WATERVILLE — North River Co. has secured financing with its partners and is ramping up construction on a $40 million project to develop the former Lockwood Mill at 6 Water St. into 65 affordable housing units.
North River has been working inside the building for many months on abatement and cleanup issues, but major construction was delayed because of several factors related to the coronavirus pandemic. The public now will see a lot more activity at the site, according to Mariah Monks, a director at North River.
“This project was super delayed because of challenges with mostly construction pricing and all the challenges that came with trying to develop a property in the midst of COVID,” Monks said Monday. “It was a very long, challenging process and we’re very happy to have closed on the financing and be full steam ahead on construction.”
The contractor for the project is Cianbro Corp., which also is replacing the Ticonic Bridge located adjacent to 6 Water St. and spans the Kennebec River between Waterville and Winslow.
As part of the housing project, about three-fourths of the building will be redeveloped into 29 one-bedroom, 22 two-bedroom and 14 three-bedroom units on five upper floors of the southernmost wing of the six-story building parallel to the bridge, according to Monks. About a third of the 65 units will be completed in 2024, with more units completed in 2025 and 2026, she said.
“It’s a staggered opening, meaning units will be available over the next three years, starting at the end of 2024,” Monks said.
The work was initially projected to cost $30 million but that figure since rose to the current estimate of about $40 million.
Rental costs will be tied to the local median income, and all the units will be marketed, leased and managed by the Waterville Housing Authority, she said. North River worked on the project with the Maine State Housing Authority, an independent authority created by the state Legislature to address problems with unsafe, unsuitable, overcrowded and unaffordable housing.
A commercial space will be developed in less than 4,000 square feet of the building and North River is talking with potential tenants for that area, according to Monks.
City Manager Bryan Kaenrath said Monday that he sees the project as a major piece of revitalization because it will mean affordable housing within walking distance of downtown and lead to the redevelopment of a large building that’s been vacant for many years. The building, which is at the entrance to the city’s historic South End, will serve as an anchor for continued revitalization efforts.
“It’s going to be a huge asset to our continued renaissance of Waterville,” Kaenrath said.
Garvan Donegan, director of planning, innovation and economic development for the Central Maine Growth Council, echoed Kaenrath, saying the project is poised to have a substantial economic impact on the city and downtown.
“Beyond its aesthetic contribution to the skyline, this strategic investment is anticipated to further invigorate the local economy, providing projected noticeable benefits for the city, from increases in housing stock, population and downtown foot traffic, to creating supply and demand economic development opportunities,” Donegan said.
North River closed on financing with its partners last week and is using three types of tax credits: low income housing, federal historic, and state historic tax credits, according to Monks. Last year, the mill project was also awarded $1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act financing.
North River also owns 8 and 10 Water St., the latter of which is the Hathaway Creative Center, the southernmost building of the three Lockwood mills. That building has 67 occupied housing units on upper floors, as well as other entities throughout the building including MaineGeneral Health offices, Cianbro, Hathaway Mill Antiques, Valley Beverages, Bricks Co-Working & Innovation Space, Dirigo Labs, Curtis Construction, Swish LLC, Geno Typing and Minuteman Security.
Monks said brick work will be done on the 6 Water St. building but most work will take place inside the structure, including replacing windows to historic standards. All materials used for the redevelopment will mimic original materials, she said.
The wing of the building parallel to Water Street will be redeveloped as part of a second phase and plans for that wing are being finalized now, according to Monks. She said the wing is in better shape than the part of the building being redeveloped now.
A further phase also would include redeveloping 8 Water St., the building located between the two others. Monks said that building is in better condition than 6 Water.
“So it won’t be as heavy a lift as 6 Water St. has been,” she said. “That’d probably be phase three. We’re sort of in pre-development planning for that phase.”
The three buildings were called the Lockwood-Duchess Mill complex where textile manufacturing was conducted for many years until 1956. The southernmost mill building on Water Street was home to C.F. Hathaway Co., a shirt and clothing manufacturer, from 1957 to 1992.
The buildings, built in the late 1800s, were designed by mill complex architect Amos Lockwood. North River bought the buildings at 6 and 8 Water St. in 2019 for $1.5 million from Paul Boghossian, who developed the Hathaway Creative Center. North River bought the center from him in 2017 for $20 million.
The northernmost mill building, at 6 Water St., was owned previously by Marden’s Surplus & Salvage, while Central Maine Power Co. used the middle building, at 8 Water St.
North River is a privately held real estate investment and management firm based in New York City. The company also owns the Fort Andross Mill in Brunswick and mills in Portland, Boston and New York.