| Officials: State aid likely for Draper
By Matt Lynch
HOPEDALE - Town officials said they are confident Hopedale will receive significant help from the state in its efforts to develop the vacant, privately owned Draper Complex land, which at more than 1 million square feet dominates the downtown landscape.
Town Coordinator Gene Phillips, state Sen. Richard Moore, D-Uxbridge, state Rep-elect, John Fernandes and members of the Draper Complex Reuse Committee met yesterday with senior staff members of the Executive Office of Economic Development and said the session represented a major step forward.
"I think there is a genuine (state) interest in helping the town of Hopedale," said committee member Barry Feingold. "The consensus is there is a strong possibility of funding."
Phillips said the town is not yet ready to start applying for grants but is getting a lot of help form the state in making the right contacts. "We're not necessarily soliciting grants yet," said Phillips. "We're soliciting assistance."
Draper Committee Chairman Mike Ruane said he next step for his panel will be meeting with representatives from MassDevelopment to get professional assistance with planning and other predevelopment strategies.
Feingold also said the committee is confident the meeting will open doors for a number of state and even federal grants. "The consensus is there is a strong possibility of funding." Said Feingold. "They mentioned a number of agencies, but nothing specific at this point."
Moore said there are two major steps the town can take to make itself more business friendly and increase the attractiveness of the land: implement and expedited permitting process and use tax increment financing, which allows businesses to start by paying less than the rate for their property values and then slowly increasing the rate over time.
Moore also said the town appears to be eligible for financial help from the state. "We believe there is funding to hire a consultant to come up with concept plans and about the resources available at the state or federal level," he said.
Phillips said yesterday's meeting represented another major step in the town's efforts to work with owner Phillip Shwachman, of First American Realty, to develop the complex.
"I think we've had good, substantive meetings in the last six to 12 months, especially as the relationship between the owner and the community has gotten better," said Phillips.
The town should also consider hiring a planner in the near future to help Hopedale deal with developments in the town's future, Phillips said. "My personal belief is that as open space diminishes, the need for a planner increases exponentially," he said.
Officials also said they think the fledgling roots of state assistance won't wither up when Gov-elect Deval Patrick and his administration take over the State House in January.
"Some of the people we met with today will continue in their roles," said Phillips. I think we built lasting contacts." Milford Daily News, December 13, 2006.