Careful homework

A word of caution to Montague when it comes to the redevelopment of the former Strathmore paper mill: Do plenty of homework.

No one is going to argue that the goal is for the town to hand off ownership of the property to private interests. In the right hands, that’s a winning proposition for everyone involved. But as the public has seen previously with the nearby crumbling Railroad Salvage building (and elsewhere), desire and thoughtful future visions don’t necessarily turn into successful projects.

And that includes when those seeking ownership are offering promises about their planned investments.

The town has two proposals at this time. Both proposals are no doubt sincere in their desire to breathe new life into the buildings via mixed use, that would combine housing, stores and artists studios.

One group, ThreshHold Cooperative, outlined a plan to invest $1.4 million in the renovation of one building, with an eye toward having it ready for occupancy by 2016. This group plans to raise the money needed for its proposal through the sale of shares, tax credits and grants. Loans, too, are part of the financing package, but is not part of the proposed first phase.

The other group, Flight Patterns LLC, did not present figures in its proposal. Instead, it is suggesting a more measured approach. “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 quite possibly use up the remaining time available to save this historic landmark.” As part of its application, Flight Patterns asked the town for more time during which it would get exclusive access that would allow it conduct the detailed inspection.

The town is expected to complete its review of these proposals by the end of the month.

We urge the selectmen to be as thorough themselves, before making any decision that turns over ownership. That decision has to be based not just on a review of the proposal but on the financial foundation that each group brings to the table at this time.

Although there is risk involved in any kind of proposal, the town should want to reduce the odds that this won’t turn out well.

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