Gave it Everything I Got'
MICHAEL LAFLEUR, Sun Staff LOWELL -
When he bought the old Harmon Paint building in February,
local developer Chris Natale says he was confronted with
sagging floors, fire damage and years of neglect. Today,
$1.3 million later, Natale has turned 338 Market St. into
12 luxury apartment units on top of three commercial storefronts.
Photo: Lowell Sun
"I gave it everything I got in this building,"
he said. "This was the most complex of all the buildings"
his company has undertaken in its nine years of existence.
"I didn't anticipate the magnitude,"
Natale said. When renovations began, there was a one-foot
drop from exterior of the historic building to its interior an
unintended result of "over-spanned" floor joists.
Harmon had created one storefront from three,
knocking down sections of load-bearing walls to do so, Natale
said. It used a steel beam, running the length of the building's
basement, to hold up four stories of bricks.
"My foreman used to say, 'They don't build them like they
used to, and thank God they don't,'" he said. Natale's workers
reinforced the floors with heavy beams, added floor joists and
gave each of the building's three distinctive window bays fronting
Market Street its own cantilever system. Previously, the beams
used to support the second-floor window bay were holding up the
rest of the front of the building.
"It's one of the strongest buildings in the city of
Lowell," said Natale. He said he bought the building, built
in the late 1800s and situated at the corner of Market and Worthen
streets, for $400,000. The building will be renamed for Natale's
former head foreman, Henry King, who died in June.
"He led the restoration effort for this building, as well
as all the other buildings that I've done," Natale said.
He is asking $1,000 a month for his 800-square-foot one-bedroom
apartments and $1,200 monthly for his 1,100-square-foot two-bedroom
Roughly three-quarters of the units there are six one-bedrooms
and six two-bedrooms have been rented, along with two of the storefronts,
he said. One of the new tenants is Diana Coluntino, a personal
trainer and artist who will be renting an apartment and turning
one of the building's storefronts into "Queendom Come,"
a hat shop, gallery and instructional studio for hat-making classes,
which she says she plans to begin offering in October. She
is one of the new artists to be attracted to downtown Lowell by
Jerry Beck and his Revolving Museum, located at Middle and Shattuck
Coluntino said she first began thinking of moving to the city
last summer, after she came here for the annual Lowell Folk Festival.
"I remember my friends and I saying, 'Wow, this is a cool
city,'" she said. Sean Harmon, owner of Harmon's Paint and
Wallpaper Co., credited Natale's work and said his new building
helps put a whole different face on the surrounding neighborhood.
"Somebody who returned to Lowell after 10 years would have
trouble recognizing the place," he said.
Helping in that regard is his own business, which had to do extensive
renovations of its own for the move across Worthen Street to its
new home at 314 Market St., after more than 40 years at its previous
location. Harmon said he had to spend more than $100,000 to refurbish
the company's new digs.
"Everything went new," he said. "We essentially
quadrupled our showroom space. We wanted to present a brand new
face to the public."