EAST PROVIDENCE — Benny’s announced last week the sale of most of its properties to the Carpionato Group, nearly bringing about the end of the 93-year-old company’s existence in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
According to press releases issued by both parties, Carpionato, based in Johnston, has agreed to purchase 14 Benny’s locations in Rhode Island, 11 in Massachusetts and four in Connecticut. Benny’s leased two of the 31 properties where its stores were situated, those parcels not included in the transaction.
Two of the properties included in the sale are local: 2715 Pawtucket Ave. in East Providence and 96 Taunton Ave. in Seekonk. Terms of the purchase agreement, which isn’t expected to close until sometime in early 2018, were not disclosed last week, but the website golocalprov.com reported it to be in excess of $70 million.
During a press conference at the Rhode Island State House with leaders of both chambers Wednesday, Nov. 29, Carpionato Group stated its intention to committing more than $100-million to redevelop all 29 of the properties it has purchased.
In a corresponding statement released at the State House gathering, Carpionato said the company is actively seeking a mix of national, regional and local retailers and restaurants for these properties. As part of the redevelopment, Carpionato Group will renovate building exteriors, upgrade parking lots, drainage and address other environmental concerns.
“As a company with a long history in Rhode Island, we understand the importance of investing in our own economy, and this project will prepare these retail locations to continue to be economic engines for the next 50 years,” said Alfred Carpionato, president of Carpionato Group.
The East Providence property was most recently assessed at a value of $485,800, $170,800 for the land and $291,600 for the main structure. The building, according to city records, was constructed in 1920. The Seekonk property was most recently valued at $1.045 million, $561,800 for the land and $483,200 for the building, which was constructed in 1969.
The Pawtucket Avenue store, one of if not the smallest by size in the Benny’s chain, was the first to close on September 27. The Taunton Avenue store was shuttered on Halloween, October 31. Another relatively nearby store, on Central Avenue in North Seekonk, closed the following day, November 1. In total, Benny’s had 715 employees when it announced the company’s closing late last summer. Three stores, including its Branch Avenue location, remained opened at the start of this week.
Of consequence in the deal as well from the city’s perspective, specifically the school department, is the property Benny’s also owned next to the Kent Heights Elementary School. The vacant parcel was most recently valued at $136,700.
The lot, held by the real estate arm of Benny’s owners the Bromberg Family, Century Realty Corp., is used regularly by parents and visitors to the Kent Heights building during the school term. Century Realty currently allows the district to use the property free of charge.
“I have reached out to our local officials to start to talk about the process,” school committee chairman Charlie Tsonos said, adding he has corresponded with some of his counterparts on the city council about the potential to purchase the Pawtucket Avenue lot.
“At this time, there’s not parking at Kent Heights School except for on-street parking,” Mr. Tsonos continued. “But it’s still early. This only happened yesterday (November 30) and I believe the Carpionato group is still working with the Bromberg family to iron out the details. But it’s definitely worth investigating on our part. This has got to go through the city. We can’t as a school department do this unilaterally. Almost all of our schools are facing parking, traffic, health and safety issues, and one of them is at Kent Heights. Maybe we should have looked at doing this sooner, but we need to start internal discussions at this point.”