Upson Market Place, Unionville

Recipient: Brian Lyman of Parker Benjamin Real Estate Services, LLC
Partners: Town of Farmington

Opportunities & Challenges

  • Brian Lyman, Managing Partner of Parker Benjamin Real Estate Services LLC, has been repurposing old mill buildings since 1983 – he has restored and repurposed six mills so far (in Vermont and New York) and is look at an additional 12 mills right now. Located in Unionville Village, on the banks of the Farmington River, the complex falls into the municipality’s Unionville Village Zone – which encourages mixed use, pedestrian orientation.
  • Finding that conventional bank financing was unattainable, Brian attracted over $1 million from private investors. Having experience with mill redevelopment, Brian’s mission is one that moves at a glacial pace: it is complex, expensive, and mired in environmental and regulatory burdens.
  • Damaged by 20 years of neglect, the former site of the Upson Nut Company was laden with blight liens. The Town stimulated private investment by investing $1.5 million in infrastructure upgrades, to improve pedestrian circulation.

Highlights

  • The restoration of the former ball bearing mill began in 2013, developing the building and its surrounding “campus” for commercial and residential use. Current uses include “life style office”, apartments, a restaurant, a fitness center, and shops & galleries.
  • The 5-unit apartment complex was leased immediately, and there is a waiting list at ESPN for future tenants.
  • The office space, which attracts young talent, has kitchens, showers, and a BBQ patio. One office unit has a ping-pong table in the center area. The complex suits the “work hard-play hard” culture of the young professionals that live and work there. Walking, biking, gym & yoga, dining, and the riverwalk are all right there in the Market Place.
  • One of the first office tenants threw a big party when they opened, which resulted in the entire building being leased up quickly. Upson Market Place is completely leased: there are nine new businesses and 66 jobs – in the tech-based high-growth industry.
  • The Town of Farmington reports that Brian Lyman has a vision that matches the Town’s. He is tenacious and a man of his word. Brian returns the compliment by saying that Farmington is a well-run and stable town with an excellent design-review process – and that the town understands the balance of design & aesthetics, vision, and market reality.

What’s Next?

  • Unionville Village is now anticipating additional private investment: a proposed 268 unit apartment and condo complex on 16 acres adjacent to Upson Market Place.