By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — The former home of Chatham Furniture Reproductions, Inc. on Poplar Street could soon be redeveloped into a new residential property, according to city economic development director Joe Fahey.
The old mill building at 4 Poplar St. has been placed under agreement by Chinburg Builders of Newmarket, N.H., which plans to convert the former factory into 38 to 45 units of residential space, assuming no issues with the building are found.
Eric Chinburg, the company’s president, said he has been in discussions with city officials and will be appearing before the Planning Board later this month.
“We’re in the middle of our due diligence, so we’re working with Amesbury officials on preliminary planning, talking to prospective financing people and seeing if it’s a viable project,” Chinburg said. “It’s under contract, so we’re doing all of our homework first.”
Chinburg Builders advertises itself as one of the biggest homebuilders on the Seacoast, and specializes in converting old mill buildings into quality, energy-efficient places to live.
“We have a history and passion for creating great living spaces in old factory and mill buildings,” Chinburg said. “Mills have the benefit of tall ceilings, brick walls and architectural features that are tough to replicate in modern buildings.”
The property has sat vacant for about four months since Chatham Furniture’s remaining inventory was auctioned off. In its heyday, Chatham Furniture was a successful furniture manufacturer that employed 240 people in two factories and supplied high-quality cherry and maple wood products to stores across the eastern U.S.
Eventually, pressure from foreign competition became too much to overcome, and Chatham Furniture officially shut its doors on July 30 before finally auctioning off the last of its inventory in late November.
The building came to the attention of Chinburg Builders, and things began progressing shortly after. Assuming no issues come up during the purchasing process, Chinburg estimated that people could begin moving in roughly a year from now.
“We will purchase the property this summer, we hope to get through the approval process in the summer, start construction in the mid-to late summer, seven- or eight-month project,” Chinburg said. “Ideally, we’d be leasing apartments a year from now in the spring of 2014.”
Chinburg added that the city has been very supportive of his efforts and he is looking forward to moving things along in the coming weeks.
“We really enjoyed working with the city,” Chinburg said. “Our early discussions with the planner and the officials we’ve met with have been very supportive and want to find ways to get this project off the ground.”
The next Planning Board meeting will be held on Monday, March 25, at 7 p.m. in City Hall Auditorium.