Shane Brady describes himself and Chris Starr as “mill guys.”
Principals of Brady Sullivan Properties and Starr Development respectively, Brady and Starr have made a career of preserving and transforming the old red-brick factories that helped build New England cities.
In Rhode Island, they’ve teamed up to redevelop properties like the Slater Cotton Mill in Pawtucket, Grant Mill in Providence, Pocasset Mill in Johnston and Anthony Mill in Coventry.
So it comes as no surprise that when Brady and Starr found out that the former American Tourister factory in Warren would hit the auction block after an earlier condominium-conversion project collapsed, they jumped at the opportunity. In February they acquired the 14-acre Tourister property with a winning auction bid of $2.6 million.
“We love doing mill conversions and the location for this one is the best around,” said Brady from his offices in Manchester, N.H. “Our vision is to create a great place to live or hang out and do some shopping. We have been successful with others throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire and I think this is just superior location.”
After several months putting together their plans, Brady Sullivan and Starr Development are now advancing plans to redevelop the old Tourister factory in a similar style to their other mill projects.
Their plans presented to the Warren Planning Board last month call for more than 200 apartments and 85,000 square feet of commercial space in the three-story, red-brick buildings on the banks of the Warren River.
The new plan is similar enough to the 2007 project abandoned by former owner Meredith Management Corp. that it will fit within the approved master plan for that project.
Brady and Starr are now working with town planners on some modifications to the master plan and hope to wrap permitting up before winter.
After watching the property decline over the past decade, Warren leaders have every reason to welcome investment in the Main Street complex.
Constructed starting at the end of the 19th century for Warren Mfg. Co., the Tourister building was used by the eponymous Rhode Island luggage maker for years until it was acquired by the owner of the Samsonite brand.