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Read The Valley Breeze article discussing the Apex Companies’ plan for its new Riverfront Commons development here.

Read The Times article discussing the Apex Companies’  plan for its

new Riverfront Commons development here.

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Text Box: Riverfront Commons would be a mix of retail, office, restaurant


Text Box: By ETHAN SHOREY, Valley Breeze Staff Writer

PAWTUCKET - It appears the Department of Motor Vehicles will finally move out of the Apex building this summer, prompting the property's owner Andrew Gates to begin drafting major redevelopment plans there.

In an exclusive interview with The Valley Breeze, Gates discussed his preliminary plan to create an open air retail, office, and dining complex patterned after the highly popular Garden City Center in Cranston, all in the bustling heart of Pawtucket.

Likely to be christened the Riverfront Commons, this development would be nestled right off Route 95 near the soon-to-be-reconstructed Pawtucket River Bridge. The spot overlooks the downtown and the historic Slater Mill, and is perhaps this city's most recognizable location.

Gates said his ultimate goal will be to attract the right "synergy" of tenants to create "an atmosphere in which the customer wants to come."

"The big challenge is finding the right mix of tenants, the right tenants looking for space," he said.

City officials have called the future redevelopment of the Apex site perhaps the largest single initiative for the future planned revitalization of Pawtucket's riverfront.

The Riverfront Commons plan calls for two main anchor tenants under the building's famed ziggurat roof - the Apex Department Store now in place and a second store, either a grocery market or some other kind of retailer to fill the space being vacated by the DMV.

Gates said a grocery store at the current DMV location would not only help erase the stigma associated with the place, but also fill a need for convenient food shopping in the area. He said, though, that he's open to many different kinds of stores.

Though state officials have indicated their intentions in the past to move the DMV out of Pawtucket, observers say this year it appears they'll actually follow through in transferring the central office for motor vehicle services to Cranston in August.

The move, said Gates, will allow him to finally transform his collage of properties at this "prime" location into a cohesive, more modern shopping complex.

The "riverfront level" of Apex, the side of the building overlooking the Pawtucket River where the Apex Group corporate office, its online www.apexstores.com business, a real estate business, and other affiliated ventures are headquartered, is planned to accommodate more office space.

The riverfront level will likely have an all-new glass exterior and could possibly get its own entrance, according to Gates.

Any changes to the configuration of this property still need to be worked through with city leaders before he moves forward, said Gates.

The owner said he's in talks with about a dozen prospective tenants for the second anchor tenant spot next to the Apex store, and is in discussions with a number of restaurant owners about opening up a family style restaurant in the fully furnished, but now closed, Madhouse Cafe next to the DMV.

A collection of other stores, possibly including coffee shops, smaller eateries and retail shops, and other businesses are planned as part of preliminary drawings for Gates' land located across School Street from Apex. Those businesses would join the already flourishing Apex Tire Center diagonally across from Apex. The tire center could also get an addition, according to preliminary plans.

Gates told The Breeze the smaller stores "will fall in line once we have the anchor tenants resolved." He estimates it will take between "18 months and three years to bring (the entire Riverfront Commons development) to fruition."

The Apex and Apex at Home property is also in line to get a whole new look to go with its new makeup, according to the owner. New signs bearing the Riverfront Commons logo will be installed, new lighting added to go with the more ornate updated lighting in the area.

More attractive brick added throughout and an enhanced landscaping design would help complete a new "nicer New England style" look for the complex, said Gates. Still uncertain, he said, is whether the iconic tiered Apex pyramid will be modernized or left as is.

Starting in August, the DMV is expected to move into the former Department of Human Services building in Cranston. Officials say they plan to close the Pawtucket DMV office on a Friday that month, opening the new facility as quickly as possible the following week. The pending loss of the DMV and its long lines of waiting motorists will allow for greater parking availability during the day, according to Gates, addressing occasional complaints from Apex shoppers that there are not always enough spots to park.

Founded in 1924 by Gates' grandfather Albert Pilavin, as a Providence tire rebuilding company, Apex was moved to neighboring Pawtucket following the hurricane of 1938. Once in the city, the company expanded to offer a variety of products. The name Apex was formed using Pilavin's initials and his affinity for the word as it relates to attaining the highest level of success, according to the company Web site, www.theapexgrp.com .

