By JANE LOPES
MIDDLEBORO — After several failed attempts — one of which resulted in an unauthorized demolition — the selectmen will try again to find someone to redevelop the former Washburn Grain Mill property.
The historic Center Street site, which once contained the 1899 National Register grain mill building as well as the 19th-century freight house that is still standing, is the subject of a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the town this month. Prospective developers have until March 2 to submit proposals that meet criteria set by the selectmen, including some preference to be given to proposals that call for the restoration and reuse of the freight house.
A walk-through of the site and building is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday, Jan, 26. Questions regarding the RFP and walk-through must be submitted to the town manager’s office at the Town Hall by Feb. 9.
The town took possession of the approximately 2.6-acre property from the Washburn family in 1998 for non-payment of about $120,000 in back taxes and has been trying to find an appropriate reuse ever since.
A number of proposals have been presented over the years, and in 2003 the selectmen agreed to turn over the site and buildings to Daniel Costello of Costello Dismantling. Mr. Costello told local officials he planned to use the property for his salvage business.
He was authorized by the Historical Commission to demolish a portion of the grain mill building but wound up taking down the entire structure. The property was ultimately retained by the town.
The Historical Commission, which met with Town Manager Charles Cristello in the fall, expressed support for a clause in the new RFP that would give “extra credit” to proposals calling for the preservation of the freight house. The two-story, 156-by 35-foot building has suffered some damage from a roof leak over the years. Environmental and structural studies were commissioned by the town in 1999.
Other criteria that will be considered by the selectmen include the economic viability of proposals and the impact a proposed project would have on the economic vitality of the Everett Square area. Local officials have long considered the grain mill property to be a potential catalyst for the revitalization of the area.