One of the most ambitious development proposals for Lawrence's mill district since the mills themselves were built a century or more ago would create an entirely new neighborhood on the Merrimack River at the Duck Bridge.
Lawrence CommunityWorks, which began in the mid-1980s as a small nonprofit fighting for affordable housing in the North Common neighborhood, would transform a sprawling group of riverfront mill buildings into a complex of 150 or more apartments, a day-care center, retail shops, high-tech companies and possibly a satellite college.
The $75 million Union Crossing, as it's been named, would remake the Southwick Clothing factory between Island Street and the Merrimack River and the Duck Mill on Union Street. A portion of the parking lot serving Southwick and the adjacent 60 Island St. office building and the Essex Arts Center would be turned into a city park — built on a raised deck over the parking area.
The development team, led by Lawrence CommunityWorks and mill owners Chet and Gary Sidell and Juan and Luis Yepez, expects construction to start on the first phase next spring.
"We're building a neighborhood," said Maggie Super-Church, who is managing the project for Lawrence CommunityWorks. "Housing, shops, services, outdoor space and parks."
To make way for the project, longtime Lawrence-based Southwick Clothing will move to a new facility in the Merrimack Valley, although its new home hasn't been identified.
Chet Sidell said the project, while big in scope, is a continuation of some of the economic development going on in the mill district along both sides of the river.
"This area doesn't feel like we're in a recession," he said. "We're proud of this, and at the end of the day, we'll have a right to be proud."
Luis Yepez, who with his brother Juan owns a mill at 25 Marston St., said the project is an unprecedented collaboration between private businesses and nonprofits to create affordable housing and good jobs.