Montague considers feasibility review for proposed Native American culture and heritage center

  • Members of the Montague Economic Development and Industrial Corporation have been discussing the prospect of developing a culture and heritage center primarily focused on recognizing the local Native American legacy. The project has been proposed for buildings at 8 and 20 Canal St. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer
Published: 6/9/2022 6:43:06 PM

MONTAGUE — A Boston-based cultural conservation organization has proposed a feasibility review of what could become a Native American culture and heritage center at the former Strathmore Mill complex, the Montague Economic Development and Industrial Corp. (MEDIC) announced Wednesday.

The preliminary review by Elevativ LLC would focus on four areas to determine the feasibility of such an idea, which was first discussed last summer: a site overview, research of project history, a review of market context, and development of a project schedule. Elevativ projected the full review to take eight to 10 weeks to complete, at a cost of $18,000.

Before any such review could be undertaken, however, the town would have to explore funding options and finalize its Canal District Master Plan, according to Town Planner Walter Ramsey.

The proposed project would preserve and restore the historic mill infrastructure that is a hallmark of Montague, likely having to be based out of Building 11 between 8 and 20 Canal St. — the only Strathmore Mill building deemed structurally sound enough to retain. The mill complex as a whole consists of former power plants that have been owned by the town for about a decade.

MEDIC members previously emphasized that the motivation for carrying out this vision is twofold: to retain town history and to contribute to reparations for Indigenous peoples. The aim would be to work closely with local tribes during the planning process and bestow some level of branding agency upon them.

Elevativ founder Elena Kazlas made it clear in an email to Ramsey and MEDIC member James Mussoni that Montague and her company share similar goals.

“Elevativ is passionate about guiding cultural-based projects to achieve positive socioeconomic impacts within their communities,” Kazlas wrote in her email.

The organization, founded in October, sits on a background of similar cultural preservation work. Kazlas noted that previously she had focused on “telling the Native cultural story of a site” with work on the Tucson Origins Heritage Park, a 25-acre “cultural heritage campus and community” area in the Arizona city. Kazlas said shifting gears to carry out a comparable mission in a far different setting is exciting.

“The site is wonderful,” she wrote.

Within the four areas of focus for the feasibility review, Elevativ hopes to evaluate aspects including the site’s historical significance, narrative potential, natural and architectural features, the town’s investment in the site, economic potential, next steps, and an estimated budget for subsequent phases of work.

Thus far, MEDIC has yet to sign anything relating to an agreement. Before doing so, Mussoni said, the town should seek a complete building assessment to confirm structural feasibility. Ramsey added that there is still master planning to be done as well.

“I do think we need to have the master plan process play out and then have this part ... as a next step,” Ramsey said.

He also said Montague would have to determine how to finance the project.

“I would have to find a funding source,” Ramsey said. “It’s possible we could find some grant funding.”

MEDIC Chair Richard Ruth added, concerning the $18,000 review cost, “we can always take this to Town Meeting.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or


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