The largest brownfields mill redevelopment in New England is said to be ahead of schedule. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker visited the project in Ludlow Thursday.
Baker helped cut a ceremonial red ribbon to mark the formal opening of 75 apartments in a formerly vacant 110-year-old brick building that is part of the Ludlow Mills Preservation and Redevelopment project.
After touring one of the model apartments that feature restored original brick walls, columns and beams, new insulated floor-to-ceiling windows, and loading docks converted to patios, Baker pronounced it “a spectacular reuse of an historic building.”
The apartments, which are restricted for rent by people age 50 and older, are in high demand in Massachusetts, where the governor noted that 30 percent of the population is over age 60.
"If you look at our population demographics around the Commonwealth, senior housing is going to be a real issue for us for a very long time and this was something that was obviously needed in this community," said Baker.
All of the apartments at what is now known as the “Residents at Mill 10” are leased. Cheryl Champagne said she moved into her apartment in August.
" Everything is perfect. I could not ask for anything more," she said.
The $20 million conversion of the four-story, 105,000-square foot building by Boston-based WinnCompanies was aided by $3.5 million in state subsidies and tax credits the Baker administration awarded for the project in 2015.
WinnDevelopment President Larry Curtis said the company is working on getting financing in place to construct housing at Mill 8 – the landmark clock tower building, which was built in 1900 and is part of the official seal of the town of Ludlow.
"Vacant mills that get turned into high quality mixed-income housing demand attention of detail in design, detail in financing and detail in execution," said Curtis.
The redevelopment of Ludlow Mills – a complex of more than 60 buildings sitting on 170 acres along the Chicopee River – is being managed by Westmass Area Development Corporation. The nonprofit developer of large industrial parks purchased the mill complex in 2011.
Westmass CEO Eric Nelson said a master redevelopment plan estimates there will be 2,000 jobs created, $300 million in private investment, and $2 million in new tax revenue for Ludlow.
" We are in the sixth year of a 20-year master plan, but I think we are ahead of schedule with the overall development," Nelson said.
Earlier this week, the town was awarded a $3.5 million MassWorks program grant from the Baker administration to help finance construction of a new street, Riverside Drive, that Nelson said will open up 60 acres at the eastern side of the complex for eventual development.
"I would think within the next 3-5 years we will be heavily underway with new construction out east," said Nelson.
The town has applied for another $3.5 million from the U.S. Economic Development Association to build the access road.