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Town seeks public input on mill project


Aug. 1, 2014
<strong>A view of the exterior of the former Southworth Paper Co. building located at 150 Front St. in West Springfield. TARA Plant Construction Inc. now owns the building.</strong><br>Reminder Publications photo by Carley Dangona

A view of the exterior of the former Southworth Paper Co. building located at 150 Front St. in West Springfield. TARA Plant Construction Inc. now owns the building.
Reminder Publications photo by Carley Dangona

By Carley Dangona
carley@thereminder.com

WEST SPRINGFIELD – The town seeks to preserve its past by reviving the former mill site located at 150 Front St.
   
Town officials will host an open workshop on Aug. 14 in the Justin Morgan Auditorium of the Municipal Office Building, 26 Central St., from 6 to 8 p.m.
   
“These mills are part of our industrial legacy and should be revitalized,” Mayor Edward Sullivan said. “We intend to help restore them and bring additional jobs and revenues to the town. We are excited about the project and look forward to the input of citizens.”
   
Dr. John Mullin, professor in the Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning Department and associate director of the Center for Economic Development at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMass), is an expert in mill revitalization. Mullin and some of his students are studying the property and will draft a development plan for the area once their research is complete.
   
Tara Gehring, Economic Development coordinator and assistant planner for West Springfield, said the UMass study began on June 1 and would be completed by Sept. 1.
   
Mullin described 150 Front St. as an 1880s mill building, featuring three stories [plus a ground level] and 18-foot ceilings. He noted that the CSX Corp. recently invested $10 million in updating the rail yard, which is adjacent to the site.
   
Mullin discussed the importance of “recapturing the essence of its [the buildings’] industrial past” during the Western Massachusetts Development Conference on June 26. He described West Side as a town of “human skill” and stated he is eager to see the site utilized again. He anticipated that the location would be rezoned from industrial to mixed-use to accommodate a greater number of businesses.
   
TARA Plant Construction Inc., a mechanical construction company specializing in power and industrial plant maintenance, owns the building but does not utilize the entirety of its space.
   
Frank McIntyre, president of TARA, purchased the building a year and a half ago. He said, “I just love the building. At first, I thought, ‘oh my god, what did I do?’ I just liked it.”
   
Since taking ownership, McIntyre said he’s focused on “stabilizing” the building by making needed repairs such as to the roof. He would like to see the building developed as mixed use, but said it’s important to preserve its historical features.
   
He described the building as “built to last” and said there are many options for use within its 119,000 square feet.
   
McIntyre stated that the property also features a turbine circa the 1800s.
   
A & D Hydro Inc. currently owns the water rights of the canal that runs through the Front Street area. The Westfield River runs along the rear of the building.

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