AIR Redevelop :: the Plant
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The Plant former Providence Dyeing, Bleaching & Calendering


60 Valley Street has become The Plant; live/work studios – 500 to 600 sq ft – larger lofts of 1300 to 1800 sq ft, larger “nest” spaces for four to five people to share, and commercial space. The architects for the renovations are ICON studios. The renovation included space for a restaurant, now occupied by Cuban Revolution.

The Plant is sandwiched between two other Streuver Brothers projects. Right up the street at 166 Valley is the Rising Sun Mills complex, and just next door at 50 Valley Street is the Calender Mills complex. There is a tremendous opportunity to have the Plant be the cultural focus of Valley Street, while the tenants of Calender Mills and Rising Sun become financial supporters (by using the restaurants and possibly buying art). There is much tension in Olneyville right now, however, centered around Rising Sun and its impact on the community, as well as the ALCo development.

The development was headed up by PUENTE (Spanish for Bridge), a non-profit real estate developer dedicated to bringing something new to the community, rather than displacing the one that exists now. Puente and the architects plan to incorporate green technology into the project. money-permitting.

60 Valley has been planned as an intentional creative work community, where organizations share resources and ideas, and a commitment to the surrounding community. Puente will work with local non-profit agencies and Community organizations to bring provide services to the local community. Some ideas that didn’t make it off the drawing board were a kitchen incubator called Dough Rising, and a small business center with shared computers and fax services.

Olneyville has historically been the most heavily industrialized area of Providence, and it has always had a large concentration of low income worker’s housing. Once a major employment center with a strong retail district, nearly half of Olneyville’s 10,000 peak residents and one third of its housing stock have disappeared since World War II, and only 18% of the remaining homes are owner occupied (well below the 34% city average). In 2004, the Olneyville neighborhood’s median income was $16,857 (40% less than the median income for all of Providence). Thirty-six percent of Olneyville’s families live below the poverty line.


Condensed from the National Register Nomination form

The complex is made up of conjoined buildings built during different time periods. In 1773, Christopher Olney constructed a one story building for use as a paper mill (no longer standing), calling it the Brown George. After many owners, the Brown George became part of the Providence Bleaching, Dyeing and Calendaring Company in 1845. The paper mill was converted into a bleach house and renamed Valley Bleachery. Improvements and expansions were made in phases to the building and surrounding land to modernize the plant between 1845 and 1918.

A three story building parallel to the bleach house was constructed for bleaching, packing and storage. By 1900 the two buildings were combined into one. Between 1843 and 1849 the three story Grey Room was built. In this building, unbleached woven goods direct from the loom were washed in an alkali solution, a process known as grey scouring.

In 1875, the Kier Room and a loading dock were built, with a second floor added in 1888. This room contained large metal vats used for boiling out cotton goods with an alkali solution before bleaching or dyeing. The second floor was used to “mercerize” cotton fibers: treating them chemically to make them stronger and more receptive to dyeing. A Lime Room was built later to serve as a loading and shipping area as well as a storage area for the lime used in the kier boiling process.

Several other buildings were created around the original Bleach House to expand operations. The mill continued to operate into the 20th century, eventually specializing in fast color vat dyeing of cotton fabrics and finishing of heavyweight fabrics. After World War II, the company switched to synthetic materials. During the next few years the company was unable to secure a profitable market and was eventually liquidated in 1952 after 137 years in operation.

Adrian Why would you want to preserve anthinng in Olneyville? The area and – most – not all of the people in it need to be replaced! I own property here and no matter how much restoration we do, we cannot even bring quality tenants or buyers into the area to even glance at the properties. I can only hope and pray that the new development will bring in better quality landlord, better tenants and be able to try to transfrom this area into something much better than what it has become!

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