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Eagle Mill Redevelopment Gets More State Help Toward Mixed-Use Project

May 17, 2021 : The Berkshire Eagle, by Dick Lindsay

LEE — The Eagle Mill developer has secured $1.1 million more in state help toward financing the project.

MassDevelopment announced on Monday it granted Eagle Mill Redevelopment LLC a $800,000 loan to consolidate several smaller local loans. Principal developer Jeffery Cohen used the funds to buy nine properties that front the former paper making factory at the north end of Main Street.

“This loan groups the loans from Adams Community Bank into one nice, neat, manageable package,” Cohen told The Eagle. “Adams stepped up and said they could help us buy those properties when many other [lending institutions] wouldn’t.”

Clearing those parcels will make way for a new mixed-use building, part of the overall proposal of affordable and market-rate housing and 14,000 square feet of retail and office space. Construction on the project, which is projected to cost $60 to $70 million, is slated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to a statement from MassDevelopment, with its first phase completed within 14 to 18 months.

Phase 1 of the plan calls for creating up to 122 affordable and market-rate apartments at the mill, which closed in 2008, and six condominiums along the Housatonic River. It also includes the renovation of the 160-year-old machine shop that will be leased to The Marketplace, which has cafes in Sheffield and Great Barrington and operates a catering business.

Phase 2 calls for leveling the 1960s-era section of the factory and erecting a new apartment building on the east side of the property.

The final aspect of the project is a new, mixed-use building fronting the machine shop with commercial space on the first floor and approximately 24 apartments on the upper floor. Cohen has said that commercial space could be a future retail marketplace, if one becomes financially viable.

The loan emphasizes the state’s continued support for the Eagle Mill, according MassDevelopment Chairman Michael Kennealy.

“A priority of the Baker-Polito Administration is to breathe life back into underutilized factory and mill buildings ... once integral to the commonwealth’s industrial success,” Kennealy said in prepared remarks. “MassDevelopment’s contribution of loan financing advances the transformation of the site and complements the other state, local and private investments.”

Meanwhile, Eagle Mill is nearly halfway to its goal of receiving a maximum of $4 million in historic tax credits from the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

Cohen says the commission has awarded his project another $300,000 in credits, bumping up the running total to $1.8 million.

“We need to apply for more and we hope to eventually get $4 million,” he said. “These credits create jobs and help use preserve our culture.”

The Eagle Mill redevelopment already has landed $6.8 million in historic tax credits from the National Park Service. The park service and commission have final say on how the historic buildings are renovated and the look of the new construction.

Cohen says both the federal and state agencies recently approved Eagle Mill’s amended plan to reflect dozens of changes dictated by the condition of the site and the need to meet the governmental standards of historic preservation.

Late last year, the pandemic forced Cohen and his development team to cut back on the amount of commercial space and increase the number of housing units. Cohen told the Lee Planning Board in November and December that potential tenants for a proposed Faneuil Hall-style marketplace had pulled out because of the beating COVID-19 has inflicted on the nation’s economy.

Cohen says the project has two more hurdles to clear before the it can proceed. The developer needs approval from state environmental officials and the parties developing the housing need to secure state financing.

Berkshire Housing Development Corp. and Rees-Larkin Development of Boston have teamed up to create and manage the housing. The two entities have applied for tax credits from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

“We can not break ground or even complete our plans for construction until DHCD approves funding for the housing,” Cohen said.