MANCHESTER - The Manchester Millyard has experienced a lot in its 1-3/4 centuries of existence. Water power, child labor and worker strikes. A huge flood, an anthrax scare. Spectacular growth, mass layoffs, a techno-geek renaissance.
Get ready for its latest phase: home-cooked breakfasts, late-night TV and weekend Wii parties.
Tenants are expected to begin moving in today to 110 high-end apartments at The Lofts at Mill No. 1, the first time in history that mill building has been used to live and play in.
On Thursday, owner Brady Sullivan Properties hosted a ribbon cutting and showcased the project at 300 Bedford Street, which is just north of the building that houses the SEE Science Center and Millyard Museum.
Valued between $8 million and $9 million by Arthur Sullivan, the redevelopment converted six stories of low-rent offices and storage into chichi apartments that rent from $995 to $1,895.
The units include exposed brick walls and heating ducts, hardwood floors, stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops, track lighting and views - row housing and downtown to the east, the Millyard and Merrimack River to the west.
Amenities include an indoor basketball court, a mini-theater featuring leather recliners and an 80-inch video screen, a workout room, a patio and a billiard/foosball room.
"This is kind of a game changer, we think, for downtown Manchester," Sullivan said. Small retailers such as apparel stores will be more willing to locate downtown now that 110 professionals will be living within a short walk, he said.
Sullivan said 25 percent of the space is already rented, and he's had several hundred inquiries.
Aurore Eaton, executive director of the Manchester Historic Association, said the buildings were the first that were actually owned by the Amoskeag Manufacturing Co., which came to dominate the Millyard and, by extension, the city.
They were built in phases. Construction on the north and south buildings started in the 1840s. The center building, which includes a tower, was built last. Abraham Lincoln likely saw it under construction during his famous 1860 visit to Manchester. He may have even entered the building, she said.
"The Millyard has transformed itself several different times in our history. This is the latest transformation," Eaton said. "This makes it more of a neighborhood, not just a place to go to work and go home at night."
Actually, many tenants will be walking to work. Sullivan said the apartments are drawing tenants who already work in the Millyard and desire to live nearby. For decades, Americans deserted their cities for the suburbs, now they are returning.
"People want to downsize. They want to own less and do more," he said.
Sullivan said his company owns 1,000 rental units and is looking to add another 1,000 to its inventory. Across the Merrimack River, his company's conversion of Mill West into a 300-unit apartment complex is under way, and the first 96 units should be available within six months, he said.
The Lofts will be a half-time home for Andrew Keenan, the chief financial officer for Dyn, a Millyard Internet services company.
"It's gorgeous. I can't believe how nice it is," Keenan said. He and his family live in a 5,000-square-foot house in Massachusetts. The apartment will be his workweek home, as well as a base for family excursions to New Hampshire.
"The last thing I need is another big house," Keenan said.
Dyn is also leasing a second apartment, where employees from offices in the United Kingdom or San Francisco can stay while working a short stint in Manchester, said Gray Chynoweth, chief operating officer at Dyn.
"We're going to call it the Dyn crash pad," he said.
He said the development should help high-tech companies recruit professionals and technology workers to Manchester.
"Today's young professionals want convenience, and they put a premium on that," Chynoweth said. "If you live at a place that's convenient, you don't need a car."
For those who love their wheeled vehicles, there are parking options. The Lofts come with 156 on-site parking spots, available on a first-come, first-served basis. Resident-only parking is available on Bedford Street in front of the building. The Waumbec Mill lot is available on nights and weekends. And tenants can rent a spot at the New Hampshire Plaza garage for $50 a month.
Mayor Ted Gatsas, who cut the ceremonial ribbon, said the city is studying whether to build a parking garage in the Millyard. In the meantime, he hopes the population infusion will create enough demand for a movie theater in the downtown.
"That," he said, "will change the complexion of the entire city."firstname.lastname@example.org