Redevelopment hopes alive for Lee's former Eagle Mill
LEE -- Town officials plan to seek state financial support toward revitalizing the community's oldest paper mill.
The Board of Selectmen, an unnamed potential developer and state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, are among the local contingent scheduled to meet this morning in Boston with Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Gregory P. Bialecki. They hope to convince Bialecki and his agency to invest directly or indirectly in what Selectman David Consolati calls a "serious" proposal for the former Eagle Mill located behind Joe's Diner off the north end of Main Street.
"He's serious, we're serious, it's a matter of if the state is serious," Consolati said. "We're at the point of we need to get this done -- and the prospects look good."
While Consolati didn't divulge the nature of the redevelopment, Pignatelli indicated residential use could be a key component of reusing the former paper manufacturing complex.
"Through affordable housing tax credits, we have a real opportunity here," the Lenox Democrat said. "We want to know what the state can do to put this project over the top."
Since the facility closed five years ago, only one developer has publicly discussed reusing the Eagle Mill along the Housatonic River, parts of which date back to 1806.
Previous owner Schweitzer-Maduit International, Inc. sold the mill in 2010 to a prospective development company from the Albany, N.Y., area. Eagle Mill Enterprises bought the 6.4-acre parcel for $450,000, with the intent to convert the site into a mixed-use project of affordable and market-rate housing, retail, professional, office and studio space.
The current owners never presented a formal project to the town for approval and late last year they put the property for sale with an asking price of $1.1 million.
The Eagle Mill is one of four local mills Schweitzer-Maduit shut down in the spring of 2008, putting about 170 people out of work.
The town's effort to market the defunct factories for redevelopment, aided by the Lee Community Development Corp., received a boost this summer from the federal government. The municipality received a $175,000 grant from the EPA's Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Program toward creating a community-based strategy for revitalizing the former Eagle, Columbia and Greylock mills. The fourth vacant factory is the Niagara Mill in Lenox Dale.
PHOTO GALLERY | Eagle Mill in Lee
The two-year project calls for studying the existing condition of the four privately owned commercial sites, conducting a market study and seeking plenty of public input on their reuse, according the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. The BRPC prepared the grant application on behalf of the town.
Local officials believe a redeveloped Eagle Mill could pique interest in the remaining three dormant mills.
"If people can see something happen there, it might put another idea out there for the other mills," said Selectman Patricia Carlino.
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