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80 affordable units planned for Island Street industrial site

Updated: Jan 14, 2019

by Keith Eddings, Eagle Tribune

The island that was the heart of manufacturing in the region for more than a century took another step out of its industrial past in December, when a plant that made high-end windows was sold to a nonprofit agency that plans to demolish the plant and build 80 affordable apartments in its footprint.


The housing development will be the second for Lawrence Community Works on the island, which was carved into the Merrimack River when the North Canal was dug in the 1840s as a first step in attracting the rows of mills that were built on both sides.


Two years ago, LCW opened 73 units of affordable housing in the former Duck Mill, where workers once produced a heavy, woven canvas – called duck – needed to make sails, sneakers, tents and backpacks from 1896 to the 1950s.


Today, the mile-long island that was once wall-to-wall mills is becoming something else for Lawrence: a vast space including restaurants, parks, an arts center, a hiking trail, a handful of social service agencies, a bodega-style market and the thousands of apartments that have opened in the mills over the last decade or are in the works.


The city recently built a park on another part of the Ferrous property at the far eastern tip of the island, where the Spicket River empties into the Merrimack. The park is a bookend to the Lawrence Heritage State Park at the other end of the island, which opened about 30 years ago where Atlantic Mills once stood. The entire island is part of the North Canal Historic District.

“The reason we're so excited to buy this site is that it allows us to complete this end of the island,” Jessica Andors, LCW's executive director, said about the Ultimate Windows site. “It allows us to create a pathway, a flow to the park at the eastern end of the island and the housing developments — ours and others — that are adjacent. For us, it's not just about building housing. We want to create a neighborhood.”


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