motgomerymillWINDSOR LOCKS: The consumer impact of the new Springfield to New Haven rail service is being felt on a long dormant and decaying Montgomery Mill factory building.

Construction is about to begin on the $62.5 million rehabilitation of the 223,058 square foot historic J.R. Montgomery factory complex into a mixed-income development of 160 apartments.

The construction expected to take 18 months and will turn the long-vacant 1800s mill complex into modern apartments across the street from the towns future commuter rail station.

A $4 million state grant will provide for the remediation of a brownfield at the site, that will also improve access to a riverfront state park, and create a town picnic area.

The J.R. Montgomery Company, along the canal in Windsor Locks in October 1939.  Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

The developer, Beacon Communities of Boston said that the $62.5 million project includes nearly $26 million in historic and low income housing tax credits. Beacon manages more than 17,000 apartments in 120 communities throughout New England, New York and the Eastern Seaboard.

According to Beacon, financing was secured through a variety of public and private sources and the project received “strong community support from the Town of Windsor Locks, a steadfast advocate for the mill’s restoration and downtown redevelopment.” Crosskey Architects of Hartford and Beacon Concepts prepared the design for the project.

Dara Kovel, president of Beacon Communities Development, said “even though Beacon has a long track record of handling projects that have complex financing and regulatory layers, this one was particularly challenging.”

According to the company added pressure to close the deal in 2017 came in the federal tax code overhaul that would have deprived the project of nearly $3 million in tax credits had it closed in 2018. Kovel added, “we pride ourselves in taking on challenges, but this one defied even our expectations, if we hadn’t made it by year-end we would have had to start back at square one."

Kovel predicted high demand for the apartments which will be completed by the Spring of 2019, driven by the nature of the original factory, saying “they will offer high ceilings and large windows, and many with river views, adding, “being in the center of town and next to a train station plays to the growing trend that people want to live in a place where they can walk to things and get around easily.”

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Beacon's Kovel: "This one was particularly challenging.”

Windsor Locks First Selectman Chris Kervick said, “both our 2008 Main Street Study and our 2012 Transit Oriented Development Study identified the Montgomery Mill as the catalyst project for our downtown revitalization efforts.”

The Montgomery Mill project includes:

160 total rental units available to households at a range of income levels. Sixteen units will be affordable to households earning at or below 60 percent of the area median income, 32 will be affordable to households earning at or below 50 percent of the area median income, and 17 will be affordable to households earning at or below 25 percent of the area median income. Seventeen units will be affordable to households earning at or below 80 percent of the area median income. The remaining 78 units will be leased at market rates.

Apartment designs with modern, light-filled units that meet state and federal historic preservation guidelines.

Remediation of a brownfield site, located between the Windsor Locks Canal and the Connecticut River. The state’s Department of Economic & Community Development is providing funds for the remediation costs of this contaminated site.

The property is “walkable” to downtown Windsor Locks and a train station is planned just over the Windsor Locks Canal from the property that will provide commuter service to Hartford, New Haven and other regional destinations.

Energy efficiency measures throughout the project, including Energy Star-qualified windows, high efficiency heating systems, LED lighting throughout, Energy Star-certified appliances and ultra-high-efficiency water fixtures.

A picnic area for the town will be created on the site, and other improvements are planned to the trail open to the public along four-mile Windsor Locks Canal State Park.

The historic Montgomery Mill complex was constructed in downtown Windsor Locks in the late 1800s. It was built by the J.R. Montgomery Company in 1871 and later expanded in 1904-05. The J.R. Montgomery Company initially became successful as a manufacturer of weft yarns, and later expanded their business to include the manufacturing of novelty yarns, tinsel, and communications wire; these products distinguished the J.R. Montgomery Company from most other New England textile mills of the same period. The company became the first US mill to produce mercerized thread on a mass-market scale in 1896.

Because of its relatively niche market and its ability to adapt new technologies and build much of its own machinery, the J.R. Montgomery Company continued its operations well into the 1980s, outlasting many of its regional counterparts who had either moved out of the area or closed down completely. Vacant since 1989 except for some period of use as a storage facility, the mill buildings “have deteriorated rapidly over the last few decades.”

The project was awarded federal and state low-income housing tax credits and historic rehabilitation tax credits, which were purchased by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Eversource to generate equity and debt financing for the project. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, along with Boston Private Bank & Trust and Boston Community Loan Fund, is also providing construction period financing for the project. Boston Private Bank is providing permanent financing. The Town of Windsor Locks is providing a credit on a portion of the project’s real estate taxes; this allows for an additional loan to be made to the project through the non-profit Boston Community Loan Fund. Additional debt financing is provided by the State of Connecticut Department of Economic & Community Development through its Urban Act and Brownfields programs, as well as the State of Connecticut Department of Housing and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.