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A developer wants to build a 7-story high-rise in Al Mac’s Diner plaza. Here are the plans

FALL RIVER — A proposal to tear down the shopping plaza at 101 President Ave. would replace it with a 350-unit apartment high-rise, according to plans submitted to the city Planning Department. 

Developer 1265 Main Street LLC of Waltham is interested in buying the 3.3-acre plaza and demolish the buildings on the site. It would be replaced with a seven-story apartment building with about 10,000 square feet of retail and commercial space on the first floor.

The plans do not indicate where the iconic Al Mac’s Diner would fit in the development. The area where Al Mac’s Diner now sits is illustrated as seven parking spaces.

However, Ken Fiola Jr., executive vice president of Bristol County Economic Development Consultants, said “there’s no thought of moving them from the location.”

He said BCEDC is working with the developers to help facilitate the project.  

Frank and Nicola Marchione currently own the plaza — which includes the Al Mac’s Diner building itself. The diner business is owned by real estate agent and City Councilor-elect Cliff Ponte and operated by the Ponte family, which leases the iconic structure from the Marchiones. 

The historic stainless-steel building was constructed in 1953 and is included in the National Register of Historic Places and in the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s database

Hundreds of housing units coming: A former Fall River church and two mills will be converted into market-rate apartments

What do the developer’s building plans look like? 

Developer 1265 Main has not purchased the property, and its plans appear to be in the initial stages. In an interview Oct. 30 with Frank Marchione, he said the developer is doing “preliminary due diligence” before a possible sale.  

1265 Main is seeking a zoning variance to demolish the plaza and build a mixed-use high-rise and parking garage. Among other waivers, the developer wants variances for parking requirements, type of use, unit count and building height in a Local Business and Housing Development Overlay District.  

The developer’s plans call for a seven-story building that’s 80 feet high — twice as high as the maximum allowable building height in this district of 40 feet, according to Fall River’s building code

The plans call for 350 apartment units and a 350-space, five-story parking garage. The first floor would contain 10,000 square feet of retail space. The building would feature a central courtyard. 

The plans show the apartments would be primarily one-bedroom apartments of 750 square feet, comprising 60% of the units. It would also feature 550-square-foot studios, comprising 10% of the units, and several oversized 980-square-foot one-bedrooms. A quarter of the units would be 1,060-square-foot two-bedroom units.  

The development would be steps away from the Fall River Depot MBTA commuter rail station.

Fiola said part of the Route 79-Davol Street Corridor’s longterm plans include increasing housing stock in the city. He said the city has a 2% housing vacancy rate and that the city needs a greater supply to meet the demand.

“The more residential development that you do, and you increase the supply, that ultimately will lower rents,” Fiola said.

Where would Al Mac’s Diner fit in to the development? 

It is not immediately visible in 1265 Main’s plans where there is room for Al Mac’s Diner, which has occupied that space on President Avenue since 1974.  

The business originally started life as a horse-drawn wagon in 1910 driven by Al McDermott. The stainless-steel structure was built by the DeRaffele Manufacturing Co. of New Rochelle, New York, in 1953, and is the oldest DeRaffele diner in Massachusetts. The building was previously located across Davol Street about where the Veterans Memorial Bicentennial Park parking lot is today. 

Diner history: A look at Al Mac’s Diner

In an interview Oct. 30, Al Mac’s owner Ponte said he did not foresee or intend for the diner to move again, saying that brief initial talks with the developers included “positive words of encouragement for us that they plan on having us part of the development.” 

“We have a long-term lease, and we fully intend to be there for the length of the lease if not longer,” Ponte said at the time. 

“We’ve had conversations with the Ponte family as it pertains to the future of Al Mac’s, and there’s no intention to be removing Al Mac’s from the overall project itself,” Fiola said on Friday.

While the plans show a parking lot where Al Mac’s now stands, Fiola said the plans are generic and “a little more than conceptual,” and are more illustrative of what zoning relief 1265 Main is seeking as opposed to what the building’s final design would look like.

“There’s different ways to skin the cat here, so that’ll all be incorporated into the final design,” Fiola said. “The good thing about the Al Mac’s building itself, as it’s currently configured, is it’s a standalone building. … You can work a design around it so it stays in that location.”

Fall River Historical Commission: Funding available for historic structures like Al Mac’s

The city Historical Commission on Monday voted to have Chairman Jason Bouchard-Nawrocki send the ZBA a letter “in support of preservation, relocation, [and] listing alternatives” for the historic building. 

Al Mac’s is also listed on the city’s list of significant structures; any future attempt to demolish the diner would face an automatic six-month delay. 

The board noted that funding is available to the diner’s owners to help preserve or move it, including possibly Community Preservation funds.

The Zoning Board of Appeals will hear the developer’s petition for the variances on Thursday, Nov. 16, at 6 p.m.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story indicated that the diner was not included in the developer’s plans. This story has been revised with more information.

Dan Medeiros can be reached at dmedeiros@heraldnews.com. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.

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