DALTON -- The new owners of the former Crane Stationery Mill want to use the building for a mixture of commercial enterprises that include a grocery store, a restaurant and a micro-brewery.
Steven Sears, his wife, Maria Cruz, and their business partner Willa Kuh are currently working on a master plan to redevelop the 105,000-square-foot complex on Flansburg Avenue.
"We hope, within a few months, to have a plan with drawings to show people and maybe next year line up tenants and financing," Sears said.
Sears, who worked for Crane for 25 years, told The Eagle on Tuesday he wasn't sure if he would seek property tax breaks, or utilize municipal or state funding mechanisms for the project.
His plan may also include the Berkshire Carousel, the $2.2 million amusement ride that is still looking for a home after proposed sites in Pittsfield and Lanesborough have fallen through. The carousel's organizers are interested in locating a year-round facility on the 3.1-acre mill property rent-free.
On Monday night, Sears told the Select Board that he plans to raze the former mill's smokestack and boiler room to create space for a building that would house the carousel, a gift shop and a café.
"It has always been [our] goal to be part of a community and a destination for the town," said carousel volunteer Mark Siegars.
The Select Board was pleased to hear that a redevelopment project it believes could boost the town's economy is under consideration.
"I'm so glad something will be done with that building and (that it will) not sit empty," said board member Louisa M. Horth.
Selectmen Stuart T. Sargent added, "We need business to move back into town."
Sears said his project is already earning income. He is renting some of the former mill's existing office space to a Crane employee. An existing Berkshire County business is also prepared to move its warehouse operations to the basement.
"We have a group coming in that does computer rebuilds and resale," he said. "They can start immediately because it doesn't require redevelopment and it will help stabilize our situation."
Sears and town officials view the revitalization of the mill as an opportunity to enhance existing downtown businesses.
"If they are successful it helps everybody in town," he said. "This is not about competition."
"I look forward to supporting this," added Selectmen Mary Cherry. "It's a great vision [for the town.]"
Sears' group, Stationery Factory LLC, purchased the 113-year-old mill on July 26 for $540,000, according to the Dalton Board of Assessors. Crane closed the facility last year when the paper manufacturer consolidated its stationery division at a single site in North Adams.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
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