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Excitement stirs with next phase of Pajama Factory

The Pajama Factory, an eight-building complex in the block bound by Park Avenue, Rose Street, Memorial Avenue and Cemetery Street, recently was approved for a highly competitive, $2 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant.

Owner Mark Winkelman is well on his way already toward his goal of creating a thriving creative incubator in that block of buildings that for years sat mostly vacant.

He’s been at it for just over a decade, having purchased the complex in 2008. So far, he has realized success in renting 130 spaces within the complex’s 300,000 square feet. Although known primarily for its role with the arts, a majority of the space so far has been rented to small businesses.

Take a walk through and you’ll find a neighborhood bicycle shop, a photography studio, cabinet and furniture makers, a hair salon and a pet grooming studio, businesses that specialize in foods ranging from pickles to pasta to coffee, vintage clothing and quilting shops, a community woodshop — the list goes on and on.

Next up will be loft residences and a destination restaurant with indoor seating, a courtyard and rooftop dining. Plans are to add more retail space adjacent to the restaurant and an environmentally friendly rain garden on the roof to help control stormwater runoff.

Winkelman expects the next phase of his project to cost up to $4.5 million. Toward that end, he is eligible as a private business to be a sub-applicant with the city for the state matching grant that will reimburse him with up to $2 million for construction costs.

The RACP program is intended to spur economic and cultural development that may not otherwise happen without funding assistance. Already, the mayor sent a letter to the state Department of Community and Economic Development which administers the program, indicating the city’s interest in this grant. Next, City Council will be asked to approve a resolution accepting the grant.

Once he gets the final green light, Winkelman will need to pay workers prevailing wage rates up front and be reimbursed at a dollar for dollar match.

RACP projects are intended to generate employment, tax revenues or other measures of economic activity and have a regional impact. We believe the Pajama Factory falls into that category. In the past decade, the complex has gone from mostly vacant to a tax-generating facility buzzing with activity.

That will only become more pronounced with more development of yet-unused space. This project is expected to have a positive impact on the neighborhood in which it’s located.

We can hardly wait to see it all come together.

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