By CHRISTINE DUNN JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
April 9, 2014: BARRINGTON, RI — The investor who won the former Zion Bible Institute campus with a $3.5-million auction bid in 2011 now hopes to redevelop the 39-acre site as a continuing-care retirement community. Belton Court, the 50,000-square-foot historic stone mansion on the property, located along Middle Highway, would be preserved and reused, according to Samuel Bradner, of the Peregrine Group in Rumford.
Bradner was among the representatives of Shine-Harmony Holdings LLC, the Massachusetts-based owner, who made an informal presentation to the Town Council Monday night. Bradner said ShineHarmony envisions a development with 175 to 200 independent-living apartments, a 50-unit assisted-living facility, and a 25-bed skilled nursing and memory-care home. Additionally, there would be 32 cottage-style “four-plex” units that would probably be offered for sale on an age-restricted basis.
Bradner said a “very preliminary” estimate of the total project cost is $60 million to $70 million, which would include the restoration of Belton Court and 200,000 to 250,000 square feet of new construction. He said the proposed development would contribute “significantly” to the town’s tax base. He added that a public meeting would be held in the near future to give area residents a chance to ask questions and comment before the formal application process begins. The development would require a zone change from the town.
Others who spoke to the town on ShineHarmony’s behalf included Arthur J. Eddy, of the Birchwood Design Group, of Providence, a landscape architect; architect Gerald B. Menke, CEO of EGA Architects, of Newburyport, Mass.; and Eric J. Busch, principal of Rustpoint Advisory, of East Greenwich.
Bradner said that in addition to Belton Court, only two other buildings among the nine on campus might be preserved: a gymnasium building and a small farmhouse that is close to Middle Highway.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Belton Court, built circa 1906, is the former manor house for an estate owned by Frederick S. Peck (1868-1947), a wealthy businessman who was active in Republican Party politics. The Peck estate once included more than 800 acres. From 1950 to 1985, the property was used as a campus for Barrington College, and Zion Bible Institute paid $5.25 million for the property in 1985.
With the auction fee, ShineHarmony Holdings LLC, which is based in Waltham, Mass., paid $3.85 million for the campus. ShineHarmony’s president, Liangming Qi, has an address in Weston, Mass.
Before the October 2011 auction, the Town of Barring-ton had been interested in acquiring the 39.5-acre property. But the Town Council backed out of its $5.2-million purchase contract after a detailed inspection report revealed environmental problems at the site that could have been costly to fix. The report said it would cost $1.59 million for asbestos abatement, on top of $586,300 for immediately needed repairs to Belton Court, $73,000 for repairs to the gymnasium building and $500,000 to demolish unwanted buildings on the campus, including dormitories built in the 1960s.
There was also the unknown cost of dealing with 10 underground tanks identified in the inspection report. Town leaders never intended to restore Belton Court, but the report estimated that cost at $10 million. If the town had bought the property, the council would have sold or leased the mansion to a private developer.
The council canceled plans for a May 2011 Financial Town Meeting vote on the purchase, prompting the owners to auction the property.