A new phase in what is said to be the largest mill redevelopment project in New England is under way in Ludlow, Massachusetts.
A 1.5- mile long riverwalk is being built as part of the redevelopment of the Ludlow Mills, a sprawling complex of more than 60 buildings on 170 acres. The walk, which will be constructed of recycled brick, will feature markers highlighting the history of the mills and observation areas along the banks of the Chicopee River.
The project is being privately funded, but the town plans to take possession of the riverwalk and maintain it, according to Carmina Fernandes, chair of the Ludlow Board of Selectmen.
"It adds to the quality of life in town and just makes the town a better place," she said.
The riverwalk is scheduled to open to the public in August.
The riverwalk is one of the early commitments made to the town in the master plan for redeveloping the Ludlow Mills, according to Kenn Delude, President and CEO of Westmass Area Development Corporation, which is responsible for the mill project.
"It will be a great experience to bring people back out to the river where they have not been in about 160 years because it has always been fenced off. There has always been a fence along State Street because this was the industrial side. This gives us a chance to bring the community here and we are excited about that," he said.
The redevelopment plan includes a future public park. About one-third of the site will be open public space, according to the master plan.
Work to redevelopment the huge mill complex began in earnest about five years ago when the state and federal governments spent millions of dollars to remove asbestos and other hazards. The state also funded upgrades to the utility connections to the property.
A $28 million 53-bed rehabilitation hospital opened as the anchor tenant in the redevelopment last year. Boston-based WinnDevelopment is applying for state tax credits to finance construction of 75 apartments for seniors inside one of the old mill buildings.
Delude said there are 38 small businesses on the property that occupy spaces between 3,000-6,000 square feet each.
" And they are the backbone and we hope to always have space for young startup businesses," he said.
Delude said demand for new construction of commercial-industrial space has remained slow since the Great Recession.
"The next project we are going to focus on is development of the clock tower building as a mixed use development," he said.
Projections by Westmass say the redevelopment of the Ludlow Mills over the next 15-20 years will result in 2,000 jobs and up to $300 million in private investment.
The Ludlow Mills complex was built in the early 1900s. At its peak, 4,000 people worked there. It was largely unused since the 1960s.