Westford, Mass.—The thorniest issues in historic redevelopment sometimes come from unexpected places. For Yule Development Co., which is redeveloping the Abbot Mill property in Westford, Mass., the most difficult renovation problem was the need to build a water treatment plant, since the property is within the aquifer of Westford’s drinking water wells, and without conventional sewers.
Not that the rest of the project was simple, according to Yule. Located in the Forge Village neighborhood of Westford, the property is a former textile mill that was constructed over a 60-year period beginning in the late 1800s. A creek called Stony Brook originates at the dam on the east end of Forge Pond, passes under and then next to the Abbot Mill buildings, and continues east to the Concord River. The dam of Forge Pond is part of the property.
Since the mill played an important role in the history of Westford, the National Park Service placed Forge Village on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. As a result, renovations to the Abbot Mill are eligible for federal tax credits when carried out in accordance with the rehabilitation standards of the National Park Service.
Previously, Courier Westford Inc., a printing company, owned the mill buildings, using them and a number of adjacent, more modern industrial buildings for a substantial part of its printing business. The company then decided to consolidate its operations and sell about 150,000 square feet of the Abbot Mill Buildings.
Under the redevelopment plans, Yule is creating 110 rental apartments at Abbott Mill. Eighty-five percent of the units will be rented at market rate, while 15 percent will be affordable. Each apartment will have air conditioning, washer/dryers, soundproofing, and be wired for high-speed Internet access. Consistent with Yule’s usual practice, the apartments and the buildings will also have extensive energy-conservation features.
As for the nettlesome problem posed by the lack of sewers, Yule hired American Water, a water and wastewater utility based in Voorhees, N.J., to create wastewater treatment at the property. Applied Water Management, a subsidiary of American Water, is designing and building the onsite wastewater treatment facility, a membrane bioreactor plant, and will operate it. Membrane bioreactor systems combine clarification, aeration and filtration into a single system, unlike more conventional wastewater treatment. According to American Water, the facility will produce a high-quality effluent that meets all Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection requirements for groundwater recharge.