CATCH Housing to restore old Franklin mill building into apartments
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.
The Monitor had 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.
For more on this ongoing project go to: Concord Monitor