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Southbridge Mills Receives 2024 Mayor Thomas M. Menino Legacy Award


Exterior of Southbridge Mills showing new landscaping and restored windows and masonry
Southbridge Mills

Preservation Mass is pleased to announce that Southbridge Mills is a recipient of the 2024 Mayor Thomas M. Menino Legacy Award.


Southbridge Mills now occupies a building once known as both "Lensdale" and "Casedale," located at the southern end of the complex. The building is the oldest building in the American Optical (AO) complex. It was built in 1888 to manufacture AO's earliest lenses and was formerly known as Lensdale. Expanded in 1895 and 1903, it housed laboratories, offices, and storage. In the 1920s or 1930s, it was renamed Casedale when the case manufacturing department relocated there and a new building to manufacture lenses was completed.


Southbridge Mills delivered 48 affordable apartment homes, with 43 units set aside for households earning at or below 60% of the area median income (AMI) and five units set aside for households earning at or below 30% of AMI. Five units have project-based Section 8 vouchers, administered by RCAP Solutions, Inc. Southbridge Mills provides a range of apartment sizes and floor plans to suit various household types, including 12 one-bedroom units, 31 two-bedroom units, and five three-bedroom units. The community offers a range of amenities for residents to enjoy, including parking, a lounge area, and a laundry facility.

The Southbridge Innovation Center today consists of 11 principal buildings, which include a world class hotel and conference center, multi-national manufacturers, office and R&D space, and now residential housing. Southbridge Mills leased up quickly, achieving 100% occupancy in four months, demonstrating a critical need for affordable housing in the Greater Worcester area.


Winn Companies and the Architectural Team prioritize preserving the history of the buildings they develop by incorporating historic photographs and signage into the interior and exterior design and preserving original features like original brick and restored beam ceilings. This helps educate residents and visitors, ensuring the legacy of the Casedale building endures.

However, a building's aesthetic value is meaningless if there are not enough people around to appreciate it. All across the country, but especially in Massachusetts, households are being priced out of communities. In the town of Southbridge, the median household income is $55,182, and the median gross rent is $1,142, which means that the average resident spends roughly 25% of his or her income on rent. Because Southbridge Mills offers housing that people can afford, they are able to spend more of their income on other necessities, which enhances both their quality of life and the community's overall

economic stability.


The project was funded by low-income housing tax credits, state and federal historic tax credits, state funds from various sources, and a permanent mortgage from the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP). State HOME, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF), the Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF), and the Commercial Area Transit Node Housing Program (CATNHP) were provided through the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC), formerly the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Additional financial partners include Blue Hub Capital, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the U.S. National Park Service, and Bank of America.

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