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New owner hopes to turn an old Peabody mill into a public market

Edward Greeley, owner of the Mills58 building, speaks about the space surrounding the building. (Spenser R. Hasak)

PEABODY — When Edward Greeley outgrew the space for his home remodeling business, he knew it was time to think big.

“I was looking for a large commercial space and spotted this building,” he said in front of 58 Pulaski St. “To say it was disgusting is being kind. It was a dumping ground for old appliances, filled with trash, and 80 percent vacant.”

Despite its condition, Greeley leased a corner on the first floor of the four-story mill building in 2012 to house his NE Cabinet showroom.

Knowing it was a gamble, he spent $480,000 of his own money to build a 12,000-square-foot showroom. He loved the space with the exposed brick and high ceilings and imagined the 200,000-square-foot property could be reborn.

“We are not just developing a property, and this is not just a real estate story,” Greeley said. “We are creating a destination and bringing in family-oriented companies to serve the city.”

Last year, after he borrowed $8.2 million from Salem Five Cents Bank and secured a $500,000 construction loan from the city’s Community Development office, Greeley bought the property and renamed it Mills58.

Today, with help from his wife and a cousin, the team is reshaping the 129-year-old building. When complete, they hope it will resemble Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. The National Historic Landmark building is home to more than 80 businesses that sell everything from fresh produce to used books.

Already, Greeley has filled the four-story brick mill with two dozen tenants, including the Little Star Child Care Center, photography studios, antique shops, and Essex County Brewing.

ButcherBox, a Cambridge-based monthly subscription service that sells organic meats, has a test kitchen and a TV studio on the fourth floor.

“We love it here,” said Jenny Valley, the company’s kitchen manager. “We wanted an industrial, barn house look with exposed brick and high ceilings and this space brought our ideas to life.”

Emilie Avijanac, test kitchen manager, said they use the studio to shoot videos that teach customers how to cook the meats they sell, and have enough space for a test kitchen, too.

“Before, we used to cook out of our homes,” she said.

Under construction on the first floor is Work Tank, a 4,000-square-foot shared workspace for start-ups and people who can’t afford the high rents of traditional office space.

Inspired by Workbar, the first company to provide shared commercial spaces in Boston a decade ago, Work Tank will offer private offices, coworking space, conference and training rooms, and dedicated desks for $99 to $299 per month.

“When I started my business, our leased space cost $2,200 a month, that’s a lot to pay when you’re a small business,” Greeley said. “We wanted an environment for entrepreneurs who do not have to come up with a massive amount of cash for overhead. Here, you can give your clients a $1 million look for very little money.”

In addition, space is being renovated for a yoga studio, a salon, and a food court. Asking rents are $12 per square foot, among the lowest on the North Shore, he said.

When Greeley bought the property, there were several junk dealers in the building. As those businesses left, the site across from Peabody’s Gardner Park neighborhood has fewer large trucks and is noticeably quieter.

Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. likes Greeley’s vision for the property and the city’s stake in the mill is evidence.

“I am very excited about the Pulaski Street project,” he said. “I am impressed by Ed Greeley, who has put a tremendous amount of effort, time and money into his property. As a city, we are looking for good people, like Ed, who want to invest in Peabody.”

Greeley said his dream would not have been possible without the support of the mayor, Community Development Director Curt Bellavance, and the Building and Fire departments.

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.

Two weeks ago, Greeley appeared before the City Council’s Industrial & Community Development Committee seeking approval to allow commercial and residential use in the mill.

While the five-member panel enthusiastically supported commercial use, they declined to endorse his proposal to build a dozen penthouse lofts on the fourth floor.

Bettencourt said he supports the idea of changing the zoning to allow housing at that location, and as the councilors see the dramatic changes at Mills58, they may see the merits.

“We can revisit residential in the future,” he said.

Greeley, who has spent nearly nine years working on his dream, has patience.

“I think if the councilors see what we’re doing, they may come around,” he said. “When I’m done, this mill will be unlike any other place on the North Shore.”

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