Erving rejects trade school’s incomplete proposal for mill reuse

The former International Paper Mill in Erving.

The former International Paper Mill in Erving. FOR THE RECORDER/LIESEL NYGARD

Inside the former International Paper Mill in Erving.

Inside the former International Paper Mill in Erving. FOR THE RECORDER/LIESEL NYGARD

The former International Paper Mill in Erving.

The former International Paper Mill in Erving. FOR THE RECORDER/LIESEL NYGARD

Inside the former International Paper Mill in Erving.

Inside the former International Paper Mill in Erving. FOR THE RECORDER/LIESEL NYGARD

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 04-25-2024 11:34 AM

ERVING — While the Selectboard was forced to reject the lone procurement submission for the former International Paper Mill because it was incomplete, members hope the applicant’s idea could be a window to future opportunities.

Hancock Academy is interested in the town-owned parcel at 8 Papermill Road, but lacks the finances to take ownership of the entire 6-acre complex. Information sent to the town from President and CEO Randy Scott states the school hopes to open an innovation center, complete with dormitories and a cafe.

“As a responsible institution, we fully understand the importance of fiscal stability and prudent resource management. Given these challenges, we are committed to exploring alternative approaches to acquire the building and land, should they be available,” Scott wrote in a letter to Town Administrator Bryan Smith. “We would welcome collaborating with the town of Erving to explore potential partnerships or grant opportunities to make the Innovation Center a reality. By combining our collective resources and expertise, we believe we can create a mutually beneficial arrangement that will not only uplift our community’s educational landscape but also pave the way for future cooperative endeavors.”

Smith told the Selectboard members at Monday’s meeting that Scott understands they had to reject the submission because it does not include the statutorily required forms and attestations outlined in the town’s most recent request for proposals (RFP).

“Hopefully there’s another opportunity in the future,” Smith told the Greenfield Recorder on Tuesday.

Scott told the Greenfield Recorder that Hancock Academy is “nine months out of the ground,” having acquired 501(c)(3) nonprofit status last year. He described Hancock Academy as a partial educational institution that helps with job placement, serving as a type of “liaison to all the different trade groups and functions that are out there.” He said he has no functioning facilities at this time but was recently donated 200,000 square feet of warehouse space in New Bedford.

Scott said he is hopeful about working with Erving to arrange Hancock Academy’s use of the former paper mill.

“It has endless possibilities,” he said, noting that the site could employ as many as 50 people if it opens. “I mean, I don’t want to see buildings just get knocked down.”

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The property, valued at nearly $1.49 million, has sat vacant for two decades. After a century that saw eight buildings constructed on the land from 1902 to 2000, International Paper shuttered the mill before selling it to a private developer who left the complex vacant and delinquent on property taxes. The town, which took control of the site in 2014, has since failed to procure a developer, with varying scales of demolition being considered amid safety concerns, insurance difficulties and future development potential.

About a year ago, Erving residents showed initial support at a public discussion for a $3.7 million override paired with a $600,000 Site Readiness grant from MassDevelopment that would fund a near-full demolition of the complex.

In a letter to the Selectboard, Smith wrote that the body — unlike an Economic Development Industrial Corporation (EDIC) — is limited statutorily as to how it can make property, such as the former mill, available.

“We have had several small businesses express interest in locating in Erving and at this site, but the scale of this project is beyond what they can do alone,” Smith wrote. “Pursuing an EDIC through special legislation may be prudent.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-930-4120.