Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 07-09-2020

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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12 WOONSOCKET JULY 9-15, 2020 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION ing notary, copying and print- ing services by appointment and curbside pickup of library materials. "We just kept noticing every day he's coming up to the win- dow and looking in at us and putting his nose up to the win- dow," said McNulty. "He was curious." It wasn't long before they realized an entire family of woodchucks was living in the library's backyard. "A few days later, there were two of them romping around and a bigger one nearby," she said. McNulty shared the news on the library's Facebook page, where a photo of the first visitor quickly racked up 1,500 views. Several volunteers from the Grow-Up Community Garden on the other side of the building said the woodchucks are regular visitors to the gar- den, where they're less inter- ested in books and more inter- ested in stealing vegetables. More than a dozen patrons suggested names for the fam- ily, many of them playing off the woodchucks' bookworm tendencies. McNulty put all the names into a spin wheel app and randomly selected three that seemed perfect: Dewey and Booker for the little ones and Mr. Hoggins for the older woodchuck. "He's the one that's bothering them over at the garden," she explained. "He's hogging up all their food." Along with the woodchucks, McNulty said they get regular visits from a turkey who's been hanging around for more than a year. She's not sure what it is about the location – whether it's the proximity of the river or the sheltered yard just off Clinton Street – but the library seems to be a magnet for critters. The librarians have been busy during coronavirus, she said, offering virtual program- ming on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram and preparing for curbside pickup. They've also taken the opportunity to "weed" the collection, mak- ing it more user-friendly for patrons when they return. Anyone interested in library services or ordering books for pickup can contact the library at 401-769-9044. The Valley Breeze is committed to keeping fun news stories like this one free to our readers. You can be a huge part of this local journalism success story by making a one-time or monthly contribu- tion to what we do every week at Thank you as always for reading. Librarians at the WOONSOCKET HARRIS PUBLIC LIBRARY have named three woodchucks who regularly show up outside the library windows Dewey, Booker and Mr. Hoggins. McNulty said a turkey who's also a regular visitor to the library doesn't have a name yet. CRITTERS From Page One announced in 2018, is expected to host big-name employers like CVS, Fidelity and AAA along with educational partners including Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island in classroom-type spaces for training future employees. Loosely modeled on the Westerly Higher Education Center, Gov. Gina Raimondo and other state officials pitched the idea as a key piece of the state's career and technical education plans during a press conference outside City Hall almost two years ago this week. After the initial announcement, the state went silent about the project, revealing little except to indicate they were seeking a location. That is, until this week, when news broke the educational hub will be located inside the Commercial Block, a vacant former commercial stretch at 95 through 117 Main Street. "To me, this is the biggest news in decades for Main Street. I am really thankful that Woonsocket was chosen," Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt told The Breeze. Along with bringing in educational opportunities for area residents, the project now offers hope as an economic driver for a section of Main Street that has seen little in the way of investment in recent years. Once home to a series of small businesses, the property was foreclosed on in 2010. At the time, tenants complained of water leakage and general neglect, as well as a lack of heating and unpaid util- ity bills. In 2011, investors Christopher and George Stamatos purchased the property, leading to hope the historic structure would see new life. But the problems continued under the new owners, and the building was eventually vacated due to a failure to meet fire and building codes. Those concerns were raised by Rep. Michael Morin, a former city fire marshal and outgoing state representative, when he broke the news of the lease in a social media post this week. Morin questioned whether the location was appropriate for the new education center given the owners' past history of code violations. Morin declined to comment on the matter to The Breeze, but Baldelli-Hunt said those issues have since been resolved. Acknowledging the past history of problems in the building, she said the owners have worked closely with city fire and inspections offi- cials to bring the property up to code. "This is keeping our history alive on Main Street," she said. Baldelli-Hunt said the center is expected to take up the entire third floor of the building, a 15,000 square foot space. In addition to offering new investment in the structure, she anticipates the proj- ect will spur additional development in the store- fronts below and other buildings along Main Street, offering a steady stream of foot traffic as students enter the property. "This is the stepping stone that leads to other suc- cesses on Main Street," she said. That perspective was shared by Garrett Mancieri, a local real estate agent and City Council candidate who helped develop the initial proposal for the project. Mancieri, who serves as executive director of the Downtown Woonsocket Collaborative, a non- profit organization that aims to revitalize the area, said he expects the project will help fill other vacan- cies along the center of Main Street. "I really feel like this is going to be a huge boost to the middle of Main Street," he said "That's not only going to fill that space, but that's also going to encourage other businesses to move into that space." Mancieri was among those who gave tours to state officials when they were looking for a location in 2018. At the time, project coordinators were target- ing Bernon Mills as a potential site, but those plans fell through due to the cost of renovating the space, according to Baldelli-Hunt. Mancieri said he was not involved with the most recent bid to locate the center in the Commercial Block, but was glad to hear it would be coming to Main Street. The choice came about as a result of an RFP issued by the state, according to Baldelli-Hunt. The owners of the Commercial Block responded to the RFP, and the state began putting together an agree- ment to lease the space over 10 years for a total cost of $2.2 million. See CENTER, Page 17 HIGHER ED From Page One Uncle Ronnie's Restaurant & Red Tavern 2692 Victory Highway, Burrillville, RI 568-6243 • U R Fine Food & Spirit RESERVE YOUR TABLE NOW 401-568-6243 INSIDE DINING, DECK DINING AND TAKE OUT (Reservations Suggested) Temporary Hours Wednesday & Thursday 4 p.m.-9 p.m. Friday 2 p.m. - 9 p.m. Saturday & Sunday 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays Full menu available for takeout. Roast House Pub & Restaurant GIFT CARDS 3 Farm St., Blackstone, MA 176 Columbus Ave., Pawtucket, RI Call your local restaurant or visit online at Pawtucket 401-475-1040 Blackstone 508-883-7700 OUTDOOR DINING & TAKE OUT Available at our PAWTUCKET LOCATION Noon to 8 p.m. TAKE OUT Available at our BLACKSTONE LOCATION Local Eats

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