Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This Week on My Street

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?


  1. Mmm a bit of mystery there at the end darling Gigi, I'm intrigued.

    I love the last picture, and think it'd be great to live there.

    We will be moving into a vintage styled house this year, if it ever gets built. Some acres with horse, dog, chickens and orchard etc. So that should be fun!

    Change for us both maybe.

  2. oh gigi, one of my dreams is to live in a loft. i didn't realize you did! that's so cool. but now you have me wondering... where? oh where? will you go?
    could it be a beach house (like diane keatons in somethings gotta give).... :) that's another dream of mine! :)

    i think it's beautiful how you had faith and took a chance. very inspiring!

    xxo, kim

  3. I have always wanted to live in a loft...and a log cabin, and a beach house and a houseboat and a tree house.....just remember wherever you and Todd wind up - your home is where you hang your heart...that's all that matters....but a mystery is a mystery and I can't wait to solve this one....:) Happy Thursday, my lovely friend! xxoo

  4. I love seeing neglected buildings and areas brought back to life. It must be fascinating for you to watch this progress in a place that you obviously love. As to where you'll be next, any clues? Leigh

  5. Even that skeletal building has beauty, doesn't it.

  6. Lucky you, to be living in a loft!!!! So jelous of that!!!I can imagine , sitting in the window, looking at the workers , just as you do...mmm.
    When it comes to the building... I could definitely have my studio there...

    Oh, and just want to tell you , I left you an award at my blog, 5 posts away =)... I guess you missed it , since I only made a post about it, and forgot to come here and tell you about it...

    Have a wonderful day!

  7. Isn't it lovely when a city can save some of its history? Your story could be set in Manchester, UK, where many similar warehouses are being converted into homes and hotels.

  8. brilliant idea to bring the series back ! I loved this post.

  9. After loft living in Providence, these photos make my heart jump! Gigi, you may want to check out some of the posters and postings on this site: http://www.secretdoorprojects.org.

    Also, I just wanted to thank you for your recent comment. Your comments are never too long (!) and always welcome, and I'm glad you felt you could share those things over at secret notebooks.

  10. how exciting to live across from an art district. i would want to hang out there all the time -even during the renovations. how beautiful.

  11. Gigi,

    I can see how you would be attracted to loft living. I think my mill ancestors must have worked in similar buildings.

    What's next? Pacific Grove, CA has an artist-in-residence program which comes with a cottage. (RLS once lived in the area)

    Take it from a vagabond-new and exciting adventures await!


  12. You are much braver than I am, even with the promise of future beauty and value...I'm such a big chicken. An episode of "Cops" just wouldn't work for this small town girl. It is exciting to see old neighborhoods come to life again. I love to visit...I just couldn't live there.

    I think you need to be back near the water...whatever is going on with you, you seem to have found a peace there.

    Giveaway on my blog today, be sure to visit!

  13. I love this story and the tour of your street. I love the idea of loft living. Hope you are enjoying The Office. I swear I could be in the worst mood, crying and all, then I can laugh out loud out of nowhere. How about those Tuesday night marathons on TBS? ;)

  14. Dear Gigi,
    I think that you did really well to buy in an area that is being regenerated.The prices should now go up as it will become a most desirable area. I love Mill conversions. We have many of them in the U.K. as there are so many industrial towns with run down mills.
    As to where you might go next on your journey, I can only think of your beautiful island, Gigi although, that might not be practical. I can't wait to see where your journey takes you next. XXXX

  15. Hmm where are you going I wonder?! We have only just begun to see this kind of redevelopment of old building happen. In my town not so much, but in the main city a couple of hours away it is beginning to happen, really interesting.

  16. What an adventure...I don't know where you'll end up, but one thing I do know is you see the beauty before others do.
    So wherever you end up, it will be gorgeous, and you'll give it your own magical touch.

    It is nice that you invest in "potentials", you are such a visionary. Love that about you. xo

  17. What an exciting time to have lived there!...

    My husband's architecture office bought a loft in an old mill building in Providence many years ago...it has been fun to watch the entire Jewelry district become improved...but now we can't afford to move there when we retire!

    I hope you continue to share your life's journeys here...wherever they lead will be fun to read about...as I am close to retirement I feel ready for a change too...

  18. I used to work in the jewelry district in Providence in the 90's, so I know it well! I was a cook in a restaurant there called CAV. The neighborhood in Lowell where I live is a lot like the jewelry district, except maybe seedier, if you can believe it. It's vastly improved now, but still dicey!

  19. ...sending you an email about how small this world is and how much I love CAV!

  20. As I read this I kept thinking, "Perfection. Lucky! Good choice!!" Then I read that you might be leaving and my stomach clenched. Funny, hunh? We've never hugged and here I sit feeling sad for you to leave such a perfect place; a place growing more perfect all the time. Of course, then I think of your happy island home... and I know that you will always make beauty your home. Happy weekend, my friend.

  21. Exciting to think that an old derelict building will in just a few short years/months be full of creative people. I love the shape of the windows.


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