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Posted on: September 12, 2022

Barrington Releases Financial Analysis of Carmelite Monastery Re-use Options

Read the 25 Watson Avenue Site Summary Report 09-06-2022 (PDF)

To review all documents and materials from the Committee, please visit the 25 Watson Ad-Hoc Committee page. 

Barrington Releases Financial Analysis of  Carmelite Monastery Re-use Options

Development analysis prepared to assist town in determining uses for the site


BARRINGTON, R.I. – The Town of Barrington announced the release of a site development analysis today for the former Carmelite Monastery at 25 Watson Avenue in Barrington, a town-owned property. The study follows a one-year process established to determine a path forward for re-use of the Carmelite Monastery which included gathering community input, determining the current condition of the building and a market study to assess the economics of the redevelopment options. The Town established an ad-hoc committee to offer local expertise, guidance, and input to the consultant team developing the plan that will best serve Barrington.

At the Financial Town meeting on May 25, 2022 taxpayers rejected a resolution that would have permitted the option to demolish the monastery.  The Town engaged a consultant team led by 4ward Planning, a real estate development consultant, to conduct research, analysis, and offer findings on development options for the Watson Avenue property. 

4ward Planning pursued a three-phase process: Discovery, Design Funnel, and Development Strategy. 

  • The Discovery Phase involved engaging local stakeholders to garner feedback regarding the prospective use, intensity, and quality of future development, an assessment of the developability of the site and its existing building, as well as a market study to determine market receptivity to future development. 
  • The Design Funnel reviewed a series of development typologies, or options, in a range of densities, to help the committee express their priorities, desires, and diversity of views on the site. 
  • The Development Strategy stress tested the Design Funnel options that the committee was most amenable to. This includes a financial analysis to ascertain developer profitability and interest, and a traffic study regarding the capacity of local streets.  It also included a preliminary zoning analysis regarding strategies to create zoning changes that might be required to accommodate the committee's development recommendations.

The initial conclusions of the report by 4ward Planning found: 

Financial Feasibility Analysis:  Except for the building reuse option involving a 21,000 s.f. addition with 44 multi-family rental units, the reuse of the monastery building provides a negative financial return. While the reuse option involving 44 units exhibited a positive financial return rate, it is far too low a rate of return relative to the project’s risk to induce a private developer to undertake the project. Like the building reuse options, the “cottage court” development options would produce either a negative or sub-par positive return rate and, thus, would fail to attract private investment for its production. 

  • “… given that construction costs in most areas around the country (including Rhode Island) have risen more than 40 percent over the past 24 months (with little relief anticipated in the coming few years), coupled with a proposed relatively low-density development, each of the above six development programs failed to achieve financial viability.”
  • “The important takeaway from the analysis performed is that there is little economic value, if any, in preserving the Carmelite Monastery, given the absence of financial viability. It is recommended that serious consideration be given to demolishing the building and permitting increased residential density on the site in order to permit a financially viable development and a return of the town’s acquisition investment.”

Option

Total Development Cost

Cost Per Rental Unit

Cost Per Sale Unit

Re-Use building (24 Units) 

$9,421,207

$392,550

n/a

Option 1a: Re-use building with 12,000 sf addition (32 units) 

$13,686,337

$427,698

n/a

Option 1b: Re-use building with 21,000 sf addition (44 units)

$16,527,607

$375,627

n/a

Eight Three-Bedroom Cottage Court 

$4,576,338

n/a

$545,717

Ten Three-Bedroom Cottage Court

$5,475,960

n/a

$522,396

Fourteen Three-Bedroom Cottage Court 

$7,275,204

n/a

$495,743

 

Traffic Study: The two use options are not expected to have a significant impact on the operations of the surrounding roadway network, and even less impact if the development is age-restricted. 

Zoning: Neither of the two uses proposed by the committee are allowed in residential areas under current zoning. The town’s zoning ordinance would need to be amended for Multi-Family Housing to be specifically allowed on the site while Semi Detached Single Family Dwellings would also need to be defined, and allowed. 

Town Manager Phil Hervey thanked the committee for their work and addressed what’s next for the property.

“The Town worked to offer a fair process and opportunity for board and commission volunteers and interested residents to ask thoughtful questions and express their views,” he said.  “This input, coupled with the findings of the financial feasibility analysis, and the baseline of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, now provides us with meaningful data the Town can use to frame the next steps in re-use of the property.”

The Ad Hoc Committee on Watson Avenue will hold its final meeting on Monday, September 19 at 7:00 PM at the Barrington Public Library. At that time, the committee will discuss the report and its findings before reporting to the Town Council. Representatives from 4ward Planning will present their findings at this meeting, as well. 

The full report can be found on the Town’s website, here

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