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One man’s vision is unfolding in Lowell’s Mill No. 5, a hidden eclectic indoor streetscape filled with shops and a theater

Mill No. 5 in Lowell

Jim Lichoulas was 11 years old when he started helping his father and some friends restore the water turbines on their property into a hydroelectric power plant. The scrawny boy stared in awe as water rushed through a wooden wheel twice his size.

“It started with the curiosity of the mills themselves, the massive scale and the rust,” he said.

That curiosity nagged Lichoulas two decades later when he revisited the vacant fourth and fifth floors of Mill No. 5, the family’s remaining claim to the Appleton Mills complex in Lowell. His father, James Lichoulas Jr., had just lost seven acres of the complex in a very public, years-long eminent domain fight against the city.

The younger Lichoulas, then 36, planned to convert Mill No. 5 into condominiums, but the recession hit. Instead, he pitched what seemed like a crazy idea.

The meatpacking district in New York City saw Chelsea Market spring from the ashes of Nabisco’s factory building after developer Irwin Cohen bought it for $10 million. Tourists from all around the world flocked to the food hall’s restaurants, tea shops, bakeries and clothing boutiques.

Why couldn’t that be done in Lowell?

“‘A streetscape inside a building with a movie theater? No, that’s not going to happen,’” Lichoulas, now 46, recalled hearing. “We had to build it in order for people to believe it.”

Jim Lichoulas is the brainchild behind Mill No. 5 on Jackson Street in Lowell.

Dave Perry had heard it all before. The former Lowell Sun reporter had heard city officials and entrepreneurs propose a number of redevelopment projects they hoped would transform Lowell, from the Tsongas arena that had $20 million in state funding to the Edward A. LeLacheur Park and its team and the Lowell Spinners to the ongoing Hamilton Canal Innovation District initiative that includes a piece of the Appleton Mills complex. It was successful, but not revolutionary.

“Lowell did a lot of things over the years and tried a lot of things over the years,” Perry said.

Perry first heard about the mill renovations nine years ago. He was selling vinyl records at music fairs, hoping to shrink his massive record collection at home. An ex-colleague told him about Lichoulas’ plans.

“I heard from a person I used to work with at the Lowell Sun that there was this place — this new, cool, sort of magical, whimsical place — that was going to be happening in Lowell,” Perry said. “First of all, that was so incongruous.”

One man’s vision is unfolding in Lowell’s Mill No. 5, a hidden eclectic indoor streetscape filled with shops and a theater Mill No. 5 in Lowell Jim Lichoulas was 11 years old when he started

MILL NO. 5:
Beloved Lowell shops that you need to know

Mill No. 5 in Lowell welcomes visitors with the creak of hardwood floors that rest underneath a streetscape of small businesses. The fourth floor of the textile mill, built in 1873, has been reawakened as a gathering place where shoppers can have authentic experiences with unique products.

All shops are open Thursday and Friday from 5 p.m.until 8 p.m., Saturday from 12 p.m. until 8 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Most shops have additional hours.

Mill City Cheesemongers

A commitment to supporting small-scale, sustainable agriculture and small businesses across New England has given rise to this market where customers can find unique flavors and reinterpretations of condiments, confections, and specialty foods. And of course, there are also the artisan cheeses.

Mill City Cheesemongers

Crose Nest

At Crose Nest’s Botanical Pharmacopoeia, customers are empowered to create herbal teas, bath soaks, face masks, and other herbal blends in-store, with staff support and recipe books to browse. They also retail many goods and gifts, including handmade greeting cards, artwork, mugs, succulents, and jewelry.

Red Antler Apothecary

The folks at Red Antler proudly craft soaps and other household products in small batches using natural ingredients and old-world recipes. Soap can be cut in store to your desired size, and each variety is more interesting than the last.

MILL NO. 5: Beloved Lowell shops that you need to know Mill No. 5 in Lowell welcomes visitors with the creak of hardwood floors that rest underneath a streetscape of small businesses. The fourth ]]>