DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — After months of ground and interior work, residents and others are beginning to see a glimpse of what’s in store for the historic former Mayo woolen mill complex, a collection of nine buildings overlooking the Piscataquis River.
“It’s really come along great now,” Kenneth Woodbury of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council said Thursday.
“Most of the windows are now in. New roofs, they’re working on those, and siding,” he said. “The concrete mill — the biggest part of the structure — is all refinished on the outside. Major, major change. And they’re working rapidly on the inside, on partitions and things like that. There’s been a big, big difference just in the last couple of months.”
The collection of former industrial buildings is being converted into a mixed-use complex that will include a high-tech business center, 22 apartments, space for retail shops and offices, studio space for artisans and an Internet cafe. It also will include a restaurant, an eight- to 12-room boutique hotel and a year-round indoor farmers market that will be housed in a historic 1865 carriage house.
The project, which is expected to be completed in April of next year, will be a boon for residents of Piscataquis County, which has lost most of it manufacturing jobs. Approximately 11.5 percent of the county’s population is unemployed as the region transitions to a service-based economy.
By the time all is said and done, the conversion of the former mill complex will be a $10 million to $12 million project — the largest private investment in Piscataquis County in decades, Woodbury said.
The project has received a financial boost in the form of a $2.3 million line of credit from Wiscasset-based Coastal Enterprises Inc., the construction lender for the project, John Egan, CEI’s senior vice president of housing and real estate development, said Thursday.
“One of the reasons why CEI got involved was because the community, and particularly the town’s economic development organization, really went not just the extra yard but the extra 100 yards to gather up a lot of grant resources and soft loans to make this possible,” Egan said.
“It’s a [roughly] $10 million project and we’re only having to lend $2.3 [million] in construction, so you can see how much other leverage is in there. It was a compelling story for us because there was so much local commitment particularly by Pinecrest Economic Development Corporation,” he said.
CEI also is investing in the project through state historic rehabilitation tax credits, Liz Rogers, the lender’s senior vice president for marketing and communications, said this week.
The project is expected to create at least 42 new jobs initially, project officials said.
An existing hydroelectric generator on the Piscataquis River will be upgraded, and solar and geothermal power systems will be added to create a truly green facility through a $1.5 million investment from the federal Economic Development Administration that was announced in 2012.
The renewable source for the building’s energy is expected to help keep rents affordable and utility costs low.
Egan said that virtually all of the apartments had been spoken for as of the end of September.
“And there’s nothing to see yet. You can walk in and see metal studs laid out on a floor plate of an old mill. But just the location and what people are expecting was enough to get 20 of them committed,” he said.
Woodbury said that the community’s enthusiasm for the project is growing as the project advances.
“Now they can see the change,” he said. “Before, all the work was done on the inside to remove asbestos, remove lead paint. It was all demolition. There wasn’t any construction, it was destruction. Now it’s turned the corner from taking stuff out and removing things to putting things back, redoing, resurfacing, all new windows.
“The windows just make a tremendous difference because it was like someone smiling at you with a tooth missing,” he said, adding, “That’s what we had downtown, with all the broken windows and stuff like that. But now it doesn’t look like a bomb site.”