Wednesday March 31, 2010

LEE -- Developers of the Eagle Mill envision new housing being crucial to re-using the former papermaking factory along the Housatonic River.

Representatives of Eagle Mill Enterprise based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Tuesday night outlined "preliminary development ideas" which includes a new five-story residential apartment building.

The affordable and market rate housing would replace the prefabricated metal buildings on the westerly side of the 6.4-acre site, said co-developer David Jelenik.

"Bringing a residential component to the project allows you to do the rest in phases," Jelenik said before 35 town officials and residents gathered at the Lee Senior Center.

He added that retail, eateries, office and studio space are also being considered for the 150,000-square-foot complex, which dates back to 1806.

The developers anticipate the design phase; permitting process and construction would occur over a three-year period and create 60 to 100 full and part-time jobs.

Jelenik said "ideally" he hopes an official proposal will be before town boards by year's end.

Jelenik's presentation followed one by the Lee Community Development Corporation (CDC) of a study on potential re-uses of the Eagle Mill, which principal owner James Quinn of Westerlo, N.Y., purchased in 2008 for $450,000 from Schweitzer-Mauduit International Inc.

The mill was one of three the company closed in Lee two years ago putting nearly 170 people out of work.

Consultant for the CDC, Kenneth Buckland said a mix of commercial and residential uses is possible, which includes community access to the river and a foot path along the waterway.

However, Buckland said any proposal faces several hurdles and constraints.

He noted how parking, working within the flood plain, environmental factors, such as removing asbestos, and financing will impact the size and scope of the project.

CDC Executive Director Richard Vinette said packages of information will be available in three months to help guide the developers through the planning and regulatory process.

"We want to create a clear path for redevelopment," said Vinette. "Too often such buildings sit vacant for decades." The town and developers are both anxious to move a project forward together, which is necessary for a successful re-use of the Eagle Mill.

"The town has a responsibility and the developer has a responsibility to cooperate with each other which will lead to a sound project," Buckland said.

To reach Dick Lindsay: rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com, or or (413) 496-6233.