New Bedford Standard Times
By: Audita Guha
May 29, 2013
NEW BEDFORD — Barbara Baliko worked most of her life in the Manomet mill building. So it was an honor for the 67-year-old resident to cut the ribbon celebrating the renovation of the early-20th-century cotton textile mill complex.
Baliko said she watched the transformation of the old factory building at 170 Riverside Ave. into Manomet Place over the last year before she herself moved in as a resident this March.
“I’ve never seen so many insulation trucks. I am glad I don’t need a Humphrey heater (a large space heater) anymore,” she said at a ribbon-cutting in the mixed-income complex for senior citizens Tuesday.
The $30 million project is one of six mill buildings on Riverside Avenue that have been developed, or are currently being redeveloped. They include Whaler’s Place, Whaler’s Cove, Victoria Riverside, Manomet Place and, in the future, Cliftex North Mill and Riverview Lofts.
Manomet provides 76 units of mixed-income housing for residents aged 55-plus and is already full with a waiting list, said developer Gilbert Winn of the Boston-based WinnCompanies.
“It really goes to show what a need for quality housing there is in the state,” he said.
Visitors Tuesday walked into a nautical-theme lobby with light fixtures made of heavy rope and lighthouse sketches on the wall. Separated by a wall was the empty space of the second phase of the mill, which is under construction to provide 75 similar units.
Manomet Place is a joint project between Winn and mill owner John Keith, president of Keith Construction in Stoughton; Keith and Winn previously worked together on the neighboring Whaler’s Place at 90 Riverside Ave.
Formerly the Cliftex Mill Building No. 1, the red brick structure on the upper Acushnet River boasts tall windows, wood ceilings and vast halls that prompted Todd Gomez, senior vice president at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, to jokingly invite folks to a game of flag football there. The financial institution is both a lender and investor for the project.
“I am really happy to be a part of this spectacular project,” he said.
Once slated for demolition by the City Council, the building’s historic value made it the second highest priority of Preservation Massachusetts, prompting both former Mayor Scott Lang and Mayor Jon Mitchell to support its redevelopment.
“This is a terrific project but not an easy one and there are many to thank … for making it happen,” Mitchell said.
“It’s amazing how they can convert a mill into a first-class living space like this,” said Ward 2 Councilor Steve Martins, who said he had been the only one on the council to vote against demolition five years ago.
Matthew Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, said the project is part of the city’s vision that will attract more investors to the strip of former mills in the North End. Other nearby plans include a public park on Riverside Avenue and a 1.6-mile Riverwalk to allow residents access to the river.
“We’ve been working for the revitalization of the whole area,” Morrissey said. “Manomet Place is a shining example of fine adaptive reuse in the state.”
“This is really what affordable housing is all about,” said Under Secretary for Housing and Community Development Aaron Gornstein. He said Gov. Deval Patrick is reaffirming his commitment to Gateway Cities like New Bedford and “is fighting to get the resources you demand,” including South Coast Rail.
The second Cliftex Corp. building, also known as Cliftex North Mills, is located at 194 Riverside Ave; Riverview Lofts is located at 200 Riverside Ave. Both buildings are being constructed by Acorn Development and will include about 125 residential units each and are expected to be completed this fall.
New resident Baliko is thrilled.
“I love everything about it,” she said. “When we want to be in the city, we come to the front (of the building); when we want to go to the country, we come to the back.”