CATCH Housing to restore old Franklin mill building into apartments

  • Old doors like this one will be incorporated into the mill restoration project. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • LEFT: Alot of windows are missing or broken, but will be repaired or replaced. 

  • The CATCH Housing project is planning to restore a Franklin Mill building and install 45 affordable housing units. Currently, the structure is empty and has been subject to vandalism.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • The former Franklin Light and Power building is going to be restored and turned into affordable housing.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • ABOVE: The Winnipesaukee River bends below the building. 

  • Caite Foley, CATCH Housing vice president of real estate, looks out a Franklin mill window Monday.  ELODIE REED photos / Monitor staff

  • In its restoration, CATCH Housing is planning to repair windows like these in an effort to remain historically accurate.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • A rendering from CATCH Housing shows what the inside of their units will look like when completed.  — Courtesy

  • CATCH Housing’s rendering of the exterior of their Franklin mill project.  —Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 6/8/2016 12:48:54 AM

Many are paint-chipped, broken and boarded up at the moment, but looking through the windows of the former Acme Knitting Machine and Needle Co. site Monday, Caite Foley, CATCH Housing vice president of real estate, laid out a grand vision for how the old mill building will soon be restored.

The 45-unit, nearly $12 million affordable housing project, first conceived of a year ago, expects to have all of its funding in time to break ground in August. The final product will be three floors of apartments intended for low-income, workforce residents, and will include a community garden and other common spaces.

CATCH Housing will celebrate the imminent work with an event at Odell Park on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Foley gave the Monitor a preview tour around the mill building, one of several lining the Winnipesaukee River on Memorial Street.

“All together, it’s about 50,000 square feet,” Foley said. Pointing up to the massive brick structure on the river’s bend, she said there are several parts to it, an annex and four wings. It was erected in 1895 – the year the city was incorporated – by the Franklin Light and Power Co.

For much of the early 20th century, the building was an industrial machine shop. It produced circular knitting machines and latch needles used for manufacturing woolen and cotton hosiery, as well as knitted wear. At its peak, it employed 200 people.

In a historical summary compiled by Foley, she indicated that the Acme Co. acquired the nearby Franklin Needle Co. in 1944, when it was forced to consolidate. The textiles industry began to decline in New England in the 1950s, and the Franklin mill building complex was sold in 1963 to Shepard Grocery Corp.

It was used as a foodstuffs warehouse until 1976. Since then, the buildings have been reused for apartments and for rental storage space. They’ve most recently been owned by Franklin Riverside Lofts, a limited liability company belonging to Ed Forester, who planned a condo development. That project never came to bear during the 2008 recession, though, and the building has slowly fallen into disrepair.

In addition to the broken window panes, animal scat and various items left behind, signs of the past remain in the mill structure. Large windows – some still intact – line the brick mill walls, an old pulley system can be found in the tower, and from later iterations, apartment items and gym dumbbells sit on a lower floor of the main building.

In its restoration, CATCH Housing plans to return the industrial space to its former glory. The 455 or so windows will be restored or replaced to replicate their original Lombard Italianate style, two old turbines will be incorporated into the building artistically, and other items – the pulley, for instance, and old metal doors – will also be re-purposed and included.

“We’ll be salvaging a lot of the industrial pieces inside,” Foley said. With the help of Warrenstreet Architects of Concord, she added, “There’s a lot of adhering to historical accuracy in our design.”

Foley said the CATCH project’s LLC will be called Light and Power, in a nod to the building’s origins. This is the first historical restoration project the Concord-based housing provider has done.

Outside, where there are currently overgrown weeds and discarded items, green space and direct access to the river will be the main features. A community garden is also planned.

Foley said local landscaper Timothy Morrill will be helping with those items, and developer Todd Workman has been involved with the overall project to incorporate permaculture into the design.

Construction will be done by Bonnette, Page and Stone of Laconia. It’s expected to begin in late August, Foley said, which should be enough time for the final piece of expected funding – about $1.8 million in historical tax credits – to come through.

Other sources of funding have included $500,000 of Franklin’s Community Development Block Grant, $754,000 in low-income housing tax credits from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and financing through Franklin Savings Bank.

“We’re still doing our final budgets,” Foley said.

The celebration for the CATCH Housing project in Franklin will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. on Thursday at Odell Park. The event is free and open to the public, and RSVPs are requested. Email or call 513-9965.

(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)

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