Monday, November 19, 2018

Saxonville Mills Embraces the Community and the Future While Still Preserving the Past

The Saxonville Mills, one of Framingham's strongest remaining ties to its industrial past, has been an integral part of the north side community for nearly two hundred years. Some recent changes have greatly strengthened its relationship to the city's residents.

This past weekend, I attended the open studios event at the mills. Unlike the open studios of past years, when I first moved to Framingham nearly twenty years ago, the last couple have provided access to not only the long-time artist studios, Saxonville Studios, but some other endeavors as well. A second group of artists, some of them formerly at the Fountain Street building downtown, are now working at the mill, as well other creative tenants like Damianos Photography, Fireseed Arts, and the Framingham Makerspace.  Local historian, and editor of the book The Saxonville Mills, Jim Parr, gave a historical tour of mill complex.

Over the summer the mill sponsored an outdoor movie night in one of the courtyards, complemented by food and beer vendors and live music. The recently-opened Saxonville Mills CafĂ©` and coffee roastery,  at the corner of the mill at Concord and Central Street is also gaining a lot of fans as a welcoming community gathering space.

In total, there are now over seventy businesses that call the mill home, using the space for a wide variety of purposes, including offices, manufacturing, R&D, storage, wholesale, and retail. And keeping in touch with its past as an energy producer, the waterfall being the original energy source for the mill, the complex now has solar panels that provide one third of the electricity used, as well as two electric car charging stations.

 A recent upgrade to the mill complex that is highly visible to passerby is the new, detailed signage, which provides improved wayfinding to business customers and visitors alike. The mill owner, Saxonville Realty Trust, led by John Finley, is to be commended for its outstanding work bringing this important part of Framingham's history into the 21st century, and welcoming the community to be part of the latest phase of its evolution.

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