An old downtown Lawrence mill building where workers once produced wool fabric is now helping meet the need for local housing.
Reed Community Partners in June completed the first phase of a project to convert the former six-story Pacific Mills textile building on Methuen Street into 276 mixed-income, multifamily apartments.
The first phase of Pac10 Lofts consists of 180 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. State and federal financing, including $40.8 million from MassHousing, helped cover the $73 million cost.
The first tenants moved into the building in late 2021, with full occupancy expected by the end of this year. Phase 2 will add 96 units in a remaining section of the 550,000-square-foot building.
Daniel McCarthy, Lawrence’s planning director, said the city is pleased the project is coming to fruition.
“Lawrence, like any community, needs housing because we are very small in land size,” he said, “and the greatest potential development is in some of these abandoned or underutilized industrial buildings.”
He said the development also meets the city’s preference for housing serving people with varied incomes and space needs.
“We like to see one-, two-, and three-bedrooms,” he said, “a mix of empty nesters, young professionals, and families — one of our biggest needs is quality family housing.”
The 180 apartments include 130 affordable units — 18 for households earning up to 30 percent of area median income, which in Lawrence is currently $114,000 for a family of four — and 112 units for those earning up to 60 percent. There are also 40 “workforce” units for households earning up to 80 percent of area median income, and 10 market rate.
A series of unforeseen events, including the pandemic and multiple water leaks that damaged a combined 90 completed units, delayed conclusion of construction by about two years.
“This has been an unexpectedly long adventure, but we stayed on the horse,” said Scott Reed, managing partner of Oregon-based Reed Community Partners, citing the help of MassHousing. “From beginning to end, they remained committed to doing whatever it took to ensure this project brought 180 units of high-quality, mostly affordable housing to Lawrence.”
Erected in 1910, the building near North Canal was known as Upper Pacific Mills Worsted Mill Number 10, according to Joshua Blevins, Reed Community Partners’ director of development. He said Pacific Mills had a second location elsewhere in Lawrence.
The Number 10 mill produced worsted wool, used for clothing such as suits and uniforms. With heavy demand for military uniforms, the factory prospered during the First and Second World Wars, Blevins said, but closed in 1957, during a period when much of the region’s textile industry relocated to the South. In subsequent decades, the building was used largely as a warehouse.
Reed Community Partners purchased it in 2016, seeing it as a good fit for the firm, which specializes in redeveloping large historic buildings and transforming underutilized sites.
“These large old buildings are our bread and butter, and it made sense to look for one in a part of the country that was home to the Industrial Revolution,” Blevins said. “We were also excited about Lawrence as a city that we think is going places, and wanted to be part of that journey.”
The project has included a number of elements to preserve the building’s historic features, notably the construction of large wooden windows — all fabricated by specialty crews on site — replicating the original 1910 windows.
McCarthy said the project will benefit the city’s economy, noting, “Having a wide variety of housing types in the downtown brings residents with disposable incomes, who will help local small businesses.”
Agreed Blevins, “When you have people living there, going out shopping at the bodega, buying coffee and doughnuts, stopping by the store to pick up shoes for the kids, that’s what makes these downtowns sustainable organically.”
John Laidler can be reached at email@example.com.