A former roofing supply factory in Norwood is being converted into a “creative hive where art and commerce come together,” including a giant collectibles archive.

The first hint this isn’t your typical mill redevelopment: enough pop culture memorabilia to fill a dozen tractor-trailers.

The Norwood Space Center – 11 buildings that once housed the Bird & Sons roofing supplies factory – is the new permanent home for collector David Bieber’s pop culture and rock-and-roll archive. Dorchester-based Percival Beer Co. is building a brewery here, joining a sneaker museum, landscape architects, event planners, home supply showrooms and coworking space.

Developer David DePree describes the $10 million project as an industrial-to-
commercial conversion, but that hardly does justice to the range of businesses starting to fill the Morse Street complex alongside the Neponset River.

He left the naming duties to Peter Gold, a festival producer who has been working with Bieber and sneaker collector Rick Kozow on the search for a permanent home for their collections.

“To me, it spoke to all of the different uses of space: performance space, workspaces, storage space, design center space, Vintage Market MA DSC_0019showroom space,” Gold said. “All kinds of space.”

But not residential space. When DePree, along with Boston-based real estate firm Cathartes and Juliana Enterprises, acquired the property in 2016 for $1.7 million, they shelved the notion of residential lofts because of community opposition.

Instead they planned a gradual build-out starting with 65,000 square feet in four connected buildings. The largest tenant so far is full building tenant Planet Self Storage. Spaces range from traditional retail to smaller studios catering to artists, designers and startups looking for a less expensive alternative to Boston.

Tenants can rent as little as 280 square feet, with leases ranging from one to five years and rents in the $10 to $15 per square foot range, DePree said. Future phases will be funded with cash flow from the occupied space, with a different mix of uses in each building. A former loading dock corridor is envisioned as the complex’s main drag.

“Each building has its own unique characteristics, and what we’re trying to do is recreate Main Street,” said DePree, a former Cathartes executive and co-founder of Briggs Capital Real Estate.

Bieber had been seeking a permanent home for his vast trove of rock and pop culture memorabilia collected during decades working at WBCN and the Boston Phoenix. Some of the pieces have filled a rotating exhibit at the Verb Hotel in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood. His business partner, Gold, saw an online rendering of Norwood Space Center and spotted an opportunity. It took 12 tractor-trailers to deliver the estimated 600,000 to 1 million posters and promotional art to Norwood.

“It’s one thing to have our own standalone building, but this is a possibility of becoming part of something that could become a campus,” he said. “David was thinking about doing something special here: a creative hive where art and science come together.”

thumbnail_Norwood Space Center DSC_0032Short Leases, Long View In Lowell

Forty miles north, another creative hive has emerged at the Mill No. 5 complex in Lowell’s Hamilton Canal District. The 120,000-square-foot structure was part of the Appleton Mill complex, owned by developer Jim Lichoulas’ family since the 1970s.

With little demand for residential development during the recession, Lichoulas saw a chance to create a local version of Manhattan’s Chelsea Market on two upper floors. A Tufts University graduate, Lichoulas also saw parallels to the transformation of Somerville’s Davis Square in the past two decades.

The current crop of tenants includes clothing boutiques, vinyl record vendors, a cheesemonger and grocer. Most tenants are open at least 20 hours a week Thursday through Sunday, and an arthouse theater has ramped up to nightly screenings along with a monthly comedy improv. Lichoulas is eyeing first-floor space for a live music venue.

Approximately 40,000 square feet on the fourth floor has been occupied by 30 tenants since 2013, all operating on 30-day leases designed to encourage startups. Following completion of four more storefronts, work will begin on readying the fifth floor for more.

“We’re offering very short-term contracts so people aren’t signing their life away,” Lichoulas said. “There’s very little to get into it. We’ll see who comes through the door.”

Culture And Commerce Collide In Norwood

by Steve Adams time to read: 3 min