Developer to outline revitalization plan for Lee's Eagle Mill on Thursday


LEE -- Residents on Thursday night will get their first chance to see and comment on a Great Barrington developer's multimillion-dollar proposal to make over and revitalize the Eagle Mill.

Jeffrey N. Cohen and his development team will outline the village-like complex planned for the 200-year-old mill located along the Housatonic River behind Joe's Diner off the north end of Main Street.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. in the Lee Middle and High School auditorium.

"I hope the meeting will establish a comfort level in town that we've taken a lot of time to ensure this is an inclusive process and people know what we're doing," Cohen said.

Since Cohen unveiled his proposal to The Eagle in September , he has been working on the financial, environmental and logistical feasibility of a project that calls for a hotel, restaurants, retail, office space and affordable housing.

While the developer is confident of meeting the three issues, each has its challenges.

"The most difficult will be financing the hotel, which also has the greatest potential for more long-term jobs," he noted.

Cohen also wants to create a more user-friendly river for the town and ensure the redevelopment fits the character of the neighborhood and meets the needs of the town.

Following Thursday's presentation, the development team will start working on construction documents. In June, they would begin seeking various state tax credits to help pay for the project. Cohen expects the entire planning process that includes local and state approvals to take about two years.

Cohen and his staff have already had numerous meetings with town officials, state economic development agencies and potential stakeholders, such as the Red Lion Inn, which is seriously considering operating the proposed hotel.

Last fall, Cohen hired Bruner/Cott Architects to provide early drawings of a revitalized Eagle Mill. The Cambridge firm designed the plans that transformed the former Sprague Electric Co. complex in North Adams into Mass MoCA, the contemporary art museum.

The developer has as a purchase-and-sale agreement for 6.4-acre industrial site with Eagle Mill Enterprises. That entity bought the mill four years ago from Schweitzer-Mauduit International Inc. The paper manufacturer closed the Eagle Mill and three others in Lee and Lenox Dale in May 2008, putting more than 160 people on the unemployment line.

The Eagle Mill is one of two local redevelopment projects on Cohen's plate.

Earlier this month, he closed on a $450,000 deal to buy the Berkshire Hathaway Mill on Hoosac Street in Adams. Cohen will seek town approval to convert the 225,000-square-foot former textile mill into 150 units of affordable housing costing an estimated $50 million.

To reach Dick Lindsay:,
or (413) 496-6233.


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