Lofty Goal

Loft 550, Malden Mills, Lawrence, MA USA by The Architectural Team

In a case of creative redevelopment, a historic textile mill in Massachusetts is transformed into hip, multi-family housing.

Back in the heyday of domestic manufacturing, the 29-acre, nine-building textile factory known as Malden Mills was producing its signature Polartec© fleece and was operated by three generations of the Feuerstein family.

Specifying track and pendant lighting maintains the open look of the communal kitchen and dining area while providing ample illumination.

In 1995, a boiler explosion led to a fire that engulfed three buildings and devastated the business. CEO Aaron Feurstein made national news when he continued to pay the salaries of all 3,000 workers who were then unemployed while the factory was being rebuilt. By 2001, however, the Recession exacerbated the losses the company was experiencing with the construction and payroll costs and Feurstein declared bankruptcy. The company was spared thanks to the generosity of its creditors, although a new CEO was named. Eventually Malden Mills filed bankruptcy again in 2007 and did not recover (assets were purchased by a new company that kept the Polartec name). The factory buildings sat vacant for more than 10 years until Massachusetts real estate development firm WinnDevelopment purchased four of the buildings in 2011.

Under the new ownership, the property began extensive renovation in its transition to residential housing, but without destroying the historic architecture that made the factory – built between 1879 and 1925 – qualify for the National Register of Historic Places.

Located at 550 Broadway in Lawrence, the mixed-income housing complex was developed in phases. Named after its street address, Loft Five50 is a LEED for Homes-certifiable residential project that preserves the buildings’ architectural heritage through adaptive reuse consisting of extensive masonry restoration and repair, retention of original interior detailing (i.e. wood beam ceilings) and complete refurbishment of the original clock tower and stairway. It is situated along the Spicket River Greenway and incorporates a public river walk leading to Stevens Pond. Thanks to such careful handiwork, Loft Five50 maintains its listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Track fixtures from Nora Lighting are specified throughout the building, from common areas to the individual apartments.

The four mill buildings were merged to create two and offer a mix of one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom layouts. Connected via a firewall, the residents share a 15,000-sq.-ft. community room, a communal kitchen with adjacent entertainment space, WiFi lounges, a fitness/yoga facility, movie theatre, outdoor patio, and indoor children’s play area.

Among the modern amenities are the energy-saving LED lighting fixtures from Nora Lighting. Throughout the living units and lounges, Nora Lighting’s contemporary NT-300 Series single track lighting systems are installed featuring energy-efficient Step Cylinder LED fixtures.

“The NT-300 system was the first choice of the architectural and engineering staff at The Architectural Team, which designed the project,” reports Jerry Sinatra of SK & Associates, Nora Lighting’s sales rep in Canton, Massachusetts.

“The Architectural Team was able to successfully marry the historic aesthetics with modern lighting by specifying Nora track and LEDs. The cylindrical fixtures are a contemporary accent to the vintage woodwork and brick,” Sinatra observes.

“Nora Single Track systems are a practical and economical solution for renovation projects,” remarks Chris Johnston, Nora’s National Sales Manager/Commercial Division. “While trim and stylish, they are inherently designed for solid support with robust aluminum construction and 12-gauge, push-in solid copper connectors. In addition, the products were readily available, which kept the project on schedule.”

The track systems include a 3-wire layout with a dedicated ground for greater reliability and ease of installation. Rated for a maximum of 2,400 watts, they are a workable solution when only one lighting circuit is needed. A full line of accessories is available with additional switched feed points and connectors.

“We’ve seen a major uptick in track lighting,” Johnston notes. “Major residential and commercial renovation projects are specifying energy-efficient LED systems, and installers are looking for products that are reasonably priced, reliable, and easy to install.”

The completed Loft Five50 re-development project has received national awards for its creative restoration, which was a collaboration between The Architectural Team, the National Register of Historic Places, and the Massachusetts Historic Commission.

A certain amount of units are designated for residents earning at or below 60 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), while additional units are reserved for residents with incomes at or below 30 percent of AMI. The buildings are fully occupied and have several hundred people on a waiting list for vacancies. 

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