A Look at a Successful Historic Preservation Project in Unionville, CT


Rose Ponte, Economic Development Director, Farmington  

For 20 years the historic ball bearing mill, The Upson Nut Company, located in the heart of Unionville Center and along the Farmington River, sat vacant collecting blight liens. Restoration work began in 2013 to develop the buildings for commercial and residential use. Shops, galleries, and business offices are now located in the 1860 mill building bringing vitality and economic growth to Unionville Center.

The renovations retained the historic look and feel of a traditional 19th century mill building; offering upscale finishes, exposed brick accent walls, and hardwood flooring. Five fully leased residential town house style apartments are located adjacent to the main building, housing 9 new businesses, 28,000 SF of retail and office space and adding 64 new jobs. The four companies occupying the second floor are technology based high-growth companies.

Brian Lyman, managing broker for Parker Benjamin Real Estate Services has been handling this project since its inception. He’s coined a phrase for describing their business offices as Lifestyle Business Offices. He believes amenities such bicycle & walking friendly riverwalks, near shops, and restaurants, in an historically restored mill has led to his success in attracting tenants. It certainly doesn’t hurt that DEEP stocks approximately 6000 trout into the Farmington River annually from the project’s riverbank, thus offering some of the best fishing on the Farmington River.

This project experienced the difficulties associated with a complex damaged by years of neglect and laden with blight liens. But the managing partners persevered; the deteriorated state of the structures made conventional bank financing unattainable, so they privately raised over a million dollars. They successfully nominated the buildings to the State of CT Historic Registry, which allowed them to apply for historic tax credits, and the Town of Farmington invested over $1.5 million, for infrastructure upgrades to improve pedestrian circulation, and stimulate private investment in this area of town.

This project demonstrates that historic renovation although difficult is possible, that public investment will spur private financing, and that innovated places will attract talented entrepreneurs that want to live, work, and prosper this environment.

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