There's something special about a historic building being renovated for modern use. So it was good news when a developer stepped up recently with plans to convert a shoe factory in Whitman, MA into housing. From the turn of the century until its closing in the 1960s, the mill was a significant force in shoe manufacturing. Developer Fred Kiley of Heritage Cos. bought the structure for $2 million in 2008 and now has plans for a $17 million overhaul, involving the creation of 127 apartments and 30,000 square feet of commercial space. Most importantly, his plans retain the character and integrity of the original building.