Photo Gallery | Cable Mills in Williamstown
WILLIAMSTOWN — After more than a decade of monumental obstacles, the 160 Water St. Cable Mills apartment complex on Wednesday celebrated its official opening.
"This project adds a new level of vitality to this end of Water Street," said Town Manager Jason Hoch, who lives at the mill building, during public remarks. "This is a beautiful place. They've done a beautiful job here."
Former Town Manager Peter Fohlin was at the town helm when the first site proposal came forward in 2002.
"We either grew up or grew old with this project," he said prior to the formal ceremony.
The complex features a mix of three-bedroom, two-bedroom and one-bedroom apartments ranging between 950 and 2,000 square feet. It offers a living designs including lofts, townhomes and single-level flats. There are 13 units designated as affordable housing.
Living spaces include 12-foot ceilings, granite counters, stainless steel appliances, storage areas and space for hosting events.
The $26 million, 61-unit renovation included preservation of the historical integrity of exterior brick and windows of the three buildings, which date back to the 1850s and were used for wire manufacturing. That restoration was an important part of the project, David Traggorth, who is a principal of Traggorth Cos., a member of the project development team.
There currently is a 70 percent occupancy rate, Traggorth said, and more tenants are expected to move in on June 1, he said.
The occupancy rate is cause for celebration, he said.
"We opened less than a month ago, and the demand for this type of housing has been tremendous," he said.
Proximity to a public-access riverwalk along the Green River, the Spring Street shopping district and the Taconic Golf Course all are selling points, he said. The riverwalk was especially important to the project because of the public access, the beauty and the historical significance of the Green and Hoosic rivers, he noted.
"We have young professionals, people working at Berkshire Medical Center, retirees who are downsizing, folks who work at local institutions," he said. "It's a diverse mix."
Apartments designated as affordable rent for $1,100 to $1,300 monthly, he said. Units not restricted by an "affordable" designation rent for $1,600 to $3,300, he said.
"This is not affordable to everyone and we recognize that," he said.
Town Affordable Housing Committee Chairman Van Ellet said the mill complex project was fraught with challenges.
"There were stops and starts, ups and downs," he said. "You had hope and then another curve ball would come and everything would stop for six months, a year."
The challenges were mentioned during Fohlin's remarks. He cited Robert Kuehn of Keen Development Corp., Bart Mitchell of Mitchell Properties and Traggorth as the three "fathers" of the complex.
Kuehn died during the early phases of development.
Additional challenges included soaring costs of building materials including plywood and copper pipe, the 2008 mortgage/credit financial crisis, and time spent speaking with about 25 developers who were deemed unsuitable, Fohlin said.
Public speakers included Property and Casualty Initiative President Stacey Townsend, Andrae Baly, asset manager for the National Trust Investment Corp., Boston Community Capital Loan Fund President Michelle Volpe, Massachusetts Housing Partnership Director of Community Housing Initiatives Susan Connelly, Bart Mitchell, managing member of the mill development group.
All speakers noted the challenges with project construction and the joy of project completion.
Cable Mills tenant Charles O'Brien said that the apartment he rents is very nice. O'Brien is a retired Western Illinois University history professor and his wife is employed at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.
"It's comfortable and convenient," he said. "It is within walking distance to my bank on Main Street. I have a nice southeast view. The people working at the building are very nice."
Ellet said while this project helps add housing options to the town, challenges remain.
"There's a whole issue, subsidized housing, affordable housing, and the people who are not served," he said.