< June, 2013 >
Sentinel & Enterprise Article 6/5/2012
Leominster factory-turned-affordable-apartments renamed Water Mill
New name, new beginning
By Jack Minch
@JackMinch on Twitter
LEOMINSTER -- The former Whitney & Co. factory at the corner of Water and Whitney streets that is being renovated into 40 affordable-housing apartments was renamed the Water Mill Apartments on Monday to coincide with NeighborWorks Week.
The name reflects the building's proximity to Monoosnoc Brook in the Comb & Carriage District as well as its history as a mill, said Marc Dohan, executive director of the Twin Cities Community Development Corp., the project's developer.
The CDC started accepting applications for the apartments Monday, he said.
"I have a list a mile long from people calling, for months now, trying to rent here," state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster, said during Monday's event.
The former manufacturing plant will include everything from one- to four-bedroom apartments.
Rents are $640 to $770 a month for the one- and two-bedroom apartments. Rents for the larger apartments are based on income.
Paul Warkentin, an architect with Davis Square Architects, said he likes the use of natural light and high ceilings in the apartments.
Water Mill is already transformed from a dilapidated eyesore for the neighborhood, but construction is not expected to be complete until August or September, which is well ahead of the original late-October schedule, Dohan said.
NeighborWorks Week is a celebration in which thousands of volunteers join to make their neighborhoods better places to live, work and play, according to the Washington D.C.-based group's website.
"This is one of hundreds of events celebrating community revitalization and the ability to get things done to improve neighborhoods," NeighborWorks management consultant Hilary Marcus said.
Twin Cities CDC is one of about 235 community-development corporations nationally that receive financial and technical help from NeighborWorks America.
There are about 14 funding sources for the $15 million project, most of which are banks, including TDBank.
U.S. Rep John Olver, D-Amherst, helped secure an Economic Development Initiative grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Olver suffered an injury while hiking in Northfield on Sunday and was unable to attend the ceremony, his aide, Christen Woods, said.
Pamela Lawrence, president of the CDC board of directors, said her group takes on projects like Water Mill Apartments that the private sector can't do alone.
For the Water Mill project to be feasible, it required the environmental cleanup of a former gas station across the street as well as traffic lights, sewer lines and sidewalks.
Mayor Dean Mazzarella and city officials have a vision for the neighborhood, but the former mill was a blight, Dohan said.
The Water Mill Apartments building is a key element for reinvigorating the entire neighborhood, said state Rep. Dennis Rosa, D-Leominster, who remembers riding down from his Seventh Street home when he was 8 years old.
"I remember all the people who walked to work," Rosa said. "Dozens and dozens of people, so it was like its own community, and I remember how vibrant the community was."
As the years passed, he watched the building slide into disrepair during the 1970s and 1980s.
Its rehabilitation comes with improvements to the surrounding area.
The Spanish American Center on Spruce Street even chipped in on the project, helping the CDC design it so the building would fit into the community.