Affordable Housing, Community Development, Housing Policy Briefs, State News

Montgomery Mill: Redevelopment Dreams Do Come True

Town of Windsor Locks
 

Jennifer V. Rodriguez, AICP, Town Planner for the Town of Windsor Locks

I can still hear the voices, “This is just a pipe dream. Tear the building down.” But years of persistent planning efforts have finally paid off as a long-abandoned electric tinsel factory has found new life with 160 new residential units that many lucky people will get to call home.

Photo by Jim Roche

A hulking (255,000 square feet) historic structure overlooks the Connecticut River and Windsor Locks Canal, creating quite an unpleasant vacant gateway to the Town.  This is the Montgomery Company building. With a series of industrial uses, it operated from 1871 until 1990. Its immediate surroundings were even more bleak. A significant fire destroyed some buildings on the property, leaving debris with hazardous materials still there today. Not exactly the picture of inspiration for development, but keep reading, there is hope.

Years before I started my career in Windsor Locks (2005), the community encouraged Patrick McMahon, currently CEO of CT Main Street Center and previously an economic development consultant to the Town of Windsor Locks, to seek opportunities to remove barriers for redevelopment for the long vacant riverside mill. 

Barriers

  • Long exposed to the elements
  • Contaminated / Brownfield
  • Peculiar location / limited site access
Photo by Jim Roche

The opinions on what should be done with the property varied. Residents and other community members agreed that the building was “terrible on the eyes.” No matter what was ultimately to come of the site, remediation of contamination from previous industrial uses was a priority. In the past decade, Windsor Locks committed to and succeeded in overcoming these barriers.

What was in our planning toolkit?

  • Community Engagement and Support of Revitalization Efforts 
  • Main Street Study and Transit Oriented Development Recommendations
  • Planned Relocation of Amtrak Station to downtown (just north of the Montgomery Mill)
  • Adaptive Reuse regulations and a Main Street Overlay Zone 
  • Tax Increment Financing District and Plan
  • Remediation Funding

We set the stage. 

 

Photo by Chris Kervick
First Selectman, Windsor Locks

Beacon Communities out of Boston responds, and applies to the Planning and Zoning Commission to convert the mill to mixed income apartments. Approval is granted, with “only” 32 conditions. What seemed like a million and one legal, environmental, safety related, historic and financial pieces finally fall into place and a building permit is issued. Remediation is underway and the project already is breathing life into Main Street. The developer expects the project to be complete in sixteen months, give or take. 

Photo by Chris Kervick
First Selectman, Windsor Locks

What’s the most exciting part? The buzz. The construction team. The local businesses who look forward to the new foot traffic. The people who want to be on the waitlist. The middle school teacher, the local stylist, the woman I met who can’t wait to live there and take the train to work. This will be their new home, and what a view! 

All from a pipedream and just a little persistence. 

What would be your redevelopment dream come true? 

Click here to read previous blogs. 

 
 
 

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