WOONSOCKET — Main Street has a new business operating in the former Woonsocket Institution for Savings building at 154 Main St., and it could be a model for what the city would like to see happen in its former prime business district.
The business is the Bella Mente Counseling practice operated by Beth Mancini, a licensed clinical social worker and behavioral health counselor, in 5,500-square-feet of space on the second floor of the former bank headquarters.
To be sure, Mancini’s work creating a large, relaxing and opulently highlighted counseling suite was aided by the original layout and treatment of the banking offices on the building’s second floor but also shows a good deal of personal attention to detail nonetheless.
“She has turned it into a modern, state-of-the-art office,” Garrett Mancieri, the real estate broker connecting Mancini with landlord Tom Sprague, said of her renovation work as the office held its grand opening on Thursday.
Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt pointed to Mancini’s noteworthy investment on Main Street while joining the grand opening just across the street from City Hall.
“I never expected the amount of square footage when I walked into this section of the building and it is extremely impressive, the amount of effort and work that was put in to transform it into this space,” Baldelli-Hunt said.
“It is just a true testament to the investment that Beth has in her business and in the City of Woonsocket,” the mayor offered.
“She outgrew the location that she was in and she indicated that her because her business continues to grow she wanted to be certain that she had additional space that would be available to her,” the mayor said. “I would say this is probably the nicest space I’ve seen,” Baldelli-Hunt noted, while pointing to the renovated office space as a potential model for other Main Street renovation projects.
“She has incredible taste and she has a talent in renovating and decorating in general so clearly your walking into an area where No. 1, you’re feeling welcome, you’re feeling calm, and you’re feeling very comfortable – so she did an outstanding job,” Baldelli-Hunt said.
Mancini is the longtime girlfriend of Steve Lima, the city’s planning and development director, and he also saw her work at 154 Main St. as good news for Main Street overall.
“The mayor and I have talked about how we would like to get some nice, modern looking, new style businesses on Main Street because it would bring a lot of new people into the Main Street area,” he said.
Mancini’s business is an example of what can be done to that effect, he noted. “Anything that can bring Main Street back, I think that is important,” Lima said.
Sprague, a principal in the Museum of Broadcast Technology located next door at 144 Main St., also praised Mancini’s renovation work on Thursday.
“It was a nice space to start with because when it was built 50 years ago, it was the executive office Woonsocket Institution for Savings,” Sprague said.
Many of the features of the second floor of 154 Main Street, the high quality trim and fixtures, were already in place and just in needed of new paint or refurbishment, according to Sprague. The new flooring, ceilings, color scheme and office furnishings were all Mancini.
“She did an excellent job,” Sprague said of Mancini rework of the bank’s former mortgage origination department and executive offices.
“She didn’t do what I would have done, but she did what she wants and needs which is actually the right way to do it,” he said.
“You have the tenant come into the raw space and develop it so that it’s their vision and not the landlord’s vision,” Sprague said.
“You need the right landlord and the right tenant and you have work together, and if you do that then you can develop the space very nicely in a way that works for everyone, and probably fairly economically,” Sprague added.
Before she snipped the ribbon for the office opening, Mancini took time to thank everyone involved in getting her renovation project completed-- her family, her friends, her clients, Baldelli-Hunt, the city council, Sue Morin, another counselor on Main Street who helped her get her independent practice running, and all the people giving their time and energy to the project.
“I was raised in Worcester, moved to Sutton, and moved to Rhode Island just about ten years ago and never thought that one day I would be opening a practice the city, but here I am doing just that,” Mancini said.
A clinical social worker for 25 years who had been regional director of behavioral health services for Metro West Medical Center before setting out on her own, Mancini credited Morin with giving her the initial office space she needed to start growing her practice and also Lima, his family and her own for supporting her through the development of her new business endeavor “in more ways than I could ever count,” she said.