A former textile mill in Lowell, Massachusetts has a new life as Mill No. 5, an eclectic and bohemian destination for dining, shopping, and entertainment. The adaptive reuse project was developed to show the overlooked value in historic buildings in an effort to save such architecture from demolition. Described as “Silicon Valley meets Diagon Alley,” Mill No. 5 celebrates the best of Lowell’s historic architecture by rescuing multiple buildings and reassembling select pieces inside the mill into a interior old-world streetscape that opens up to a boutique movie theater, yoga studios, and more.
Envisioned as a haven for creatives, Mill No. 5 is anchored by office spaces for small tech start-ups. The mixed-use building, however, is very different from your average office complex. In addition to its eclectic vibe created from mixing New England folklore with salvaged and historic architectural materials, Mill No. 5’s low rents and easy terms have also attracted many artists and creative types to set up shop behind the antique storefronts. The spaces include everything from a Victorian lounge and artist studios to a black-box performance space and a farm-to-table restaurant.
Developed by Jim Lichoulas with the help of consultant Constantine Valhouli, Mill No. 5 is filled with reclaimed treasures — 300-year-old doors, old-world bow-front windows, and stained-glass windows to name a few. For an extra whimsical element, Valhouli added some hand-painted pseudo-historical plaques that commemorate local “faux-lore,” such as a fictional brawl that broke out between Beat writers Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs over the use of the Oxford comma.
“What people go to a well-functioning downtown for are the chance encounters,” Valhouli said to the Boston Globe on the benefits of Mill No. 5’s unconventional setup. “Somebody from a start-up can take a break in the middle of the day and walk around, go to a yoga class, grab that coffee, and that’s often where you’re going to have the inspiration to solve the problem.”
Images via Constantine Valhouli, © Mikeal St. Ayre, Jorge Colombo