Elected officials, development partners and community members celebrate the start of construction of the historic Arctic Mill

PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee, U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Congressman Jim Langevin, Rhode Island Housing, and state and local leaders today announced the start of redevelopment and adaptive reuse of the historic Arctic Mill into rental housing and commercial space. The Arctic Mill development is the adaptive reuse of two separate historic textile mill buildings into a mixed-use complex comprised of both commercial space and residential rental apartments.

“As Rhode Island continues to lead the region in economic recovery, the Arctic Mills project promises to increase the supply of affordable, market-rate housing in our state while creating well-paying construction jobs and trades lined up while reinvigorating one of Rhode Island’s historic mills,” Governor Dan McKee said. “For Rhode Island to be an attractive place to live, work, and raise a family, we must take care of the availability and quality housing – that means everything from providing supports for people experiencing homelessness, to increasing the number of affordable homes, to building more workforce housing for our families of the middle class. Our administration’s quarter-billion-dollar housing proposal now before the General Assembly will allow Rhode Island to complete more projects like this and create much-needed housing options at every level.

“It’s about preserving our history, investing in the future and revitalizing neighborhoods. I’m glad this project is using federal investments to breathe new life into this historic property and to do so in a way that will ensure that more working families can afford a place to live and new businesses can find a place to thrive,” said Senator Reed.

“Creating more affordable housing options for working families in Rhode Island is critical to economic growth and development throughout Rhode Island,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “The ongoing transformation at Arctic Mills is a win-win situation for our state, as it expands rental housing options while preserving an important part of our state’s history.”

Located along the River Pawtuxet in West Warwick, the 19th century Arctic Mill is currently being rehabilitated by Knight Street Capital, the developer responsible for the recent rehabilitation of Pontiac Mills in Warwick. The redevelopment effort will produce a total of 136 rental units, 105 which will be at market price and 31 for households earning up to 100% of the area median income (AMI). When complete, the development will also include 10,000 square feet of office and retail space, including an on-site brewery.

Funding for Arctic Mill comes from a variety of sources, including historic federal tax credits, the RIHousing Workforce Housing Loan, the Rebuild RI Tax Credit program, and developer equity . The total development cost is $32.7 million. Administered by Commerce RI, the RebuildRI Tax Credit Program provides gap financing for commercial office, industrial, residential, mixed-use developments, construction from scratch and historic rehabilitation, offering tax credits for refundable taxes covering up to 20% – and in some cases 30% – of project costs. The state program helps qualified developers and business owners fill funding gaps in projects that promise to deliver economic development benefits. The Rebuild Rhode Island Tax Credit is not paid until the project receives a Certificate of Occupancy, then is paid over 5 years.

“Adaptive reuse projects like Artic Mill exemplify the mix of creativity and determination needed to move the needle forward and address the shortage of units in communities across the state,” said the Undersecretary of Housing. Josh Saal. “Rehabilitating this facility into a mixed-use, mixed-income development will ensure that we create the necessary housing infrastructure to ensure our communities continue to thrive economically, while paying homage to our state’s industrial history.”

Quote from Colonel Mark Knott, City Manager of West Warwick: “West Warwick is proud of its historic industrial past,” said Colonel Mark Knott, City Manager of West Warwick. “Many of our residents remember working and growing up in the surrounding neighborhood, raising families, supporting each other and creating a tight-knit community in its shadow. The renovation of the property ensures that this 150-plus-year-old structure will play an important role in the future of our city.”

Built in 1865 using the stone walls of an old mill structure built in 1852 on the site, the main mill building sits alongside a stone weir on the River Pawtuxet in the arctic section of West Warwick. In 1885 the property was purchased by BB & R. Knight, who operated 35,824 spindles and 1,039 looms in the factory. The factory continued to be used for manufacturing textiles well into the 20th century before being used by NATCO Products Corporation, which occupied the factory until recently. A second building on the site, a former guardhouse will be rehabilitated for commercial use.

“It’s an exciting day to celebrate what will be a true transformation of this historic property,” said Larry Phillips, Knight Street Capital. “We recognize that Rhode Islanders need a range of housing options and at different price points. The homes we create here will meet a growing demand for market-priced and middle-income housing.”

RIHousing’s Workforce Housing Program aims to expand the range of housing options available in Rhode Island by meeting the affordable housing needs of a segment of the state’s population that is growing further caught in the gap between rising market rents and ineligibility for other affordable housing.

“There is a growing awareness of the challenges facing middle-income workers. Current strong demand coupled with weak supply has pushed housing prices up and out of reach for many middle-income workers, and many local governments are exploring and implementing strategies to stimulate the creation of workforce housing,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “The WHIC program is an important tool that helps meet the need for middle-income housing by filling a growing and significant gap in a tight housing market with rising rents that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new rental homes will help meet the need for rental options in the central part of the state. The property’s central location provides easy access to major highways as well as public transportation, shopping, recreational and educational facilities. When complete, the property will feature a variety of amenities including media rooms, boxing room, breakout rooms and more. The architects of the project are Urban Design Group, LLC.

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Isabel M. Bourgeois