Governor Chafee visits the Design Exchange

Governor Lincoln D. Chafee visited the Design Exchange building in Pawtucket on Tuesday, June 28, as part of his ongoing “Main Street Initiative,” touring cities and towns in Rhode Island. Governor Chafee, Mayor Donald R. Grebien, and several state and local officials, met with small business owners in Pawtucket, including Chris Ladds and Kathy Bartels of LLB Architects, to discuss ways to revitalize the state’s underdeveloped urban areas.

Ladds and Bartels, principals of the architectural firm, spoke about the state and federal historic tax credits that made the renovation of the historic mill building possible. The State’s Historic Tax Credit, which has been obsolete since 2008, was secured back in 2004 by former property owners Phyllis and Morris Nathanson. Many of the past mill renovations in Pawtucket have been made possible with assistance from this Historic Tax Credits program. Governor Chafee is now making the reinstitution of the program a priority in his administration, with stricter regulations and a focus on urban centers.

Constructed in 1880, the four-story brick building was part of the Rhode Island Cardboard Company complex. Dubbed as the Design Exchange for its collaborative design potential on Exchange Street, the project represents the last piece of the puzzle in rehabilitating this important area of Pawtucket, paying homage to the city’s industrial past yet embodying its future as a creative enterprise hub. The Design Exchange complex is envisioned to be a professional live/work community that will contribute to and enhance the adjacent buildings surrounding it, including the Morris Nathanson Design, Riverfront Lofts, and Pawtucket Armory Center for the Arts, already bustling with the activity of designers, craftspeople, and artisans.

The architects were delighted to show off their new offices on the top floor of the building to the visiting government group. Several individuals in the City of Pawtucket have been invaluable resources to help the firm navigate through regulatory challenges and assist in its move to larger quarters.

LLB Architects will bring 25 employees to its new office. “We are bursting at the seams,” said Bartels of their current location in a Victorian house on the East Side of Providence. “We are looking forward to an open floor plan that will truly support collaboration.”

“The firm is really committed to the redevelopment of urban land and we saw this as the perfect opportunity to practice what we preach – sustainability and environmental responsibility,” Ladds said.

LLB Architects expects to relocate by the end of July into their new home at the Design Exchange in Pawtucket. For more information about the building, visit www.161exchange.com. Read more about the Governor's visit through Pawtucket at the news site for the Rhode Island Economic Development Center.