Lawrence, Mass., was once home to the Arlington Mills complex. As one of the largest worsted mills in the world, it consisted of approximately 23 structures. But after the complex closed, the blighted buildings stood as a symbol of the town’s stagnant economy.
Over the course of four years, the teams at Boston-based WinnDevelopment and Chelsea, Mass.–based design firm The Architectural Team worked to transform six of the vacant historic mill buildings into 137 units of mixed-income housing, turning the site into a contemporary residential development that brings much-needed affordable housing to the town and revitalizes the neighborhood.
The first two phases of the project were completed in 2015. The first phase consisted of adapting two buildings, which totaled 160,000 square feet, into 75 mixed-income units. Phase two combined four buildings measuring 120,000 square feet into two new buildings that house 62 affordable units. The buildings were renovated into spacious, loft-style studios and one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments with ceilings that reach 20 feet, exposed brick walls and wooden beams, and large factory-style windows for natural light.
But the team didn’t stop at just revamping the six buildings that would be used for housing. Improvements were also made to the surrounding structures, such as replacing missing windows, repointing masonry, and removing nonhistoric overhead bridges and loading docks. The team also created a riverwalk along the Spicket River, to increase walkability and connect residents with retail, and restored the original clock tower and stairway. The restoration enabled the building to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The city of Lawrence has a poverty rate three times higher than the state’s average. Through a partnership with the local government and successful zoning, Loft Five50 has 15 units reserved for residents with incomes at or below 30% of the area median income (AMI) and 119 units available to residents earning at or below 60% of the AMI.
The complex also features a 15,000-square-foot community room and other amenities, such as playgrounds for families, a movie theater, outdoor lounge spaces, and an educational series that focuses on financial planning, retirement savings, and safe driving practices.