Southworth owner interesting in buying former Strathmore building in Turners Falls

  • The Montague Selectboard discussed opening Strathmore Mill Building 11, pictured, to proposals after receiving interest from the owner of the former Southworth building, Tom Cusano. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • The Montague Selectboard discussed opening Strathmore Mill Building 11 to proposals after receiving interest from the owner of the former Southworth building, Tom Cusano. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer
Published: 10/26/2021 5:50:52 PM

MONTAGUE — The Selectboard discussed opening Strathmore Mill Building 11 to proposals after receiving interest from the owner of the former Southworth building, Tom Cusano.

The former Strathmore mill is regarded by many as a town icon, with its potential redevelopment having been a hot topic in the community for years. The town has owned the building since 2010, when it took ownership for back taxes. Last year, it started a cleanup worth $450,000, part of which was funded by MassDevelopment. However, the standalone mill building would still require major renovations to become suitable for operation.

Town Planner Walter Ramsey said Cusano, a real estate developer from New Hampshire who bought the former Southworth building in December 2019, would be a fitting candidate to develop the building due to his existing involvement with Montague’s mill buildings. Should he acquire the property and put in the work to renovate it, Cusano said he has two potential tenants interested in occupying the space, each being paper product and packaging companies whose names remain confidential. Cusano hopes to keep his plans in line with the public’s desire to preserve the beloved historic aesthetic.

Ramsey said during Monday evening’s Selectboard meeting that talks regarding Cusano’s interest in purchasing the Strathmore began in May. This receipt of interest, combined with concerns over the building’s structural integrity and limited appeal to potential buyers, inspired the Selectboard to consider opening the building to proposals.

“The longer it sits in the state it is, the more deterioration will happen,” Selectboard Chair Rich Kuklewicz said. “A part of me says we have an interest and it seems to fit with what’s going on at the Southworth building and it may be worth it to entertain proposals.”

The next step necessary in pursuit of an eventual sale would be issuing a request for proposals (RFP) and executing a land development agreement. While the town feels it is necessary to move quickly, common consensus among the Selectboard was that as long as Cusano is interested, there would be at least one solid candidate to rely on.

“He’s shown he’s got the ability and wherewithal to do the work,” Kuklewicz said. “He’s improving the (Southworth) building. We see positive effort there. I would think that we should continue to move forward.”

Cusano said if he were to acquire the building, he’d be willing to put in “a huge investment” of $1 million to $2 million dollars to make the building “usable.” He added that one advantage he has is the ability to extend utilities from the adjacent building to help.

“It’s almost like part of our property already,” Cusano said.

On a personal level, Cusano said he and the public have a common goal: to preserve an iconic staple of Turners Falls history.

“I have a passion for old brick mill buildings, so restoring these buildings isn’t just a matter of dollars and cents,” he said. “I think what we want to do is in line with the goals of the community.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.




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