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No bids for Oxford Pickle property

DEERFIELD — The 4 p.m. deadline to submit redevelopment proposals for the former Oxford Pickle factory came and went Friday. And the town received no proposals to develop the 12 acres of old industrial land at the heart of South Deerfield.

The results were a disappointment for town officials, who had hoped to finally put the land near the village center back on the tax rolls.

While three developers toured the site recently, none followed through.

Consultant Allan Blair, president and CEO of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, blamed the lack of bids on the sluggish economy.

He said the town had done everything right, providing a clear permitting and zoning process. The land is within an expedited permitting zone and developers could get the permits to transfer the lot into a place of business within 180 days

In November the town solicited development proposals.

Blair said he didn’t expect an overwhelming number of bids because of the nature of the site. It is bordered by a residential and retail area on both sides.

“It has to be a thoughtful kind of development that would be used there,” Blair said. “Whenever you have a situation like that, it limits the number of interested developers. But it doesn’t mean it’s not viable.”

Blair said timing may just not be right.

“As disappointing as this is, you have to put it in context. There’s not a whole lot happening anywhere,” Blair said. “What I think we’re suffering from is a sluggish economy. I don’t expect new development until existing properties are absorbed.”

The Board of Selectmen hasn’t decided what it will do next.

The town has several options. It might get an unsolicited proposal later. Or the town could consider giving the Deerfield Economic Development and Industrial Corp. control of the property in hopes that quasi-municipal agency that developed the town industrial park could find a way to redevelop the property.

A former pickle factory for 110 years, the property was a hub of jobs and economic growth for years. In 2006, the factory closed, taking with it jobs and the scent of pickles from the village center.

In 2007, the town took out a $1.7 million loan to buy the 16 acres with the hopes of developing it. In 2008 the town purchased the property, and is using part of it for a new 15,500-square-foot highway garage on four acres, leaving 12 acres available for development.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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