WESTBROOK — A family-owned New Hampshire company with a history of redeveloping old mills has purchased the Dana Warp Mill at 90 Bridge St. for $5.1 million.
Chinburg Properties, based in New Market, New Hampshire, bought the mill from Saša Cook, closing on the deal Dec. 14.
“We have a soft spot for beautiful mill buildings on rivers,” said President and CEO Eric Chinburg, who started the company in 1987.
“Westbrook was attractive to us,” he said. “The riverfront is beautiful and its proximity to Portland is a plus.”
“This will undoubtedly breathe new life and new activity and new investment into that property that is a key property across the river from our downtown,” City Administrator Jerre Bryant said.
Chinburg Properties has converted more than a half dozen old mills throughout Maine, including one on Saco Island, and New Hampshire and Massachusetts to residential and commercial uses.
The close to 250,000-square-foot Dana Warp Mill, more than 130 years old, houses 70 businesses, including dance and fitness facilities, manufacturers of skin care and food products, a law firm, a co-working space and a media company.
Chinburg said the company intends to meet with building tenants to “figure out their long-term goals and try to align them with ours.”
One issue Chinburg would like to address is parking. Bryant said the change in ownership provides an opportunity to reinvigorate the conversation about the parking challenges in the area.
Westrook Mayor Mike Sanphy said he would like to see Chinburg construct a parking garage for the building to ease some of the traffic and parking concerns. Parking there has been something of a concern for the previous property owners as well.
“At times,” Sanphy said, “traffic is intolerable there.”
A garage, Chinburg said, may not be feasible, but finding partnerships to share nearby parking may be.
Chinburg said the parking is working now, but as the uses change or residential units move in, that won’t be so anymore.
“(Occupancy) has never got past 70 percent because parking is a limitation,” he said.
Chinburg said he has enjoyed working in Maine, where his company took an empty mill building in Saco and converted it into 150 residential units and a dozen commercial spaces. Chinburg Properties is also helping to redevelop the old Lincoln Mill in Biddeford.
Westbrook Economic Development Director Daniel Stevenson was thrilled to hear the news, calling it “a good thing for the city.”
“I worked in Biddeford and Biddeford and Saco work closely together so I have seen first hand the work that was done in Saco and was very pleased,” he said.
Chinburg said the Westbrook mill building is in “nice shape,” but he would like to make security improvements, with the long-term vision of adding residential units to the building, something previous property owners had talked about.
“We appreciate the work and effort of Saša and Peter Cook put into the property, but this is a timely and exciting opportunity to do more and make things better,” Bryant said.
Chinburg said he intends to build off the work the Cooks did with the property.
“We are poised to continue that and possibly make it better. We are in the business of owning, operating and improving mills,” he said.
The Dana Warp Mill was built by the Westbrook Manufacturing Company, owned by S.D. Warren for a bit and taken over by Woodbury Dana for its cotton warp operation in 1900. The building was expanded over the years as Dana’s operations grew. It closed in the late 1958s. Renovation of the mill began in the late 1990s when the site was purchased by Tim Flannery, who owned it until 2011 when he sold it to Saša Cook.
“It’s an interesting building with a lot of history to it,” said Sanphy, president of the Westbrook Historical Society.
Michael Kelley can be reached at 78-9106 or [email protected] or on Twitter @mkelleynews.
Chinburg Properties closed this month on the purchase of the 250,000-square-foot Dana Warp Mill. The company owns and operates commercial centers in old mills in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine, including the Saco Mill 4 in Saco.
Chinburg Properties was attracted to the Dana Warp Mill because of its old mill charm. This is the fourth floor where apparel company American Roots has space.
With its views of Saccarappa Falls and downtown, space at the corner of the fourth floor of the Dana Warp Mill, above, could be a prime place for residential units. The new owner is interested in adding a residences, but plans on meeting with tenants about their plans before examining the feasibility of a residential use.
Tucked amidst nooks and crannies and long halls, 70 businesses call the Dana Warp Mill home.