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Requests for proposals bear fruit for disused Strathmore complex

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Building 11 at old Strathmore complex in Turners Falls

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Building 11 at old Strathmore complex in Turners Falls

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Building 11 at old Strathmore complex in Turners Falls

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Building 11 at old Strathmore complex in Turners Falls

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Building 11 at old Strathmore complex in Turners Falls
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Building 11 at old Strathmore complex in Turners Falls

MONTAGUE — It seems a dollar might buy as much as it used to after all.

An effort to shift the long-vacant, town-owned Strathmore mill back into the local economy and off the backs of taxpayers has borne some fruit, with two redevelopment proposals.

Under the town’s so-called homesteading program, the properties would be awarded for $1 to developers promising suitable investment and deemed viable by town officials.

The proposals compete with visions similar in concept if not scale.

One proposes investing to the tune of $1.4 million in renovation of one building, with a move-in date of 2016. The second applicant proposes a delay for further studies prior to a possible redevelopment of the entire 10-building complex.

ThreshHold Cooperative proposes to redevelop one building, known as Building 11, as a mixed-use center for art, activism and equitable development, according to the proposal the group submitted to the town and copied to its website.

Town Planner Walter Ramsey said the group is a cooperative recently relocated to Turners Falls, and the group first expressed interest in the property five or six months ago.

According to its proposal, ThreshHold core members Anne Louise Burdett, Taryn Amina, Jeffrey Havens, William Gusakov, Andrew Huckins and Julia Handschuh incorporated for the purpose of the development project and see their role primarily in management of the space, to be occupied by members of the group, other cooperatives and individuals.

The cooperative proposes to redevelop the seven-story brick building as work and living space for themselves and renters, with two floors of art and music studios, one floor dedicated to living space with six bedrooms for cooperative members, one for visiting artists-in-residence and a large communal space.

About 5,000 square feet would be set aside as business incubation space or for rental to other cooperative businesses or socially minded initiatives, according to the proposal.

The bottom floor would be dedicated to light industry and manufacturing space for members and other tenants, according to the proposal, with interest for use by a glassblowing cooperative, the Shea Theater — as a prop shop — and a member’s wood shop.

The proposal also includes performance venue for theater, music, dance, film screenings, meeting and rental use.

A two-story attached greenhouse, space for a kitchen collaborative and cafe, are also included, as is use of alternative technology wherever possible, possibly including hydroelectric power, hydro-thermal heating and an on-site, plant-based wastewater treatment.

The group envisions a cooperative development structure, selling shares and rights to various portions of the building, tax credits, grants, for a total investment of $1.4 million, not including a possible $300,000 in loans the group does not count in the first phase of the development plan.

Ramsey said the town received numerous letters of support with the ThreshHold proposal, including letters from the Brick House Community Center, Turners Falls RiverCulture, the founder of Lightlife Foods and the Thrive project.

Flight Patterns

The second Strathmore proposal was submitted by Marie E. Rossettie, Benjamin J. Warshaw and Joel T. Roston as Flight Patterns LLC. At the time of the company’s Massachusetts incorporation in October, Rossettie and Warshaw listed New Jersey mailing addresses.

Ramsey said the group first expressed interest in the Strathmore over a year ago.

Flight Patterns proposes to redevelop the entire mill complex as the Flight Patterns Eco-Center but say further feasibility studies must be undertaken to provide information needed for a formal proposal and to reassure investors.

“We fear any rehabilitation plan which attempts to bypass a new, thorough, up-to-date examination of the Mill’s underlying conditions is not only destined for failure, but will quite possibly use up the remaining precious time available to save this historic landmark,” reads the document.

The proposal briefly outlines the vision for the complex as a model green facility dedicated to arts, education, commerce and sustainability.

Any development would begin with Building 11, which might house 15 to 23 “live-work” spaces for artists, eight to 10 rehearsal spaces, street-level public event space, galleries and small shops and one level set aside for a school.

According to the Flight Patterns document, the town’s existing environmental, structural, traffic and market feasibility studies of the site are out of date and more are needed, to the tune of $40,000 to $80,000.

Flight Patterns requests a delay in the decision.

“Should the town be amenable to a renewed research period as we have outlined, we propose negotiating exclusive access to the site, for a period of time, given solely to Flight Patterns LLC and its consultants,” reads the document.

The town took the all but vacant Strathmore Mill complex in 2008 and has since paid to maintain it, including removal of the pile of debris remaining after an arsonist destroyed Building 10 in 2007.

Voters at successive special town meetings last year approved $165,000 to remove the asbestos-contaminated rubble left by a 2007 arson, and Ramsey said that work was completed this winter.

The contaminated rubble was often cited as an impediment to development of the site and to emergency access for Turners Falls Hydro, a hydroelectric station owned and operated by Hamilton-based Swift River Co.. It is the sole remaining occupant of the complex, housed in a section of the mill it owns.

All proposals remain to be reviewed by town staff before a recommendation is made to the Board of Selectmen, Ramsey said. Selections are to be made within five weeks of submission, putting decisions near the end of this month.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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