Adaptive Reuse of MA Factory Complete

Once known for manufacturing heavy woven canvas, the 121-year-old Duck Mill in Lawrence, Mass., finds new life as affordable housing.

DuckMillRibbonLawrence, Mass.—Union Crossing II, an adaptive reuse of the historic Duck Mill in Lawrence, Mass., into affordable housing, has been completed. The project is the second phase of a two-mill renovation by Lawrence Community Works.

Duck Mill originally opened in 1896 to manufacture a heavy woven canvas called duck (more tightly woven than plain canvas), which was used to make sails, tents and other items. Manufacturing stopped in about 1950, and two floors of the building were occupied for 30 years by a furniture show room.

After that, the building was mostly vacant until it was purchased by Lawrence Community Works in 2008 with redevelopment plans in mind. Durkee, Brown, Viveiros & Werenfels Architects designed the redevelopment, while NEI General Contracting did the construction.

The second phase offers 39 one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The space features original elements of the building including over-sized windows with views of the North Canal and the Merrimack River, 12-foot-high ceilings, wide open wood floors, and exposed wooden columns.

All of the apartments are affordable to families earning between 30 percent and 60 percent of the average median income in Lawrence, Methuen and the Andovers. The formula sets monthly rents at between $850 and $1,200, which can be further subsidized by vouchers from the Section 8 program. That allows households with annual incomes of as little as about $18,000 to live in the property.