Progress in Lowell

Smuttynose

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(The Hamilton and Counting House Mills)

Lowell doesn't get a great deal of attention on this forum, in spite of some of the major renovation and construction projects occurring there. I have Thundertubs from Skyscraperpage to thank for supplying 2009 photos of parts of the city. I've included photos I took last week to show how dramatically some areas have changed. These are just a few areas I found based on some quick internet research so I'm sure other areas have been renovated as well. But it's a start. I've also included some photos taken around the Downtown, focusing especially on Lowell's many mill complexes

You can view Thundertubs complete 2009 thread here
http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=165130

Appleton Mills, Hamilton Canal District, 2009
CREDIT: Thundertubs


2013


Hamilton Canal District,2009
Credit Thundertubs


2013


Hamilton Canal District, 2009
Credit Thundertubs


2013


2009
Credit Thundertubs


2013
It's amazing to me that this is the same building as above. Now being marketed as office space.


The rear of the building sits on a canal. Mill ruins have been stabilized and kinda preserved, though they looked far cooler in 09.


2009
Credit Thundertubs


2013


From a higher perspective


2009
Credit Thundertubs


2013
The narrow little mill in the foreground has not been restored yet, though there are plans to convert it to housing. Part of the Hamilton Mill behind it has been converted into the Lowell Community Health Center.


2009
Credit Thundertubs


2013
The state has promised to build a courthouse here in place of the old cold storage buildings, demolished in 2009, though for now it remains a vacant lot.


2009
Credit Thundertubs


2013
Now an appliance store.


2009
Credit Thundertubs


2013
This gem of a building was restored into the permanent home of the Lowell Arts League thanks in large part to the work of volunteers. There's already a waiting list for studio space.


2009
Credit Thundertubs


2013
The mill ruins were replaced with an office building. Part of the mill's foundation and its water turbines were preserved in the building's basement which opens for some special events.


2009
Credit Thundertubs


2013
Public housing on right appears to have been turned into a church parking lot. I'm not sure if that's progress or not.


2009
Credit Thundertubs


2013
All of the public housing in the Acre neighborhood appears to have been brought back to functionality, as in people were living there and there are no more boarded up windows. The buildings themselves do not appear to have been changed too significantly. Some streetscape improvements have been made.




Thanks to Google StreetView, we can see some more recent changes
2012 - Lawrence Mills


2013
The old stable and blacksmith shop of the Lawrence Mills complex is being converted to housing




Then there's the faster changes. Below is Father Morissette Blvd., a major arterial road built in the 1960's as an unhappy gift of urban renewal.

SUNDAY


THURSDAY
In a four day span, the city knocked out a traffic lane, built a bike lane and parking strip. This has been at least somewhat controversial. A parking garage security guard I met kept complaining about it.


To be sure, much of Lowell hasn't changed all that dramatically...

2009
Credit Thundertubs


2013


Merrimack River in Lowell





Pawtucket Falls







Lowell's Canals

















DOWNTOWN CORE

Middle Street

























Dutton St. Corridor







Merrimack Street

























Sterling Street




Jackson Street








Prescott Street


John Street





Market Street











Central Street Corridor



















Old Post Office, now Juvenile Court


Once a train depot, now part of Community College


The Mills

Today about 89% of the major mills downtown have been renovated. Below are 9 major mill complexes in varying states of repair either downtown or immediately adjacent to it - the Market, Hamilton, Wannalancit, Lawrence, Merrimack, Appleton, Western Canal, Massachusetts and Boott Mill Complexes.

Market Mills - Most of the buildings are now renovated. The boiler house is now essentially ruins and a small mill ancillary building looks in rougher shape. Everything else looks good.





















Hamilton Mills - Maybe 40% renovated. Two mills have been converted to loft condominiums. There are firm plans to convert another, one of the oldest mills still standing, to housing. A small part of the largest mill in the complex has been converted to the Lowell Community Health Center. The rest of the building looks in rough shape.





You can see exactly where the renovated section begins here.








I'm not what sure this building was, but it's located directly across the street from the complex.


Boott Mills
A significant section is now being converted from manufacturing to housing and offices.











Wannalancit Mills - Entirely renovated. There's a brewery here as well as mostly offices.













Lawrence Mills
A big chunk of this complex was lost to a huge fire in the 1980s. The rest of the buildings have been or are being converted to loft condominiums. In some ways, the fire helped in that it gave the area a lot of nicely maintained green space to enjoy on the riverfront, which is somewhat rare in Lowell.















While this project is still a work in progress, it looks like they're doing a beautiful job restoring it.






Merrimack Mills
This huge complex was pretty much entirely demolished in the 1960s. One small building is now Cobblestone's Restaurant and the ruins of another line a parking lot. The Tsongas Arena now occupies part of this area.





Damn you Urban Renewal


Western Canal/Dutton Street Mills On the periphery of Downtown, this complex is a mix of renovation and decay. The largest mills have been converted to housing and studio space for artists. The others are in very different states of repair, many surrounded by really old cars.





















Massachusetts Mills - Half renovated. Three major buildings have been retrofitted into housing. Three other buildings are barely standing. Unfortunately I didn't get any very good pictures of this area. This building is part of the complex.



The unrenovated portions of the complex, located right where the Concord River meets the Merrimack, look much like they did in 09 if not worse.
Credit: Thundertubs


Appleton Mills
Thanks to the recent Hamilton Canal District work, this complex has been beautifully restored. But the overall redevelopment project is very much a work in progress.



