By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — For the third time in its history, the Arlington Mill has a new lease on life.
Yesterday, close to 100 people attended the re-opening of the main building in the former Arlington Mills/Malden Mills complex under its new name, The Arlington Mills Plaza at 530 Broadway.
“This is my city, I believe in Lawrence and we need to create affordable spaces where jobs can be created,” said Rafael Guzman, who co-owns the building with the Lawrence Training School, which provides education for those seeking employment opportunities. Guzman is president of the specialty construction company RM Technologies.
Guzman and the Lawrence Training School purchased the building — which sits on two acres of land and is 50,000 square feet — last December for $950,000. The property had been vacant since 2005. It had no electricity or gas line, and was stripped of its copper piping. Aesthetically, windows were broken throughout and the floors and walls were in deplorable condition.
Guzman and the training school spent $600,000 renovating the first two floors of the building. Now they feature rooms with carved wooden ceilings, wooden columns as well as castle-like doors.
“This is a dream come true,” said Maria Alcantara, the president of the training school.
The first and second floors now house a gym, karate school, restaurant, yogurt place, computer school and employment agency.
“This is no longer going to be an eye sore for Lawrence. It’s a great location and it will become the plaza for the neighborhood,”
Mayor William Lantigua said. “This is very significant because this can help in other projects that will also have an economic impact.”
The Arlington Mill complex is steeped in history. The main building was first built in 1865, destroyed by fire a year later and was rebuilt in 1867. Over the years, more buildings were added to the complex, where famous Lawrence poet Robert Frost once worked. In 1956 it became Malden Mills, which was devastated by fire 1995 and suffered multiple bankruptcies in the ensuing years before closing.
The building’s new owners see this rejuvenation in the heart of the Arlington district as a boon for them and the surrounding area. About 27 percent of the district’s residents live in poverty, with a medium income of $27,619, according to the latest U.S. Census. The unemployment rate is 10.9 percent.
“This is also my way of giving back for all the blessings I’ve received in the city,” said Guzman, a Lawrence High graduate who moved to the city from the Dominican Republic in 1981.
Politicians who spoke at the ribbon cutting and open house were elated about the mill’s renovation and what it means for the Arlington district.
“This is exactly the type of development we need in the city, particularly in the Arlington neighborhood,” said City Councilor Kendrys Vasquez, who represents the area.