Residences, brewery, other uses envisioned at Ann & Hope

Residences, brewery, other uses envisioned at Ann & Hope

A rendering shows how streetscape improvements could be made to pair with a redeveloped Ann & Hope Mill.

CUMBERLAND – Owners of the mostly empty Lonsdale Co. Ann & Hope Mill property are seeking a new overlay designation to ease restrictions around its planned redevelopment as a mostly residential but mixed-use complex.

A proposed mix of uses in the mill, which has been up for sale for nearly $5 million, may include but not be limited to, multi-family housing, self-storage, agricultural/hydroponic, medical offices, fitness, dry-cleaning, light industrial, retail, restaurant, business storage, garden center, rooftop gardens and rooftop solar.

The owners say they envision the complex’s 1886 boiler house, with its distinctive brick smokestack, to be adapted into a microbrewery, brew pub or another use.

Planning and Community Development Director Jonathan Stevens deemed this an “opening proposal” that hasn’t been vetted. Sides have started conversations, he said, and the owners are working to get a master plan ready to present sometime this week on exactly what they’re looking for from the town.

The mill property on Ann & Hope Way was previously part of a similar but broader plan to redevelop multiple mill properties in Cumberland.

The Town Council last week agreed to allow a pair of ordinances to be presented and advertised for consideration:

• One to amend the town’s comprehensive plan for the Lonsdale properties, creating the “Ann & Hope Mixed-Use Special Overlay District.”

“The requested relief is for the purpose of establishing a mixed-use special zoning district that allows the property to realize its full redevelopment potential,” states a petition to the council.

• And one to amend the town’s code of ordinances related to zoning.

“The future of the iconic Ann & Hope Mill site is viewed as a vibrant mixed-use residential community, coalesced around the 1886 mill building,” states an executive summary. “Its roots are celebrated through the preservation and adaptive reuse of historic buildings while encouraging new development that fits with the scale and character of Lonsdale Village.”

It adds, “The Ann & Hope discount department store chain, which served as a model for the modern Walmart and K-Mart, is a local brand icon widely recognized and much-loved.”

A mixed-use special overall district will allow for a variety of uses proposed by the owners and authorized by the council. A previous zoning proposal two years ago received encouraging comments from a number of parties, noted the owners.

The overlay district would consist of three parcels totaling 17 acres. Parcel one would include the 450,000-square-foot mill building, which is mostly vacant, converted into residential and other uses.

“This building has enormous ‘live-work-play’ design opportunities, which could be built to be compatible with the existing uses, as well as a variety of other uses,” states the summary.

There are also two small parcels across the road, one a 1.9-acre executive parking area and another a 1-acre vacant parcel.

The owners say they envision this site being the northern anchor of the revitalized Broad Street corridor, a $16.5 million project set to be completed in two years.

Stevens said the request from the owners is similar to a previous one from the Berkeley Mill, enabling easier redevelopment. Zoning can be tailored to lessen the requirements for other types of review, such as density within the building and parking requirements, among others, he said. The sides hadn’t had a substantial conversation as of this past weekend, but the owners were moving forward with an architect and consultants, said Stevens.

Owners of the now-closed Ann & Hope outlet took some criticism this month from the manager of the Bargain City Flea Market, with its 52 vendors, over Bargain City’s eviction and Ann & Hope accepting two Paycheck Protection Program loans before closing, one of which was returned.

Bargain City had closed for about three months during the pandemic, and didn’t charge its vendors during the shutdown, so was therefore unable to pay its own rent. Bargain City had asked to be allowed to stay in place as they looked for a new location following a 90-day notice to vacate in early June, and Ann & Hope representatives say the flea market reopened without permission.

According to Ann & Hope representatives, Bargain City’s lease expired last December, and despite the mill owners’ efforts to renew their lease with no rent increase, Bargain City declined to renew and the company was allowed to continue on a month-to-month basis.

On June 5, Ann & Hope notified Bargain City of plans to exercise its rights as owner of the building to take back the space, providing 90-day notice to vacate the property. Instead, Bargain City’s flea market was reopened without a lease. Another notice was sent June 12.

Understanding the severe economic impact of the pandemic, Ann & Hope agreed to waive all of Bargain City’s monthly rent and utility costs from April to September, said the owners, totaling more than $68,000.

“The accusations made by the owners of Bargain City and its manager are extremely inaccurate and disappointing,” said Ann & Hope President Sam Chase. “Our team at Ann & Hope did everything in our power to work in good faith with Bargain City to create a transition plan, up to and including waiving nearly $70,000 in rent and utilities payments from April through September. As a locally owned small business that was forced to close during the COVID-19 pandemic, we at Ann & Hope have a painful, first-hand understanding of the difficulty of navigating these uncertain times.

“While we are disappointed and confounded by these inaccurate accusations, we wish the local business owners who rented booth space in the Bargain City Flea Market nothing but the best.”