Lippitt Mill, West Warwick, Rhode Island
Lippitt Mill is the second oldest mill in Rhode Island. Located in the town of West Warwick, it was making material for raincoats as recently as 2010. Then a massive flood forced it to close. After a failed attempt to transform it into apartments, the project went into receivership and the building lay vacant. In 2015, that changed when an architect showed the project to the Prominen Management Group. Prominen executive Kristopher Shaw remembers, “We fell in love with the mill. We thought it would be a great project for the town, as well as for us.”
Fortunately, the town thought so too, and Prominen won the bid to transform the property into 65 units of affordable housing. This is more than a one-off project, however. It is part of a Rhode Island initiative known as HOPE. Targeting five municipalities where family poverty levels exceed the state median, HOPE supports the rehabilitation of historic structures and location of development near transit hubs. The goal is to create long-term changes that can serve these Rhode Island communities for decades, supporting a vibrant workforce and thus boosting economic activity—which aligns closely with the Loan Fund’s strategy of investing in communities poised for catalytic regeneration through public-private partnership.
Shaw explains, “Our mission is to develop high-quality housing for people in communities like West Warwick. We think it sends an important message that someone who is not part of the community cares enough to provide housing, jobs and services—to put funds back into the community that can help lift it up.”
Not surprisingly, Lippitt Mill was on the town’s priority list for development. “It had been a difficult project to get financed and under construction,” Shaw notes. “There were concerns on the lender side about how much rent we could generate.” BlueHub Capital, then known as Boston Community Capital, was instrumental in putting together the financing.
“To make it happen, we deferred our development fees, and took advantage of three types of tax credits." BlueHub Capital, he says, provided the final touches to "bridge the tax credits to get to the finish line.”
“I’ve been through a lot of projects, and I’ve never seen one where the lender buys into the project because they see the benefit. We have the same mission, to stimulate and improve these communities." BlueHub Capital, he continues, "know how to meet the developer’s needs, close quickly, and get the project going—they are hands down the best I’ve ever experienced.”
“Projects like this are hard, and you get deal fatigue, but knowing... that they are ready to join us for the ride gives me the courage to go find more.”
Photo credit: Marilyn Humphries