WinnDevelopment Starts $55.3M Adaptive Reuse of Historic Mill Complex in Western Massachusetts

by Jeff Shaw

HOLYOKE, Mass. — WinnDevelopment has broken ground on a $55.3 million adaptive reuse transformation of a long-vacant, historic mill complex that will be transformed into 88 affordable apartment homes for seniors age 55 and older. The project is located in Holyoke, a suburb of Springfield.

The redevelopment at the Appleton Mill property in downtown Holyoke will create new loft-style apartments in three interconnected, 111-year-old industrial buildings that were once home to the Farr Alpaca Co. and have been vacant for decades. In addition, WinnDevelopment will construct a new community building and connect it to the residential space via a closed skybridge spanning nearby railroad tracks.

“We’re excited to get to work on preserving this important feature of Holyoke’s proud industrial legacy and transform it into much-need housing for seniors who want to stay in the community they love,” says Larry Curtis, WinnDevelopment president and managing partner. “This project is the first part of a two-phase redevelopment effort that will revitalize this historic mill complex and provide an economic boost to Holyoke’s downtown.”

All 88 apartments will be reserved for low- and moderate-income seniors, with 12 units reserved for households earning below 30 percent of area median income (AMI), 63 for those below 60 percent of AMI, and 13 for households below 80 percent of AMI. 

Eight of the units will be available to eligible households through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Project-Based Voucher program. Five units will be set aside for Massachusetts Department of Mental Health clients through the Facilities Consolidation Fund.

The project was made possible with significant federal, state, local and private financing. Bank of America is serving as the project construction lender and as the investor in the project’s state and federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), authorized by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC), and state and federal Historic Tax Credits, awarded by the Massachusetts Historic Commission and the U.S. National Park Service.

MassHousing provided tax-exempt bonds for the project financing, while the EOHLC provided soft financing, along with its partners the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation and the MassHousing Affordable Housing Trust. 

Enterprise Bank, a locally owned and managed full-service commercial bank based in Lowell, played a key role in the redevelopment through the direct purchase of the bonds and the provision of bridge financing.

The Holyoke Redevelopment Authority (HRA) provided a ground lease for the mill structure for a discounted value and provided additional funds for structural stabilization of the mill complex. Additional local partners include the City of Holyoke and local non-profit OneHolyoke, which provided critical gap financing through local ARPA and CDBG funds. BlueHub Capital served as lender on the state credit loans.

Once the largest alpaca wool mill in the world, the 168,000-square-foot, brick mill complex features nine buildings on six acres and is one of Holyoke’s most prominent historic properties. After the Farr Alpaca Co. ceased production in the early 1940s, the complex declined and has been largely vacant since the 1970s, with deteriorating conditions hindering efforts to revitalize the area.

Located across the street from a state park dedicated to showcasing Holyoke’s industrial and cultural heritage, the site has been a priority for redevelopment since the City of Holyoke took title to the property a decade ago. 

WinnDevelopment’s work is focused on an 86,000-square-foot section of the complex that includes three structures: Building 4, erected in 1880 and the oldest on the site; Building 5, a storage, washing and sorting facility erected in 1905; and Building 6, also built in 1905 and the largest structure on the property.

Designed to meet the sustainability criteria of Enterprise Green Communities, the new apartment community will be completely fossil fuel-free and will feature LED lighting; Energy Star appliances; low-flow, water-conserving plumbing fixtures; and premium roof insulation.

The project is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2025.

Keith Construction of Canton is serving as general contractor for the construction effort, with The Architectural Team of Chelsea serving as architect. VHB is providing civil engineering and permitting services through its office in Springfield. Robinson + Cole of Boston served as transaction counsel.

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