate Harrington, Rhode Island Housing public information manager.
There are currently 10 vacancies in the 36-unit development. Fallman said his company plans to renovate the units four at a time. The units will receive a new coat of paint, new wood floors, new carpeting, new cabinets, granite countertops and new stainless steel appliances. “We have a specific look that we’ve found brings a tenant who truly cares about where they are living,” he said.
The red front doors that are currently on all of the units will be replaced. To distinguish the company’s houses from others on the street, Fallman said ornamental brass numbers will be affixed to the units. The company will strive to maintain the historic look of the buildings, which were originally mill housing for the nearby Bradford Dye Association.
Origen plans to maintain a neighborhood center for after-school programs and other activities. Fallman said his company is also pleased to see the important role that the Joy Fellowship church, which is located on the same street, plays in uniting the community.
The company owns similar developments in the Boston area and in Hartford. Bowling Lane is the company’s first move into Rhode Island. Fallman said his initial months in Westerly have been devoted to learning about the local housing market and the particular characteristics of Bowling Lane. Moisture, given the high water table in the area and the development’s proximity to the Pawcatuck River, is a challenge that the company will be mindful of as renovations take place, he said.
The renovation work will be done by a team of local contractors and suppliers, Fallman said.
Origen conducted a neighborhood cleanup in early November. Residents enthusiastically participated and then joined together for a lunch of pizza provided by the company, Fallman said. Four dumpsters were filled during the cleanup, Fallman said.
“It was great to get the community together face to face. The turnout was very strong and you could see that these people really do care for each another,” Fallman said. “We were hoping to create a community-like vibe, but it was here already.”
Assistant Town Planner Blanche Higgins said town officials are optimistic that Origen will be successful in its efforts to improve the neighborhood. The town helped build a playground in the neighborhood about 10 years ago and views the area as an important one given its history and the affordability of the housing, Higgins said.