U.S. Rep. Richard Neal said the development provides significant opportunity for the town of Lee.
LEE, Mass. — The U.S. EPA will figure out what is in the ground at the Eagle Mill so the developer can move forward with a $60 million development.
"There isn't a developer who will proceed without knowing what is in the ground," said U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, who announced the $115,000 study at a conference on site Tuesday morning.
The Environmental Protection Agency will perform a Phase II study on the former manufacturing site to assess the presence of hazardous material.
The assessment will help direct developer Jeffrey Cohen's effort as he aims to turn the mostly abandoned mill into an activity-filled area.
"This lends itself to a mixed used development project," said Richard Vinette, a consultant representing Cohen. "We are now on the verge of getting some of the essential financing for this project."
Vinette outlined the idea of building new housing units and restaurants and having the Red Lion Inn build a 60-room boutique inn on the property. The project is a "game changer" for Lee, Vinette said, and is eyed to extend the downtown area.
"We are trying to attract young folks to this really nice town," he said. "We want it to be all-inclusive and make it a neighborhood."
The project aims to work along the Housatonic River and river walks are eyed to accompany the development. According to Vinette, the property is not expected to be affected by the General Electric cleanup of the river, and construction is still four to five years away.
For Board of Selectmen Chairman David Consolati, the EPA study is the next "baby step" in turning the property around.
"We took a hit. We took a really big hit. We didn't lose one mill, we lost a series of mills," Consolati said of the town's history, which led officials to now face the daunting task of reusing the properties.
"This is the next baby step," he said. "This is one more study and one more way to move forward."
Consultant Richard Vinette, Selectman David Consolati and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal at the mill to announce the grant Tuesday morning.
The Eagle Mill was shut down in 2008 and has been eyed by town officials as one of the most important properties to redevelop.
"There is a lot of community buy in," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli.
Vinette, who used to work with the Lee Community Development Corporation, said the site has already undergone some environmental studies and "pre-development" work while officials looked for a developer.
With a manufacturing history in the mill though, there are a number of studies that must be done to determine if there is some level of contamination.
While Brownsfield money is intended to be collected by those who contaminated the various sites and then used for these type of studies and cleanups, that's not always the case, Neal said.
"It is hard to figure out who dumped what into the water or who dumped what into the floorboards," Neal said.
However, this project has "substantial" opportunity, Neal said, and passed the muster of a difficult EPA application process.
The study is expected to be performed this summer and the developer is working to the financing. Nobis Engineering, of Lowell, is doing the study. Construction isn't expected for some years.
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