Erving officials consider paper mill options

  • Staff members from MassDevelopement visit the International Paper Mill on Wednesday, March 22. Submitted photo

Recorder Staff
Published: 3/24/2017 10:17:32 PM

ERVING — Plans for possible redevelopment of the former International Paper mill continued this week as town officials and a group from the MassDevelopment Western Massachusetts Regional Office did a site tour of the mill and discussed possible options for financing the project.

During the site tour, town officials emphasized “Building Two,” the large original building that the complex expanded around. The most recent feasibility study commissioned by the town recommended keeping two buildings from the original complex, demolishing the rest to allow for an additional new building.

Erving took ownership of the property due to tax delinquency in 2014. Since then, town officials said they hope to find a use so the building does not continue to burden the town with securing the building from weather, wildlife and vandals.

The project is very much in the early stages, with the group from MassDevelopment attending the tour Wednesday as a way to discuss possible funding sources that may be available at the state level.

Jacob Smith, Board of Selectmen chairman, said that there’s a general understanding in town government that the town may have to be in charge of financing the front-end portion of the work, like site cleanup and the selective demolition that would make the spot more appealing to a potential developer.

Jackie Boyden, chair of the Planning Board, agreed with the assessment and said it would be ideal if there was some money available to the town.

“It’s really hard for people to envision what could be on the site because it’s so overwhelming right now,” Boyden said.

Boyden said any help a state agency or Franklin Regional Council of Governments can provide to the town to advertise the project to developers and businesses from outside of Franklin County would be beneficial.

Smith said that this meeting was another step the town was taking to ensure they had chased every lead for funding before asking the taxpayers to fund it.

“I think our interest in this stage is asking what kind of help and assistance can the town receive in any of the steps to getting to some of those options,” Smith said. “To be able to present a better picture to the public of this is the tax dollar investment you would personally be putting in to get to A or get to B.”

MassDevelopement does not work like a bank, but can help developers secure funding and loans for projects that could be beneficial to communities in the Commonwealth.

Those who attended the meeting said they planned to research possible funding sources for the town’s possible work so there’s a way to help start the project before they secure a developer. Town officials said the complex is so large and has a lot that needs to be done, so if the town can tackle part of work, it might make it easier to find someone willing to take on the majority of the project.

The meeting on Wednesday was primarily information sharing between the town and the state agency. MassDevelopment officials said they aim to support projects that fill a hole in the community.

“We really want to make sure what we’re doing is supported and embraced by the community,” Julie Cowan, vice president of business development for MassDevelopment said.

While the town is eager to find a use for the some portion of the property that would put it back on the town’s tax rolls and potentially create jobs or provide housing, there are not formalized plans for the building.

Since the town took ownership, they have commissioned the engineering firm of Tighe and Bond to do two feasibility studies, with the most recent one looking at two specific options: selective demolition or total demolition. For the selective demolition, Building 2 and another, much smaller unattached building, would be the only two kept.

The feasibility study by Tighe and Bond estimated the cost of selective demolition at $18.8 million, and the cost of total demolition with new construction at $9 million. Those are early estimates with high contingencies, according to Tighe and Bond engineer Rebecca Sherer.

The proposed buildings would be mixed use, meaning either or both commercial and residential. But there is also the possibility of light manufacturing. Town Administrator Bryan Smith said several area companies have expressed some interest in the property.

Town officials at the meeting expressed interest in the next steps and possibility looking for a developer who is interested in the project.

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