EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 5, 2013

Mill building renewed

Historic Amesbury carriage factory to be restored

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY – ARC Technologies, Inc. is on the verge of purchasing the 125-year-old Durasol Drug Building at 1-9 Oakland St. in the Lower Millyard and plans to invest up to $2.6 million in renovations by the end of the year.

Dan Healey, ARC Technologies’ CEO, said he plans to close on the building on May 15 and expects the renovations to begin immediately afterwards. The building will undergo a “full shell” renovation, meaning the entire building will be gutted and rebuilt from the inside out.

“It needs a ton of work,” Healey said. “Everything from the roof is going to be removed, the windows, repointing and everything in between the brick, but we’re going to bring it back to what it looked like in 1888.”

The purchase price of the building will remain confidential until after the transaction is official, but Healey said the $2.6 million in renovations should be complete by the first snowfall this winter, and the new building will introduce about 15 to 25 new jobs to Amesbury.

“Most of those with ARC Technologies’ expansion, but also a lot of tradespeople coming in to do the construction,” Healey said.

Healey talked about the planned purchase at length during Wednesday’s public information session regarding the Heritage Park project in the Lower Millyard, which also featured presentations by Mayor Thatcher Kezer, Bartley Machine Co. CEO Rick Bartley and Amesbury Chamber Alliance Chairman Matt Sherrill.

Healey and Bartley both focused primarily on the private investment that has occurred in the Lower Millyard, and Bartley said he’s excited Healey is willing to take on the building because “no sane developer would buy that piece of property.”

“Nobody would’ve taken on that situation, I’ve been through the building and I know how rough it is,” Bartley said. “That building was in a downward spiral, if nothing happened to it, it would fall in upon itself eventually in the very near future. Now with this move, jobs are going to come to Amesbury and there will be some good building on the tax rolls.”

Bartley added that the project makes sense for Healey because his business is already in the area and he can keep everything nice and close.

The mill building, once owned by carriagemaker John Clark, stands on Carriage Hill, an area that was once the center of Amesbury’s world-renowned carriage industry. A devastating fire swept through the hill’s factories in 1888, leveling most of them. Clark was among the carriagemakers who immediately rebuilt, and his factory was considered at the time to be one of the finest in Amesbury.

The impending purchase of the Durasol building comes as the City Council prepares to vote on the Heritage Park proposal this coming Tuesday. The Finance and Ordinance Committees both endorsed the project earlier this week, and Healey said he’s optimistic that the councilors will give their final approval.

If the council does vote in favor of creating Heritage Park, Healey will also move forward with some planned improvements to his Carriage Mills office complex on Water Street. Healey is planning on tearing down some green tin sheds adjacent to the main building, and it their place he expects to build a 25,000 square-foot expansion to house new commercial office space.

Construction of the addition would begin once Heritage Park is about “80 percent complete,” which is expected to be around 2015. Healey also has plans to spruce up the landscaping outside the existing Carriage Mills building, and those plans would go forward immediately should the council approve the park proposal.