Williamstown's Cable Mills project heats up with spring thaw

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Photo Gallery | Cable Mills construction heats up

Video | Work continues at the Cable Mills

WILLIAMSTOWN — When the thaw came, dozens of workers swarmed over the Cable Mills site and began working full-bore on moving the 61-unit, $26 million housing redevelopment project closer to the finish line.

It was a welcome sign for a project that has been in limbo off and on since its inception in 2004.

Developers with Mitchell Properties now hope to have the first of up to 200-plus residents moving into their new living spaces in December.

Before even trying to market the rental spaces, Mitchell has an active list of 400 people interested in hearing more, according to Dave Traggorth, the Cable Mills project manager.

In 2009, 15 units had been pre-sold, but the project fell into crisis due to the credit market and again sank into inactive status, he noted. In 2014, principals finalized a financial formula that worked; permits were obtained, and preliminary infrastructure work began last winter. Since then, demolition work, masonry, carpentry and electrical work has begun, and the project is seeing progress.

"We are on budget and on time," Traggorth said during a walking tour of the site. "It's been a long haul, but it will be very much worth it in the end. We are excited at this point to be able to say we will be open on this day and be ready to go."

Traggorth said that the town and the area's legislative team were very helpful in making the financial package work.

"The town has been right there with us through he whole process," he said. "Without them this project would not have happened."

He added that state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, has also been an invaluable advocate.

Of the $26 million project, $1.5 million comes from the Williamstown Community Preservation Act in support of affordable housing, historic preservation, and open space. Another $4 million worth of Federal Historic Tax Credits and $3.5 million in Massachusetts Historic Tax Credits added to the formula, and $1.3 million in state funding to support the 13 affordable housing units rounds out public contributions to the financial package.

There are now between 50 and 70 workers on site every day.

Traggorth said Mitchell is using local workers and contractors whereever possible. For phase one, he noted, the three main mill buildings will be renovated and refitted for 68 rental units, and the entire property will be prepared for the next phases.

Phase one also includes installation a riverwalk along the banks of the Green River the length of the property.

In phase two, there will be 21 townhome style river-front units built. Phase three calls for the as-yet-undetermined development of the 30,000-square-foot parcel on the southern end of the site along Water Street.

Amenities for apartment units in the first phase include large windows with dazzling views, polished concrete floors, wood ceilings, exposed brick walls, elevator service, landscaped courtyards and riverfront walkway; low-energy lighting fixtures, a fitness center and a community room. The facility will be non-smoking and pet-friendly.

The job is extensive, with the three mill buildings gutted down to the brick walls, much of the brickwork being replaced, and interiors installed inside the repointed and reinforced masonry.

Many outbuildings that had been added to the site in the 1900s were taken down and removed, leaving the three earliest mill structures intact.

The original mill was erected in 1873 as the A Loop & Company twine factory, which folded 10 years later, according to information provided by Mitchell Properties. By 1892, Boston Finishing Works had begun a bleaching dye operation, which ended in 1906.

It was later taken by the Boyd Corduroy Company in 1912 as a weaving and finishing mill, which fell victim to the depression in 1930. In 1936 the plant was bought and enhanced by Cornish Wire, which sold it to General Cable Co. in 1984. General Cable closed in the early 1990s.

In 2003, Robert H. Kuehn's company, Keen Development Corp., bought the property from General Cable for about $400,000. Demo work had been started when Kuehn suffered a heart attack and died in 2006.

The 9-acre property was sold to Mitchell Properties in 2007 for $3 million.

In May, anyone interested will be able to fill out an application online at the www.cablemills.com website, and the marketing campaign will commence.

In 2016, when the first phase is complete and occupied, Traggorth said, there will be 120 to 200 or more additional residents of Williamstown within walking distance of all the businesses along Water Street and Spring Street.

"They'll have almost everything they need right here within walking distance," he said. "They could walk to a restaurant, and then take in a movie at Images, and walk home. There is nothing in Williamstown similar to this. It's great for Cable Mills and great for the town."

Jeffrey Thomas, chairman of the Williamstown Economic Development Committee and local entrepreneur, said the Cable Mills redevelopment is a significant step forward in capitalizing on Water Street's proximity to the downtown area and the banks of the Green River.

"Once a critical mass of people are living there, it will add economic vitality to the Water Street corridor and the Spring Street area," Thomas said. "And the riverwalk will be a public walkway — a nice open space enhancement to the downtown area."

Contact Scott Stafford at 413-496-6301.


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