Growing CIWorks May Spur Lower Millyard Development

Wednesday December 15, 2021

AMESBURY – In what could be a boost to the long-awaited re-development of the Lower Millyard district, CIWorks has been asked to manage and recruit businesses and manufacturing firms for space in a building that overlooks the scenic Powwow River and Rail Trail. 

If Robert O’Brien and Mark Friery with CIWorks have the same level of success in attracting businesses to the three-story contemporary building at 35 Water St. that they have in other Lower Millyard sites, this move could add close to 100 people daily to the area. 

“CI Works is currently operating at near full capacity and needs expansion space to grow its contribution to the small business portion of the City’s mixed-use goal,” Friery wrote in an email.

Last spring, Mayor Kassandra Gove initiated a new study by the Urban Land Institute/Boston chapter of the Lower Millyard district. The ULI study concluded that “The Lower Millyard has been the subject of multiple studies over the past 30 years, yet none of these studies, be they niche environmental studies or more comprehensive analyses, have taken hold.” 

The district has great economic development potential for the city because of its proximity to downtown Amesbury and with assets like the river, rail trail and open land. But it has not been developed because the properties are owned by a variety of interests and the city does not control a significant portion of the land. 

“The stated goal of the lower Millyard overlay district zoning law is to promote mixed-use development of the area in a supporting fashion to the downtown,” Friery wrote. “Success of the Mayor’s development plan requires additional properties with owners who share in this goal.”

The 35 Water Street building, owned by Kevin Chiles and John Maguzzo, was built in the 1980s, but has the look and charm of other historic mill buildings in the district. The building features a large rear deck overlooking the river that O’Brien and Friery expect could be used by a restaurant and bar/brewery that would attract evening patrons to the area. 

The popular Barewolf Brewing already operates a brewing and tap room space nearby at 12 Oakland St.  

The Water Street building is leased in part now by Coastal Connections, Inc., which helps people with disabilities achieve their full potential. Coastal Connections will continue leasing 12,000 square feet of the building for its tailored programming.

CI Works has previously converted three buildings in the Lower Millyard into a collaborative work environment for a wide variety of small businesses and manufacturing firms. In addition to Coastal Connections, CI Works expects to attract 25 more companies to share the 47,000 square-foot building. 

Opening in 2014 in a 50,000-square-foot former mill building at 11 Chestnut St., two blocks away from 35 Water St., CIWorks has a tenant list of 40 companies. Together those companies employ about 120 people. 

In 2018, O’Brien and Friery purchased the building at 11 Chestnut St. and began looking to convert other under-utilized buildings in the area as platforms for their business model.  This business model was invited to this area of Amesbury by then Mayor Ken Gray and former cit councilor Christian Scorzoni as consistent with the intent for the overlay district.  

“CIWorks creates energetic work environments built on collaboration and open interaction to improve how we work and how we do business. Our campus is an adaptive reuse building, leasing for manufacturing, office and community space that’s actually affordable,” the company announcement stated. 

O’Brien and Friery took on the management of 35 Water St. with an eye to assist the city in re-developing the Lower Millyard district. In marketing the potential of the Water Street building, they pointed out its premier location. 

“Enjoy views of the Powow River and Amesbury’s Rail Trail while you work or walk just 0.3 mi (6 min) into downtown to visit coffee shops, restaurants, and retail shops,” the announcement stated.

The city does control much of the current green recreational space in the Lower Millyard district, the ULI study concluded. 

The ULI plan for the Lower Millyard district is on the City of Amesbury’s website.

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