From Pasta Factory to Internet Hub

It's been nearly two decades since Prince Macaroni moved out of its giant pasta factory in Lowell, Massachusetts, that gives its neighborhood the local nickame of Spaghettiville.

And little has come to replace Prince – the South Lowell building has been about three-quarters empty since a yarn company left in 2006.

"It's been awful, because it's really been an eyesore," Lowell City Manager Kevin Murphy said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

But in a matter of months, the old Prince plant will be turned by new owners The Markley Group into a giant Internet and cloud computing hub that is intended to bring, over time, $200 million in investment and 100 jobs to the old mill city.

"We feel it's a fantastic site, number one, because of the physical structure that's there," Markley Group executive vice president Jeff Flanagan said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. "This is an immense building. It's built like a fortress."

The building has 350,000 feet of space on three windowless floors and 18-foot high ceilings, both perfect for hosting rack after rack of servers, routers, and backup power supply equipment. Also, the plant was built to carry 600 pounds per square foot of weight, making it structurally ideal for a cloud computing hub.

Flanagan said the center will create jobs for "a lot of skilled technicians" to maintain and service equipment 24 hours a day, "and in addition, there'll be management jobs, sales jobs, security jobs."

Markley has already begun the process of clearing out weeds and trimming trees at the overgrown property and mulching planting beds.

The 2 Prince Ave. site is surrounded by mainly residential neighborhoods, but many in Lowell dream of a small high tech campus forming around the plant on the site’s 14 acres.

"Companies will be locating near Markley for the data-storage capacity they have and the services they provide," Murphy said, "so I think Markley is going to generate even more economic development for the city."

With videographer Brian Butler

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