By the 1960s, another Apex store was opened near the malls in Warwick, followed nearly 20 years later by another in the Swansea Mall. Apex had quickly grown into a full department store featuring clothing for men, women and children, as well as other home products.

The state DMV moved into the Apex building in January of 2004, three years after the Apex Department Store was downsized to about half the building as part of the consolidation of the Apex brand in southern New England. After big-box stores like Walmart and Target changed the local shopping scene, stores like Ann & Hope and Apex found it more and more difficult to compete.

The modern collection of Apex companies offer retail, consulting, financial, real estate, investment and manufacturing services, among others.

Text Box: Corporate Headquarters ▲ 100 Main Street ▲  Pawtucket  ▲ Rhode Island  ▲ 02860 ▲  800.450.APEX   401.729.7200  ▲ TheApexCompanies.com

Tuesday, 13 July 2010




PAWTUCKET — Apex — a name long synonymous with quality department store shopping in the Blackstone Valley — will become part of an exciting new village-style retail complex that is being planned at the existing Main Street site.

Andrew A. Gates, president and CEO of the Apex corporation, said that a major development plan for the seven-acre property has been in the works for several years. Once the state Registry of Motor Vehicles facility moves out of its leased space, work will begin in earnest to find a retail tenant to serve as a key anchor store.
The Apex store will remain, Gates said, but a search is also on to find a restaurant tenant to occupy the former Mad House Cafe. Additionally, the rear of the property, which now partially houses the Apex corporate offices, will be extensively renovated for use as office or commercial space.
The entire complex will be called Riverfront Commons, said Gates. Plans call for the site, including the parking lot and an additional smaller parking area across the street, to be attractively landscaped. As part of the renovations, overgrown wooded areas will be opened up to provide more views to the nearby Pawtucket River.
 “We want to make the shopping area more attractive so it becomes its own destination,” said Gates. “We want to give it more of an old New England feel, using stone and brick, as well as keeping the flavor of the riverfront.”
As he walked the property recently with a Times reporter and photographer, Gates pointed out the close proximity to the river, which flows along the rear of the property, and the scenic views that will be afforded when some of the bramble and brush is cleared away. He envisions the commercial space at the rear of the property as having a wall of windows overlooking the river. The restaurant, in particular, will have a deck area that can make use of the views of the dam and water falls on both side of the Main Street bridge and the historic Slater Mill.
“The inspiration with Riverfront Commons is to take the old and the new and blend it together to come up with a really cool place for people to be,” he stated.
The timing for such a renovation also plays into the extensive redevelopment of a new Pawtucket River Bridge that carries I-95 in both directions. The bridge, featuring attractive architecture and lighting, flanks the Apex site and provides easy access for motorists traveling from both the north and south.   Future plans for a bike path and scenic development of the riverbank areas under the bridge will  further enhance the area, Gates said.
Apex was founded in 1924 by Albert Pilavin, who began as a tire retailer in Providence and later expanded into general merchandise. After the 1938 hurricane, Pilavin moved his operations to Pawtucket, and the Apex department store flourished for many years at 505 Central Ave.
Gates noted that Apex has been a retail presence in Pawtucket since 1938 and has been at its current location at 100 Main St. since 1969. “We're going to take what has been a long-term, great shopping area and expand it to be a mixed use shopping center with a restaurant,” said Gates. “The key for us is to get the right mix of tenants,” he added, noting that he would especially like to lure a grocery store or other major retailer as a main anchor.
While the department store made the decision to scale down and drop its mattress and major appliances departments at the Main Street location in the mid 1990s, Apex has continued to draw loyal customers for its lines of clothing, domestics, home décor, kitchenware and small appliances. In 1996, Apex became one of the first department store retailers to launch an on-line shopping website, which has proven to be very successful, said Gates. In addition to the retail end, since the 1990s, Apex has been heavily involved in real estate management and property development, so the Riverfront Commons plan fits right in.
Gates said that while he hopes to soon have a new tenant for the restaurant, the rest of the Riverfront Commons project is not expected to be completed for approximately two years. He said there are still many meetings to be had with city officials, but he is excited about working with the city to bring the Riverfront Commons project to fruition. “We are looking at this as a great opportunity to advance Pawtucket,” he said.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 14 July 2010 )

Village shopping planned at Apex site