The former Lockwood Mill building next to the Ticonic Bridge connecting Waterville and Winslow. A New York City-based development firm is looking to spend more than $20 million to transform about half the mill at 6 Water St. into residential and commercial space. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — A project expected to cost more than $20 million to transform about half the former Lockwood Mill at 6 Water St. into residential and commercial space could begin next year, if all goes according to plan.

The redevelopment would include 65 apartments on upper floors of the building’s southernmost wing, with 48 of them intended to be affordable units and 17 market rate. The affordable housing would be tied to the local median income.

Commercial and retail uses would take up about 4,000 square feet of the 120,000-square-foot, four-story building.

Work to clean and remove asbestos inside the building has been ongoing for about a year, to prepare for construction.

Mariah Monks, a director at North River Co., which owns the building and the two adjacent, former mill buildings, said the southern wing of 6 Water St., which is parallel to the Ticonic Bridge, would be developed as part of a first project phase, and the wing parallel to Water Street would be done later. The cost and details of the second phase have yet to be determined.

North River Co. is a privately held real estate investment and management firm based in New York City. It invests in and manages real property on behalf of high-net-worth individuals, family offices and institutional investors, according to the company, which operates an office in Brunswick.

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“North River is in the process of trying to set a construction timeline, while working through the issues of construction pricing, with the hope to start construction next year,” Monks said Wednesday.

NRC is committed to redeveloping the building and the one next to it, at 8 Water St., which lends itself better to commercial use, Monks said.

Increasing construction costs have made it difficult to say when the work is to begin and be completed, according to Monks, the project manager.

“I think that in Maine, and in the Waterville area in particular, we’re in desperate need of quality affordable housing, and North River Co. is working really hard to help provide really safe and quality housing for the community,” she said. “I think that we hit a lot of headwinds because of the pandemic, and the pandemic has caused some changes on the construction side.”

The three mill buildings, built in the late 1800s, were designed by mill complex architect Amos Lockwood.

Garvan Donegan, director of planning, innovation and economic development for the Central Maine Growth Council, which is working with NRC to redevelop the former mills, said the project is exciting for the downtown and “hugely important from a growth perspective.”

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“It’s a rather large construction project,” Donegan said, “but it will be done pretty quickly.”

North River owns the Hathaway Creative Center at 10 Water St., which includes 67  apartments on the upper floors, MaineGeneral Health offices, Waterville Brewing Co., Bricks Coworking & Innovation Space, KV Crossfit, GenoTyping Center of America, Waterville Creates and Hathaway Mill Antiques, among other tenants.

Workers outside the former Lockwood Mill last Wednesday in Waterville. The building is part of the mill complex near the Ticonic Bridge, connecting Waterville and Winslow. A New York City-based development firm is looking to spend more than $20 million to transform about half the mill at 6 Water St. into residential and commercial space. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Redevelopment of the 66,000-square-foot, two-story building at 8 Water St. could be done as part of phase two, according to Monks.

North River bought the buildings at 6 and 8 Water St. in 2019 for $1.5 million from Paul Boghossian, who developed the Hathaway Creative Center. North River bought the center from him in 2017 for $20 million.

The Central Maine Growth Council in 2019 awarded North River the Developer of the Year Award. Last week, North River was awarded a $450,000 Community Development Block Grant for which the city of Waterville acted as a conduit.

The northernmost mill building, at 6 Water St., belonged previously to Marden’s Surplus & Salvage, while Central Maine Power Co. used the middle building, at 8 Water St. The buildings at 6 and 8 Water sit on 3.27 acres. The entire mill complex, including the Hathaway Creative Center, is 412,000 square feet and overlooks the Kennebec River.

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NRC also owns the Fort Andross Mill in Brunswick and other mills in Portland, Boston and New York.

Redeveloping the Waterville buildings would likely happen concurrently with the city’s $11.2 million downtown revitalization project, which includes changing the traffic flow on Main and Front streets from one way to two and improving intersections and landscaping; replacement of the Ticonic Bridge spanning the Kennebec River, between Waterville and Winslow; and Brookfield Renewable Energy’s construction of a fishway in the Kennebec River.

The $18 million Paul J. Schupf Art Center is under construction now in downtown Waterville, and will join other Colby College developments, including the $6.5 million Greene Block + Studios, the $25.5 million Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, the $5 million redevelopment of 173 Main St. and the $26 million Lockwood Hotel.

The hotel was built at the site of the former Crescent Hotel, previously the site of the Lockwood House, which opened in 1880 and whose patrons were overnight passengers of the narrow gauge railway.

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