The mills of New England are humming with new energy, and Mill No. 5 in Lowell, Massachusetts is one of the best examples.
Beauty and inspiration are often found in the most unsuspecting places. Though if that unsuspecting location is within the birth town of such artists as Jack Kerouac and Bette Davis, is it really all that surprising? Lowell is, as developer Jim Lichoulas would put it, the city of “untapped potential,” and Mill No. 5 is the culmination of everything it has been and everything it has the potential to be.
At its heart, Mill No. 5 is whatever you want it to be. Within this 1870s-era brick edifice, through the rusted steel gates, and up a clunky elevator to the fourth floor, you’ll find the Farm Market, stocked with Q’s Chocolate Lavender Nuts; a nostalgic box of David Bowie records at Vinyl Destination; an afternoon showing of Singin’ in the Rain at Luna Theater; a dangerously delicious bacon and apple grilled cheese from Coffee and Cotton; or vintage-keyboard lessons at the Tone Loft.
Beneath the complex of diverse vendors, Mill No. 5 is really a solution to the problem Lowell has had for the last decade, and every proprietor within the building is playing a key part in contributing to a solution.
“Enough of the pieces are here for Lowell to become very desirable, but we are still lacking a unifying force to align interests,” says Lichoulas, the creative mind behind Mill No. 5. “I’m a big believer that a rising tide lifts all boats. There are things that I can do that cost Mill No. 5 very little but can help other organizations greatly, and vice versa. It is that lack of mindfulness of finding ways to help each other that holds us back.”
Jennifer Howell, one of the first proprietors to partner with Lichoulas and Mill No. 5, is implementing that mindfulness in her yoga fusion classes at Sutra Studio. With Howell’s Karma Card program, patrons who can afford to have the opportunity to buy drop-in classes for those who have fallen on hard times, effectively paying it forward.
And that’s what Mill No. 5 is all about. Here you will quickly realize that behind this place, with all of its potential, is a group of passionate people with the desire to prove that, as Lichoulas says, “It does not take big companies and tax incentives to make a place desirable. It takes vision and grass-rooted cooperation to change a city.”
This article originally ran in our June/July 2016 print edition.