Lowell is apparently optimistic enough about expanding trolley service here that they built rail on the newly constructed bridge


Two ambitious guys are converted this mill into a hipster-centric development, featuring offices for startups, artist studios, an English manor style lounge and library, restaurant, and an independent theater (Source)



Thanks for viewing.
 

Lrfox

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Awesome post, Thanks! I haven't been to Lowell since 2008ish. It's amazing how much better it looks.
 

Corey

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Thanks for sharing all these photos, nice work! Looks like there are a lot of nice looking buildings downtown still. I vaguely recall visiting some of the old mills that were made into museums on a field trip to Lowell back when I was in middle school (13-ish years ago).
 

Hutchison

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Looking good, Worcester only wishes it was doing as well
 

Nexis4jersey

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Wow thats some impressive renewal , Hopefully one day other cities like Worcester , The I-91 Cities , Trenton and Paterson will look like this...
 
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bolehboleh

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Thanks for the great pics. As a Billerica native, it's nice to see that Lowell has been able to shake off its shadier past.

Any updates on the trolley expansion that's supposed to be happening there?
 

Matthew

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How do folks feel about Jeff Speck's role in this?
 

George_Apley

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Everything is really coming along! Great work! Thanks for posting :)
 
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cozzyd

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One thing I found frustrating when visiting Lowell is the pedestrian access to the train station.
 

Hutchison

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How does Lowell's mill stock/downtown compare to Manchester's?
 

Dr. StrangeHat

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Agreed, awesome post! As a frequent visitor to Lowell over the past 15 years, I agree that the transformation has been remarkable. Even during the short time we lived in MA from 2008 to 2011, the changes were incredible (my wife worked in Lowell is the Wannalancit Mills complex). There's still some work to be done, but Lowell is quickly becoming the gem of Northern MA.
 

mainejeff

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Lowell has such an awesome collection of old buildings and infrastructure from its manufacturing past! In some ways.......Lowell has benefited from being ignored for so long as their cityscape is now appreciated rather than being looked at as simply "blight" to be torn down. I think that the whole Portland-Manchester-Lowell "triangle" has some pretty solid growth ahead as people find these smaller cities as an attractive alternative to living in major metro areas like Boston........halfway between the "big city" and the "wilderness".........pretty vibrant economies and lots of food, breweries, entertainment, etc that young people look for when settling in a new area.
 

Smuttynose

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One thing I found frustrating when visiting Lowell is the pedestrian access to the train station.
Yeah definitely. Lowell is fortunate that the Lowell Connector was never finished and didn't plow through the neighborhoods or Downtown. But the Lord Overpass in 1959 is kind of a weird tiny isolated piece of a divided highway that unfortunately cuts off the station from the Downtown. Also the first area you approach from the station is the Hamilton Canal District, which historically has been kind of a wasteland but should be a lot more appealing as it gets built out over the years.

Lowell has applied for federal funding to re-construct the overpass so hopefully that will happen and help the situation. Also obviously a trolley from the station downtown would be huge. I'd also like to see the actual commuter rail station redesigned. The fact that it has no street presence and is actually hidden from the street has always bothered me.
 

Smuttynose

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How does Lowell's mill stock/downtown compare to Manchester's?
Good question, both cities underwent some considerable urban renewal era demolitions. Manchester's mills are mostly concentrated in one area, along South Commercial Street, while Lowell's complexes are located in different parts of Downtown. My hunch would be that Lowell has more but a visitor might assume Manchester does because they're largely congregated on one street. Manchester does unquestionably have many more rowhouses that have survived.

Manchester's urban renewal projects came later than Lowell's so they were a bit more precise in clearing out areas for parking between buildings instead of wholesale demolition (which unfortunately occurred in the Merrimack Mill complex in Lowell). But the end result is that the Millyard feels more automobile-oriented in Manchester, while the individual complexes that have survived in Lowell maintain pedestrian scales.
 

DBM

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Looking good, Worcester only wishes it was doing as well
Shouldn't we reserve judgment until the CitySquare [or whatever the redevelopment of the hideous old mall complex] is complete/mostly tenanted? My understanding is that that's still in transition there.

Also, if your yardstick is simply the number of formerly abandoned buildings/empty or brownfield parcels that have been redeveloped, then Worcester's not doing so bad. They've brought a lot of "eds and meds" to formerly blighted downtown parcels, and my understanding is much more is on the way...
 

Roxxma

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Awesome! I took some classes at Middlesex in the mid 1990s and always spent more time than I needed to in Lowell because I thought it had such good bones. It's good to see that those bones are getting stronger. The old B&M Depot looks great; correct me if I'm wrong, but I think those towers were reconstructed. I recall seeing a plaque on the side of the building with an old rendering of the station and thinking that the towers were missing. It's been years since I've been up there, this tells me how due I am for a trip up there. Now if only they could get the streetcar system implemented...
 

Arlington

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One thing I found frustrating when visiting Lowell is the pedestrian access to the train station.
We'd want the station to penetrate closer into town, or to get the National Park Service to extend their trolley to circulate from the Lowell Line to U Mass Lowell.
 

Plen-T-Pak

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davem

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Fun fact I learned tonight, currently the mills are at 91% restoration. If all goes well, within two years that will be up to 99%. Most of that is in the Massachusetts Mill complex, which requires a bit of unfortunate demolition to meet the fire department's egress demands.
 

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