Posted: 08/23/2022 17:37:02
Modified: 08/23/2022 17:33:25
ERVING — Residents and town officials packed the Erving Elementary School gymnasium on Monday to discuss the future of the long-vacant International Paper Mill, coming up with ideas ranging from innovative reuse to demolition complete.
Participants were invited to grab a slice of pizza and form small discussion groups upon arrival. Deputy City Planner Mariah Kurtz briefed the crowd on the factory’s history and current structural state before prompting each table to consider next steps for the complex’s future. At the replay, designated speakers from each group shared their insights with the crowd.
The property at 8 Papermill Road, valued at nearly $1.49 million between land and buildings, sat vacant for two decades. After constructing eight buildings between 1902 and 2000, International Paper “suddenly closed the mill” before selling it “to a private developer who left the complex vacant and overdue on property taxes,” according to Kurtz. The city took control of the property in 2014 and conducted feasibility studies and appraisals. A formal Request for Proposals (RFP) was then issued in March 2022, ending in May without success.
“I think we have a really special mill and hopefully something really cool can go there in the future,” Kurtz said at the start of Monday’s workshop. “We can’t choose which company we want to go with, but we can choose the uses.”
After his presentation, Kurtz joined a discussion group consisting of Cultural Council member Jason Robinson, Curatorial Commission member Morning Star Chenven and Selectboard member Scott Bastarache. The group discussed options involving selective reuse, including a suggestion from Chenven that the complex be repurposed into “something that appeals to intergenerational populations.” Based on this, Robinson expressed a desire to see the mill become a “cultural incubator”, which he defined as “a place where we celebrate culture or a place where we can be cultured”.
“The view of that river, in my opinion, is something that should be shared,” suggested Wendell resident Edward Hines, who has researched the property extensively.
Of the complex’s roughly 211,000 square feet of building space, only a limited amount of space is considered viable for reuse, Kurtz and workshop attendees acknowledged. Bastarache said that although complete demolition can be financially beneficial in some situations, he would favor selective demolition “if it can be funded and not out of taxpayers’ money”, a sentiment later echoed by d’ other groups.
“We were in favor of using the grant money we have to demolish things that are not structurally sound and should be demolished,” Daniel Hammock, who holds four municipal positions, said of the consensus. of his group.
Residents have collectively expressed interest in the city attempting another tender, despite previous efforts that proved unsuccessful. However, city officials who would oversee the process came away from Monday’s workshop feeling encouraged.
“Hearing that gave us something to work on,” commented selection committee chairman Jacob Smith.
Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or [email protected]