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Condos To Revive Former Farber Mill

By Lisa Eckelbecker Telegram & Gazette Staff

WORCESTER- The Abrams Group LLC of Boston announced yesterday it has formed a joint venture with a Bridgewater construction company to redevelop the former L. Farber Co. mill building at 160 Fremont St. into 97 luxury loft-style condominiums.

Abrams Group and the Callahan Cos. have an option on the property and expect to close the deal Sept. 12, with construction to begin soon after, said Jeffrey A. Brooks, a partner in the Abrams Group.

Total investment in the project will be about $15 million, he said.

The developers want to open the building in Fall 2005, and are planning to create a model unit in the next 30 to 60 days so that marketing can begin, according to Mr. Brooks.

There’s been a trend throughout the nation, whether it be young professionals, empty nesters or first-time home buyers looking for unique product, Mr. Brooks said. We can offer a new and very unique product at a price point that first-time home buyers can afford.

He said he expects units in the building to sell in the $150,000 range and up.

The development of loft-style housing is well established in other cities but relatively new to Worcester. Yet some developers are pushing the style.

The former Worcester Envelope Co. building, off Shrewsbury Street, is being renovated into loft-style condominiums known as the Biscuit Lofts, and Berkeley Investments Inc. of Boston has said that it plans to develop some loft-style housing as it tears down much of the Worcester Common Outlets mall and converts a 20-acre swath of downtown into new office and residential buildings.

The Abrams Group has previously converted old mill buildings into loft-style housing. In Lowell, it turned the former Dutton Yarn Co. building into 135 apartments.

In Worcester, the developers have secured local government approvals for the Fremont Street project, including an “adaptive reuse overlay district” that allows the creation of housing in a manufacturing zone.

Plans call for the building to contain 14 one-bedroom condominiums, 83 two-bedroom units, a fitness center, and a media/business center with meeting space. The property will have 149 parking spaces. Coldwell Banker, which also is marketing the Biscuit Lofts building, has been retained to market the property.

Built in 1900, according to Worcester assessor’s records, the building contains 119,840 square feet of space and is valued at $606,200. L. Farber Co. bought the former mill building in 1951 for about $400,000 and used it to manufacture leather innersoles for shoes.

In 1997, the Internal Revenue Service closed down the company for nonpayment of taxes. By 1999, the building was busy again, this time as a temporary home for the Worcester Public Library while the main branch underwent redevelopment.

The building is now mostly empty. Mr. Brooks said the developers plan to create an interior courtyard in the building and keep the property’s distinctive smokestack.

We really try to bring these things back to life, he said.

Business Reporter Lisa Eckelbecker can be reached at