The redevelopment of the long abandoned Woolworth property at the eastern end of downtown announced last week is the most exciting and anticipated project in the city in many years.
The new seven-story building that will be built on the Woolworth site is to include a UMass Lowell satellite campus, restaurants, offices and underground parking. Later phases of the project are to include the demolition of other nearby, under-used buildings that will be replaced with retail and housing developments.
But the Merrimack Street project is not the only big downtown development in the works.
Plans have begun to restore a vacant downtown building on the Washington Street end of downtown. Until last year, the building was home to Surplus Office Supply company.
Dave Traggorth plans to build 19 residential rental units in the building and have about 4,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.
The project has the support of local planners and won approval from City Council this week.
The project includes repairing and repainting the building’s brickwork, adding new windows and restoring the storefront to closely match its original historic appearance, according to plans on file at City Hall. Interior renovations are to include an elevator and the use of historic materials.
“Residential unit interiors will feature tall ceilings, exposed brick, energy efficient heating and cooling systems and high-quality finishes,” reads a letter Danforth wrote to the City Council.
Mayor James Fiorentini said the mixed-use proposal, featuring both homes and businesses, is the kind of project he wants downtown and that it has his full support.
The mayor said prior housing proposals for the Surplus Office Supply building fell through due to lack of parking for tenants.
But he said parking is no longer a problem there due to the proximity of the new Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority parking garage in Railroad Square. The developers already have an agreement with the MVRTA to lease spaces for future tenants of the development, Fiorentini said.
The project is the latest redevelopment of an old building in the western end of downtown. In recent years, hundreds and apartments and condominiums have moved into vacant former shoe factories.
New life for old building
4,000 square feet of retail space
Addition of an elevator
Restoring historic storefront