Jumpstarting a manufacturing town with an urban village for creatives

Up until the middle of the 20th century, the economy of Easthampton, MA ran on textile mills. Ever since then, the town of 16,000 people about 100 miles west of Boston has been struggling to find a new economy to grow from.

Enter the Eastworks, a 500,000 s.f. former mill turned mecca for arts-related industries founded in 1997 by some rather visionary small developers. Among designers in clothes, jewelry, software, art and photography are 46 live-work lofts and the Marketplace at Eastworks, a collection of unique shops, health venues, restaurants and wifi cafe – which happens to be featuring their annual spring arts festival this Saturday.

The lessons learned to attracting such a creative, growth-oriented group of businesses that will become the basis for economic revitalization and jobs in Easthampton? Extremely affordable rent, among a diversity of space sizes, in a creative building/district infused with fellow forward-thinking tenants. The evidence: Office suites go for $5-$7/s.f., from 500 s.f. to 8000. The lofts go from 600-2300 s.f., and industrial space is $2.50-$4.50/s.f. for 1000 to 100,000 s.f.