For decades this mill was a structure out of a locked-room mystery. Its beautiful and enormous Victorian windows bricked up as cotton fell from favor and chemical-based polyester required climate control. And for nearly 40 years, it was a storage warehouse for Life-Like hobby products. Occasionally a tractor trailer would exit the place.
It was one of those classic industrial workhouses where Depression-era laborers swept floors for 25 cents an hour. Those well-worn floors are now artfully refinished and gleam in loft apartments.
Developer-owner David Tufaro calls this project the most challenging and rewarding he has undertaken in about 35 years of work in Baltimore.
At $45 million, it is expensive. He credits a federal financial incentive, the New Market Tax Credits, as being the key piece to make this painstaking restoration-conversion work. He also managed to include three levels of interior parking, an engineering feat I initially thought pure folly. I was wrong.
"The New Market credits are an obscure and very complicated Department of the Treasury program that took a long time for people to figure out," Tufaro said.
The credits also helped Gay Street's American Brewery, downtown's Hippodrome and Everyman theaters, and Woodberry's Clipper Mill make their successful transitions.
Brian K. Tracey, a Bank of America employee, said that his firm and Nationwide Insurance lent $35 million for this mill, which he described as a "complex and ambitious project." He also said that it was a credit to the city that two Fortune 500 companies put their money on Falls Road.
There was other government help. Tufaro credited numerous city government agencies, as well as the Maryland Historical Trust. The Maryland Department of the Environment put a $100,000 grant toward Jones Falls cleaning, invasive plant removal and the replanting of indigenous plants and trees.
The mill's conversion conforms to the Baltimore aesthetic rule of avoiding pretension. Tufaro, on a recent visit to Italy, became enamored of cobblestone streets. So the entrance to the restaurant portion of Mill No. 1 has Baltimore-style Belgian-block granite pavers.
His daughter, Jennifer Tufaro Nolley, oversaw the design features in the inviting public spaces.
The building celebrates its industrial heritage. Parts of the ancient furnace and boiler, massive iron doors and what seem like a forest of re-purposed timbers contribute to the factory experience.
Tufaro Nolley credited the Baltimore Museum of Industry with sharing its archives and its treasures. The museum permitted a 1940 Stehedco loom, which once functioned here, to be returned to the Jones Falls Valley where it now sits in a place of honor. A motto on the loom could be the project's theme: "Quality must be woven into the cloth."
This article originally appeared in The Baltimore Sun publication. Content was produced by outside parties not affiliated with Bank of America. Opinions or ideas expressed are not necessarily those of Bank of America, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, U.S. Trust or Bank of America Merrill Lynch, nor do they reflect their views or endorsement. These materials are for informational purposes only. Bank of America, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, U.S. Trust and Bank of America Merrill Lynch do not assume liability for any loss or damage resulting from anyone's reliance on the information provided.