2020 Awards of Excellence: Montgomery Mill

The Town of Windsor Locks, Beacon Communities, Crosskey Architects
With partners: Fuss & O’Neill; State of Connecticut; Connecticut Housing Finance Authority; National Park Service

The once bustling J.R. Montgomery Company Industrial Complex, a hulking (225,000 square foot) structure stood empty and blighted, creating a defining eyesore at the town’s gateway. In the early 2000s, the Windsor Locks community rallied around removing barriers and seeking opportunities for the revitalization of downtown. Montgomery Mill became a major catalytic project for the town. Redevelopment of this long vacant riverside mill included: preserving a historic site of significance and character; providing new downtown housing; and reconnecting to and embracing the Connecticut River, the Windsor Locks Canal and the adjacent 4.5-mile Connecticut Canal Trail.

The challenges were many, including remediation of a massive brownfield site; a blighted site threatened every passing day by exposure to the elements; a peculiar location with limited site access that necessitated creative site design; and an under-performing downtown lacking in character.

Town leadership began to take the incremental steps, putting things in place. The 2008 Downtown Master Plan would engage the community in envisioning the future and laid out both short- and long-term strategies. This was followed by a 2010 Plan for Relocation of the Amtrak Station; a 2013 transit-oriented design (TOD) Study and creation of a Main Street Overlay Zone & Adaptive Reuse Regulations; and in 2016 creation of a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District and Plan. Windsor Locks became first municipality in the state to create a TIF District and Plan, under the 2015 enabling legislation, championed by Connecticut Main Street Center. Beacon CommunitiesPresident of Development Dara Kovel, stated the promise of the TIF District played a big role in the company’s decision to invest in redeveloping the Montgomery Mill in Windsor Locks.

The $62.2 million adaptive reuse project has resulted in 160 new units of mixed-income apartments, 51% of which are income-restricted. There are now over 200 new sets of feet on the street, enjoying their new apartments and the unique location and spending money on local goods and services.

What’s Next? Windsor Locks is hard at work creating a TIF District-funded Public Market, integrating the market, the train station and surrounding TOD. Additional next steps include implementation of Complete Streets projects, including wayfinding, amenities, a band shell, and Canal Park & Trail.