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Developer turning Deerfield  grain plant into innovators’ mill

Phil Nash is hoping to turn his old grain building at the East Deerfield RR yard in incubator space for small businesses and artists.

Recorder/Farnz Phil Nash is hoping to turn his old grain building at the East Deerfield RR yard in incubator space for small businesses and artists. Purchase photo reprints »

DEERFIELD — In one year a brewery may make malt, an artist may craft sculptures and farmers might store crops within a 40,000-square-foot business complex beside the East Deerfield Railyard.

Phil Nash, originally from Amherst, is bringing the 6.7-acre former grain plant at 6 Railroad Yard Road back to life and turning it into the Deerfield Innovators Mill.

Nash’s plan is to turn the site into 20,000 square feet of warehouse space and 20,000 square feet of finished space for offices stretching up to five stories.

“It’s a business model in that a guy can start off with a small 20-by-20-foot space rather than renting a stand¬alone facility,” Nash said.

Deerfield Innovators Mill will take the place of the grain plant, where local farmers bought grain and feed for 50 years.

Six years ago, Nash bought the then-abandoned grain plant and turned it into a facility that bagged wood pellets railed in from Canada and used as for fuel for stoves. The wood pellet plant was a spin-off for Nash’s other business, Nash Hearth and Leisure in Whately. He owned the Whately business for 25 years before it closed last year.

As the economy worsened, the cost to produce a bag of wood pellets increased and their value decreased, which prompted Nash to leave the stove pellet business.

Formerly, a bag of wood pellets was worth $300 per ton.

The value dropped to $200 per ton.

Today, the mill will turn 60 years old and for its next life, Nash envisions “infinite possibilities.”

Possible tenants might be a light manufacturing, machine shop, contractors, brewery, bakery, small office, artists, dance/yoga studio with views of the working rail yard.

He hopes to have five to six studio offices per floor, which could amount to 10 to 30 businesses using the space.

The East Deerfield yard used by Pan Am Railways offers a chance for businesses to use rail cars to unload material. Nash may also turn a small plot of land by the grain silos into a place where rail cars can reload propane.

The crisscrossing rail cars in the backyard offer aesthetics as well. Nash will also paint the two rusting white silos, which formerly stored grain and corn.

“There is an interesting industrial flavor,” Nash said.

Though the rail yard has been a source of contamination investigated by the state Department of Environmental Protection and subject to a cleanup by Pan Am Railways, Nash is unperturbed by the contamination.

The site gets its water from Greenfield.

Over the next year, at a cost of $1 million, Nash will gut the mill by removing grain bins, replacing them with floors and clearing out the grain.

The bins reach four stories and contain 50,000 square feet of vintage pine lumber which will be reclaimed and used as flooring in the building. They once held up to over 200 tons of grains and feed on massive 24-foot I-beam steel.

So far, the mill has attracted the interest of 10 potential tenants.

Nash plans to receive building and zoning permits and begin construction in the spring. Nash hopes the project will be completed in phases.

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