“This was known as the buildings with no roofs on them. These were the buildings with the big red ‘X,’ “ Lupoli said yesterday about the complex of 12 mill buildings he began acquiring in 2003. “Now if you look at it, there’s nothing but cars and jobs.”
Riverwalk is 98 percent occupied, with 200 tenants that include several state agencies, Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Northern Essex Community College, a restaurant owned by Lupoli himself and the headquarters of his chain of pizza parlors. In all, 3,500 people now work at the complex, which former Mayor Michael Sullivan wanted to condemn and demolish.
Lupoli didn’t attend yesterday’s redevelopment sessions, but had advice to those who did about the unique redevelopment challenges posed by the mills. Beyond assembling the tax incentives, zoning changes and the special architectural talent needed to adapt the mills for the 21 century, Lupoli said the principal ingredient is vision.
“These aren’t one-hit wonders that you put up on Route 128 and rent out in a couple of months,” Lupoli said. “You have to have a 20-year vision. You have to look at them in that light - the way you raise a child. You nurture it, you take care of it every step of the way.”