THE WHITIN MILL RENOVATION PROJECT

It has been 10 years since the office of Alternatives Unlimited, an organization that helps to provide jobs and homes, and assists mentally or psychiatrically challenged residents of Central Massachusetts, (log on to www.alternativesnet.org ) has been located at 54 Douglas Road in Whitinsville within the complex of the former imposing Whitin Machine Works. Little did this entity realize at the time that it would indeed make history come alive. Dennis H. Rice, its present Executive Director, has said that his company’s massive project is “all about reciprocity”. This mutual exchange to which he referred, involves sharing and enjoying for generations the glowing heritage left by the Whitins with all of the residents as well as clients of the community that are served by Alternatives Unlimited.

Utilizing so-called Green Technology, this daring undertaking has been made possible through the vim, vigor, vitality and vision of Dennis H. Rice and his remarkable Staff of workers. It is now dubbed The Whitin Mill Renovation Project. ( At the time of this article, this writer has been told that the scheduled Grand Opening for this Project has been delayed until Spring of 2008.) Having been first proposed in 2004, it is now approaching a total capital investment of about $10 million.

From the photo above, one cannot envision the great “retrofitting of Whitin’s Mill and other buildings” on the property to be “energy self-sufficient and also environmentally sensitive”. First and foremost, will be the Hydropower that has always been harnessed from the Mumford River by the Whitins. The spillway will be raised an additional 30” in height to provide a heavier drop of water, which constantly flows at a steady pace. With a new turbine in place, a generator will be driven that will produce 50 Kilowatts of electricity. (If all of this power is not used on site, Alternatives will sell it to the Electrical Grid to help reduce the region’s demand for oil or coal-generated electricity. ) Second, an array of Solar Panels on the roof of the 3-story brick mill built in 1906 will produce 10 Kilowatts of electricity. Third, the Geothermal Wells, which have tubes sunk more than 1,000 feet below the surface into bedrock, will utilize the year-round water temperature of 55*, circulating it to heat pumps that will cool the buildings in the Summer and help to heat them in the Winter. There are also heat exchangers in the buildings to perform this in the main rooms. The Green Technology will altogether generate 88% of the on-site energy needs and 100% of the required heating and cooling. Annual costs for electricity, heating, and air conditioning will be cut from $67,000 to $33,000 because of the use of Solar Panels, Hydropower, and Geothermal Wells.

(Photos: 1826-Plaque, Going Green,  Spinning Ring Shop and Brick Mill, Old Forge Shop, Red Brick Mill, T +G Art.7-5-07, Distant View- WMRP, New Forge )

 

The Old Forge, built by James Fletcher in 1772, has been fully restored to its original condition and a new gas-fired forge will be available for local artisans, like a Blacksmith or Glass Blower. The 1820 Brick Mill will contain a Restaurant, a Conference Center, Function Space and a Performance/ Training Center. The 1826 Federal Style Mill will house space for Artists, a Museum, and in addition, it will have 3 apartments for clients of Alternatives Unlimited. The 1906 brick mill will house the Administrative Offices of Alternatives Unlimited and will also contain an Art Gallery. There will be a Public Plaza where visitors may sit and dine as well as walk around to view the other structures ( including a 3-story outhouse) and the Mumford River. This is also a fine place to hold a Concert, a Farmer’s Market, or even a ‘Block Dance’. Altogether, Alternatives Unlimited has transformed 37,000 sq. ft. of space in the Mill Complex into a marvelous attraction and Visitor Site for the entire community. The contractor for this project was Consigli Construction. Incidentally, this developed one-acre site is on the National Historic Register and it is also protected by a Deed Restriction from the Northbridge Historical Commission and the Massachusetts State Historical Commission. Can you imagine that they tried to sell this site about 3 years ago ?

As far as total cost and project financing, estimated income will be met by space leases, donations, event revenues and partnership support. Alternatives Unlimited feels confident that they can meet all of their funding estimates, for vital sources of revenue and utility savings include commercial leases, the hydropower facility, the geothermal wells and the photovoltaic system. There are grant incomes and future event revenues which will help to provide sufficient revenues for the future growth of this Project.

Perhaps Christina P. O’Neill, Staff Reporter for The Worcester Business Journal, can further substantiate this writer’s work of the Whitin Legacy. I quote:

 “The Whitin Family Legacy of sustainable investment lives in its contributions to the Town of Northbridge, and in spirit. Today, Alternatives Unlimited has captured that spirit- and the strength of its community- with its new endeavor.”

For more information about The Whitin Mill Renovation Project, simply visit www.alternativesnet.org and click on the “Whitin Mill Renovation” link.

CREDITS ( September 8, 2007) Worcester Telegram and Gazette; July 5, 2007; Business Section Sunday Telegram; July 8, 2007; Section A, p.16 Boston Globe; Oct. 16, 2006; Barry Chin, Photog.; Business Section Alternatives, Inc.; Austin Architects, LLC; Oct.16, 2006 Worcester Business Journal; Christina P. O’Neill, Rep. ; Oct. 2007
 

 

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