July 6, 2018

Hopedale mill, downtown revitalization could cost $50 million

PHOTOS/MATT WRIGHT
The former Draper mill site takes up 100 acres of Hopedale's downtown.

The total cost to redevelop the vacant Draper Corp. mill and revitalize 139 acres of land the center of Hopedale would cost an estimated $50 million.

In a new Urban Renewal Plan filed with the Town Clerk's office, the town calls for nearly $30 million in state and federal funding for the project, dubbed Draper Falls.

The town -- via a district improvement financing tax method -- and developer Draper Falls LLC, owned by Milford builder Kevin Lobisser will invest a total $20 million.

The conceptual plan includes demolishing much of what remains of the 1-million-square-foot Draper Mill and building new a new housing community overlooking Hopedale Pond.

The remaining 73,000-square-feet of space would be transformed into condos or apartments. Also included are commercial and business opportunities and transforming the remaining portion of the mill into a mixed-use building.

There are even conceptual plans to include office space for a new Town Hall, Department of Public Works facility and potentially a new athletic field.

The town will need to assemble 20 different parcels, 16 of which are owned by First American Realty and its CEO Philip Shwachman. The plan does not call for any acquisition costs related to those parcels due to the negative net valuation of the crumbling properties.

"It is likely the current owner will most likely attempt to donate these properties to the town and take advantage of any tax write-off he may be entitled to," the plan says.

The largest costs, according to a breakdown, are site preparation at nearly $9 million, and planning, legal, financing and managing the massive project, which would run the parties about $16 million.

Now, the project needs approval from several town boards, including the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for July 16.

The town was once close to executing a similar plan more than a decade ago. However, the committee charged with the plan stopped meeting after the 2008 economic crisis.

A new Downtown Revitalization Committee began meeting late last year and used many of those same materials to conceive of a new plan that could dramatically transform a town in need of an economic boost.

The mill, which once fueled the local economy, has been vacant for about 40 years. The Draper Corp. was once the largest maker of textile looms in the country and employed thousands of local workers until it ceased operation in the 1970s.

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