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LAWRENCE, MA-The Massachusetts Innovation Center purchased the 1.3 million-sf Wood Mill from Wood Air Lawrence Realty Trust for $4.4 million. The historic site is located at 250 Merrimack St. at the intersection of Merrimack and South Union streets.

According to MIC founder and CEO Robert Ansin, the transaction is the first step in eventually transforming the 98-year-old structure into a mixed-use facility including business, retail, residential, warehousing, educational and light manufacturing space.

The firm, a business incubator and real estate development company, will use its base in Fitchburg, MA as its example. There the company converted a factory into a 300,000-sf, business community where two-dozen businesses share space with a charter school as well as residential and retail tenants. Ansin says that the vision and determination of local officials make the Wood Mill–and the City of Lawrence–perfect candidates for, what he calls, “this kind of success story.”

Ansin emphasizes that the firm decided to buy in Lawrence because of the commitment to growth demonstrated by local political leaders. “As a private developer, we can pick and choose communities in which we want to invest our time and money. We’ve decided to do this in Lawrence, largely because we’ve come to believe in the people driving the economic engine here. Very few communities have this kind of program to actively recruit good developers and development,” he adds.

Ansin acknowledges that his vision of a mixed-use facility at the Wood Mill–at one time the largest industrial building in the world–will take some time to coalesce. In the near term, the building’s new owners will seek to increase occupancy, which is currently at about 65%. Among its current tenants are Malden Mills, Ideal Box and the Psychological Center.

The firm plans to focus in infrastructure improvements at the Wood Mill as well as smoothing the path for the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority’s construction of the planned inter-modal transportation system adjacent to and on property owned by the Wood Mill complex. Current plans for the facility call for a new MBTA commuter platform, bus station, police substation, retail space and a five-story parking garage. Groundbreaking on the project is expected to take place sometime in the last few months of this year.

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