Mill building, abandoned for decades, transformed into apartments in Holden

October 2, 2023 : MassLive, Trea Lavery

A Worcester County mill building that was previously abandoned for more than 30 years is now being transformed into apartments in an area desperate for new housing.

The first phase of redevelopment at Jefferson Mills, the former Jefferson Manufacturing Company textile mill complex in Holden, has brought 34 new apartments at 1665 Main St. An additional 29 apartments will be added in another building during the second phase of the project.

“Personally, I’m very happy to be part of taking a piece of history, not only Jefferson Village history, but also Massachusetts history, and see that we’ve done something it,” Daniel Stroe, principal of Bluestone Residential, the project’s developer, said during a ribbon cutting event last week.

The 2.67-acre mill complex originally consisted of nine interconnected buildings constructed between 1850 and 1950.

Holden Town Manager Peter Lukes said the building’s previous owners had been reluctant to sell the property. But because it had been neglected for many years, it had fallen into disrepair by the time Bluestone came along and bought it in 2020.

Lukes said he was happy when the company showed interest in the redevelopment project, because it specialized in historic rehabilitation, and had completed other similar projects in the area, including the Torrey Factory Lofts, North Village Lofts and Norwich Lofts in Worcester.

“It is so important to preserve what we can of our town’s history,” Jennifer Stanovich, the executive director of the Wachusett Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “This abandoned building could have been torn down to make way for new development, but Bluestone Residential saw the potential in redeveloping the site. They have maintained the historic character of the buildings while establishing their reuse in a modern way.”

The completed apartments include one-, two-, and three-bedroom units complete with high ceilings, brand-new kitchen appliances, central air conditioning, an integrated security system, internet and cable televisions. Rents range from $1,900 per month for a one-bedroom unit to $3,200 for a three-bedroom, according to Tim Adler, another principal at Bluestone.

Adler said about one-third of the existing 34 apartments are leased so far. Residents will begin moving in this month.

The second phase of the project, in the oldest portion of the complex facing Main Street, is expected to be completed in the next two years, bringing new housing to Central Massachusetts.

Dan Rivera, president and CEO of MassDevelopment, which partnered with Fidelity Bank to provide $6.1 million in loan financing for the project, said those new apartments will help address the local housing crisis, but also can spark economic development in the area.

“Kids and families do drive by here every day and they think, ‘Man, this thing has been there for the longest time and hasn’t really become anything. What does that say about me and my opportunities in life?’” Rivera said. “When people start seeing dirt moving, it starts to inspire people.”