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Ruger Mill future Newport has both 'vision, leadership'

Updated: Jun 30, 2022

-Photo was taken by Virginia Drye

Zack Mannheimer, left, and Jay Lucas, right

By Archie Mountain

NEWPORT -- The door for potential use of the former Ruger Mill Building on Sunapee Street opened a bit wider on Tuesday, June 21, when a pair of visitors shared some of their suggestions at a meeting of the Sunshine Initiative at the Library Arts Center.

With 25 spectators in attendance, Zack Mannheimer and Megan Grubb of Atlas Community

Studios/Alquist 3D based in Iowa were both up-beat with their presentations.

"You need vision and leadership and Newport has both," Mannheimer noted after being introduced by Jay Lucas of Portsmouth, a former Newporter, who heads the Sunshine Initiative. "Money is no problem, funding is out there, both private and publically," according to Mannheimer. He spoke of what ideas can be worked out with financial support.

The mill, called the Ruger Mill today, years ago housed Gordon Woolen Mill and also Altama Delta Corp., is currently assessed for $1,860,600, according to Newport tax records.

It's a matter of finding what ideas can be worked out with financial support, Mannheimer continued. He mentioned the potential for Maker Space availability where people pay monthly fees to use the equipment. Mannheimer said the cost needs to be figured out in keeping space available for such a program in the basement area or the first floor at the former mill building.

Utilizing the basement area for Maker Space or some other function would leave the four upper floors viable for resident housing, Mannheimer stated. He said a potential buyer might want to put in things for tenants like a gymnasium in the basement area. "Any space can be used that can have life in the community," he continued.

Mannheimer told the gathering that a maximum of 70 housing units is most important."I would

recommend a mix, up to the buyer, said Grubb. "I'd like to see more affordable units," she continued.

Atlas Community Studios has partnered with the recently established Sunshine Initiative, a local effort organized by Jay and Karen Lucas to revitalize the Town of Newport. This project focuses on developing a playbook for the Ruger Mill, a vacant mill located east of downtown. The playbook provides guidance on how to redevelop the mill in order to be put back into productive use while also meeting the needs of existing Newport residents with a focus on Housing, Amenity Creation and Funding Resource Roadmap.

The process involves three phases:

Phase 1--Public Input--We rely heavily on public input and creating space for the community to guide the place-making process. Community perspective is collected to add residents' viewpoints and ideas of what could work best for their town.

Phase II--Research Analysis--After reviewing the information we begin to identify strategic opportunities including ideas presented by community members or trends identified through analyzing the data.

Phase III--Playbook Development--Once strategic opportunities have been identified and approved by the community, Atlas begins to determine steps, strategies, and funding opportunities to guide the community

towards implementation.

The concepts within the playbook reflect Newport's desire for positive growth within the community, while increasing quality of life for the current and future residents. This information is not intended to be conclusive but instead, will evolve as strategies are executed and partnerships are fostered.

According to information shared at the meeting, Atlas strongly supports the Ruger Mill being developed to support existing (and future) housing needs. With the building being roughly 70,000 square feet it is an obvious choice to utilize a majority of the space for housing, according to literature shared at the meeting.

Both workforce housing or market-rate housing could be supported. In order for the project to be successful, Atlas recommends exploring additional models that could support the development of this project, employer-assisted housing, short-term rentals, and an event space, it was stated on a release passed out at the meeting.

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