October 25, 2018

As town eyes possible eminent domain, Draper Mill in Hopedale listed for sale

PHOTOS/MATT WRIGHT
The former Draper mill site takes up a large chunk of of Hopedale's downtown.

The sprawling 1-million-square-foot Draper Complex and about 80 acres of land in Hopedale is on the market after nearly 40 years of the property sitting vacant.

A property listing from Greater Boston Commercial Properties Inc. says the massive property is for sale or lease. A price isn't disclosed and will only be released to qualifying developers, said Bret O'Brien, president of the real estate firm.

The listing comes as Hopedale officials are developing an Urban Renewal Plan to substantially redevelop the downtown area, which largely includes the Draper property.

The plan will soon be sent to state officials for approval.

If the property is sold, the town hopes to work with the new owner to develop the property in accordance with the town's long-term plan, Selectmen Lou Arcudi said Thursday.

"Our goal is to collectively work with all property owners," he said.

The property once served as the engine of the local economy when the Draper Corp. manufactured textile looms in the facility until the building closed in 1979.

For about 30 years, Philip Shwachman of Worcester-based First American Realty has owned the property, but any plans for development have been stalled by recessions and other factors.

O'Brien said he and Shwachman have planned to market the property for a long time.

He said the listing is not a reaction to the town's recent action possibly resulting in eminent domain.

"The timing is right to sell land," O'Brien said. "It's like someone turned the lights on recently. Values are up, and demand is there."

O'Brien described fielding many calls for the property, including from residential developers to knock down the entire building and other builders who would preserve a portion of the mill for some kind of use.

"Our objective is to bring in developers with experience in retail and have some connections to bring in ideally a supermarket or large retail anchors on the Route 16 frontage we have," he said.

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