Last spring and summer I did a few posts I called "This Week on My Street," showing the changes that are happening in the old industrial neighborhood where I live. I thought I'd bring back the series with a glimpse at the excitement around here this winter. When Todd and I bought our condo five years ago, we were some of the first fools people to invest in this very rundown part of an old textile mill town. Some folks lovingly called it Heroin Alley. It wasn't pretty. It's still not what you'd call pretty, and to buy a place in one of the old mills on our street, you had to have faith that things would change. You had to put up with streets lined with litter, graffiti, having your car windows bashed in (yes, this happened to us a couple of years ago, and it still happens regularly to folks who don't park in the new garage at night). You had to put up with hookers outside (and sometimes inside) the door and addicts sleeping in the mill stairwell. When we first moved in, our building had no real security. We still don't have all that much, and the drama six floors down from us on the street often looks like an episode of "Cops." In fact, some of the dramas inside our building have been, umm, scary. Were we crazy? Maybe. Yet this old mill is beautiful, and we knew that we could make our little loft home. We also knew that the city had big plans for this neighborhood.
Now, five years later, we've seen big changes: historic buildings restored; monstrous, windowless cinderblock warehouses torn down; a new garage built; businesses moving into storefronts that had stood vacant for decades. The new courthouse is going to be constructed just yards from our big old mill, and across the street is the best thing of all. Above is a photo of the derelict mill that I look out at from my desk. I took this photo last summer looking through the window screen. Running in front of the mill is an old power canal that's really quite lovely. Notice the old windows boarded over and painted green? They'd been like that for many years. I've always loved that old mill, but now, some changes are taking place . . .
. . . gone are the boards, because, at last, the building is being renovated. The best part is that the developers are turning it into artists' studios and retail space. We already have lots of artists' studios in this city, but the demand is growing, and this newest development is going to be huge. Imagine a cool studio of your very own right on the canal! Yep, that's the canal in the photo above, frozen over. Maybe we could go for a skate!
These days, when I wake up in the morning, I look out my window and see these men hard at work. Right now, they are gutting everything. I watch them take circular saws to the floor that they're standing on, which wasn't exactly stable to begin with, and then huge cranes lift sections of floor and carry it away. Magic! And they do it six floors up without safety harnesses. This week we're having loads of snow, and they're working right through the storms. With all those windows they almost look like bees in a honeycomb.
This last shot is the building from street level. My building looks a lot like this, but with actual panes in the windows and niceties like floors and ceilings. I know this isn't everyone's idea of home, but it has been a fascinating place to live for the last half decade. Todd and I never go for the house on a cul-de-sac kind of thing. I asked earlier, were we crazy. Yes, I think we were, but I have this thing for old bricks and canals and massive beams and living high up over the city. Due to some changes in our lives, it's likely that we won't stay here much longer. Wonder where we'll end up next? Anyone want to cast a vote?