Erving residents, officials swap ideas for long-vacant mill complex

  • Erving’s Assistant Town Planner Mariah Kurtz leads a workshop at Erving Elementary School on Monday to discuss the former mill’s future. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • A workshop was held at Erving Elementary School on Monday to discuss the former mill’s future. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • The former International Paper mill in Erving. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/24/2022 4:13:38 PM
Modified: 8/24/2022 4:10:02 PM

ERVING — Residents and town officials packed Erving Elementary School’s gymnasium Monday to discuss the future of the long-vacant International Paper mill, pitching ideas ranging from innovative reuse to full demolition.

Attendees were invited to grab a slice of pizza and form small discussion groups upon arrival. Assistant Town Planner Mariah Kurtz briefed the crowd on the mill’s history and current structural status before prompting each table to brainstorm next steps for the complex’s future. Upon reconvening, designated speakers from each group shared their ideas with the crowd.

The property at 8 Papermill Road, valued at nearly $1.49 million between the land and buildings, has sat vacant for two decades. After constructing eight buildings between 1902 and 2000, International Paper “suddenly shuttered the mill” before selling it “to a private developer who left the complex vacant and delinquent on property taxes,” according to Kurtz.

The town took control of the property in 2014 and conducted feasibility studies and evaluations. A formal Request for Proposals (RFP) was then released in March 2022, concluding in May without success.

“I think we have a really special mill and I hope something really cool can go there in the future,” Kurtz said early into Monday’s workshop. “We can’t pick a company that we want to go there, but we can pick the uses.”

Following her presentation, Kurtz joined a discussion group consisting of Cultural Council member Jason Robinson, Conservation Commission member Morning Star Chenven and Selectboard member Scott Bastarache. The group discussed options involving selective reuse, including a suggestion from Chenven that the complex be repurposed into “something that attracts intergenerational populations.”

Building on this, Robinson voiced a desire to see the mill become a “cultural incubator,” which he defined as “a place where we celebrate culture or a place where we can be cultured.”

“The view of that river, in my opinion, is something that should be shared,” offered Wendell resident Edward Hines, who has researched the property extensively.

Out of the complex’s roughly 211,000 square feet of building area, only a limited amount of space is considered viable for reuse, Kurtz and other workshop attendees recognized. Bastarache said while complete demolition could be financially advantageous in certain situations, he would be in favor of selective demolition “if it can be funded not on taxpayer dollars,” a sentiment later echoed by other groups.

“We were in favor of using the grant money we have in order to tear down the things that aren’t structurally sound that ought to be torn down,” Daniel Hammock, who holds four town positions, said of his group’s consensus.

Residents collectively expressed interest in the town attempting another RFP round, despite previous efforts proving fruitless. Town officials who would be overseeing the process, though, emerged from Monday’s workshop feeling encouraged.

“Hearing this out has given us something to work on,” said Selectboard Chair Jacob Smith.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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