Pawcatuck — The Yale Urban Design Workshop presented its preliminary design ideas Monday night for revitalizing downtown Pawcatuck and the Mechanic Street mills.
Some of the ideas included building housing on vacant mill parking lots along Prospect Street, a new park along the south end of the Harris Graphics property and apartments at the end of Coggswell Street.
The Pawcatuck Revitalization Organization hired the Yale group to come up with a plan that it could then use to market the area to developers and property owners.
Despite the successful revitalization of neighboring downtown Westerly, portions of downtown Pawcatuck are rundown and the historic mills are underused and in some cases deteriorating.
“Some of these sites may not look great now but they are absolutely full of potential,” Alan Plattus, the director of the Yale group, told the 30 residents at Monday's presentation at the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center.
He said the plan, which will be completed in greater detail this fall, will help property owners and developers realize what can be done with the land and buildings, which are all privately owned.
Plattus said that across the country people are moving back into town centers where they can walk to get the things they need.
“Your town has the basis of that type of community,” he said.
The design suggests apartments be developed along the Pawcatuck River at the end of Coggswell Street and that the Campbell Grain building there be used for artists and craft space.
It also calls for a new riverfront park at the south end of the Harris Graphics property on Mechanic Street, which would contain an amphitheater.
There are various design ideas for a series of multifamily housing units in the vacant parking lots that back up to Prospect Street neighborhood.
Pawcatuck resident Dora Hill said the development might be too intense for the neighborhood but a resident of the street said she welcomed more houses in an area where youths now congregate.
Across Mechanic Street in the mill buildings along the Pawcatuck River, Plattus suggested gradually migrating the industrial and warehousing uses to the south end of the 18-acre site, which would free up the north for public uses such as a market hall or indoor athletic facilities. Courtyards could be created where some buildings now sit and an attractive forecourt could be the center of the development. A pedestrian bridge would span the Pawcatuck River to Westerly.
He said the development could begin in some of the outlying areas first such as the Prospect Street lots while the proposed creation of a planned development zone for the industrially zoned area could unlock new development possibilities for the entire area.
Some residents were concerned about traffic, the type of development and possible contamination of the mill sites.
But Preston Maynard, the vice president of the Community Economic Development Fund, which is helping pay for the Yale design study, warned residents that he has seen many sites like those in Pawcatuck go downhill steadily and become dumping areas and transfer stations.
Plattus told the crowd it was important they all create an overall vision for the area of what residents and town officials want to see on the site.