Apartment living goes green and gets connected
Drew and Ezra Temko, both 30, moved to the Seacoast from the Philadelphia area two years ago. “We likely would not be living in Newmarket if it weren’t for the Mills,” Drew says. “I traveled to the area prior to our move and fell in love with the Mills for several reasons: being on the water, the beautiful exterior of the building, heated floors, large windows, and the location in downtown Newmarket.”
Newmarket Mills is a thriving mixed-use property set in historic mill buildings. Between 2010 and 2012, abandoned mills along Newmarket’s Main Street were revitalized through a public and private partnership primarily among the town, the Newmarket Community Development Corporation, and Chinburg Properties, a 30-year-old development and construction firm based in Newmarket.
“When it comes to choosing a home, traditional values are making a comeback,” says Jen Chinburg, the company’s marketing director. “There’s a real interest in returning to priorities-driven, thoughtfully constructed, community-based residences, downtown and beyond. The town of Newmarket was great to work with and was really supportive of the concept to provide these types of residences through modern apartments that offer plenty of historic charm.”
The Temkos rent a two-bedroom apartment, decorated in a style Drew describes as mid-century eclectic. “Most of our family and friends seem to be impressed by how we made an apartment feel like a home,” Drew says. “Just because you rent doesn’t mean you can’t create a haven to enjoy.” The Temkos find that renting has many advantages. “The Mills certainly has increased our quality of life,” Drew says. “We’re constantly on the go. We’re too busy to worry about the lawn, repairs, and all the other work that comes with homeownership. School, work, and parenting—we’re waiting for our first foster placement—can be overwhelming. We simply pay our rent and utilities. The luxuries of living in the Mills have allowed us to strengthen our family unit and our life goals. It allows us to be more successful in what we do.”
Success is no stranger to the Mills. Nearly 200 years ago, Newmarket Manufacturing Company constructed its first mill in Newmarket, harnessing the power of the Lamprey River for textile production. Several mills were added over the century that followed and, during peak production, more than 700 people were employed. The company closed in 1929 and the mills housed various tenants in the ensuing decades, including Sam Smith Shoe Co. and Timberland. Though the mills dominated downtown and long symbolized the town’s industriousness, they steadily fell into disrepair by the 1990s.
The two-year revitalization of the Mills was decidedly green, from recycling approximately 80 percent of the demolition debris to incorporating eco-elements, both big (such as energy-efficient white roofing) and small (such as locally made light fixtures). Now a bustling and successful space once again, Newmarket Mills has an iconic granite exterior and lofty brick interiors that house up to 200 tenants in 112 apartments (studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments) as well as an estimated 200 employees of 30 or so mill-based businesses, including the Joinery, a locally sourced and seasonally influenced restaurant, and Millspace, a civic center for art, history, and culture.
“We always envisioned the mills becoming a vital part of the community again; a lot of hard work realized that vision,” says Diane Hardy, Newmarket town planner. The town’s $6.8-million-dollar Main Street Reconstruction Project coincided with the mill redevelopment, enhancing business, community, and the character of downtown with improved utilities, updated streetscapes, and widened sidewalks.
“The residents of Newmarket Mills have truly revitalized the community” says Steve Fournier, town manager for Newmarket. “What was once empty storefronts and vacant lots are now restaurants, stores, and parks. You can visit the town at any hour of any day, and we have a vibrant downtown. This is due in large part to the people who live in the mills, who are able to walk out their front doors and go shopping or grab a bite to eat.”
Newmarket Mills has received professional recognition, such as the 2012 New Hampshire Preservation Alliance Award and the Build New Hampshire Green Building Award, but it is the positive response from tenants that means the most to Chinburg Properties. “We love hearing we’ve created a space that’s more than just an apartment,” Chinburg says. “We strive for people to live, work, and recreate, all in the same building. When they have to leave, we made it easy for them to get around and get things done; for instance, there’s a bus stop within walking distance and a grocery store that’s part of Newmarket Mills Weaver’s Row development just across the street.”
For the Temkos, the extras included with their apartment were part of why they chose to live at Newmarket Mills. “We own a canoe and a kayak and use them frequently; there’s a place to store them at no cost,” Drew says. “We had a family reunion and were able to reserve the common area to allow our family a place to hang out for the day. They were able to benefit from the beauty of our common-space backyard.”
Chinburg Properties is renovating mills into historically modern apartments in other cities and towns in New Hampshire and Maine, like Perley Canal Mill (Laconia, New Hampshire) and Saco Mills (Saco, Maine). “Part of our mission is to foresee and meet the needs of municipalities, residents, and the environment,” Chinburg says. “To us, this is a quality of life issue. When more people meet their needs within a smaller footprint, there’s a stronger sense of community and more opportunities to recreate and connect.”