This project, which was completed in the summer of 2003, was aimed at evaluating the structure of a 1918 Western Massachusetts paper mill, which sat empty and had been deteriorating for 13 years. Ultimately, the feasibility of any redevelopment on the site had to be investigated.
This preliminary structural evaluation and presentation of refurbishment options for the Usher Mill in Erving, Massachusetts is part of a larger planning project conducted and coordinated by the Donahue Institute at the University of Massachusetts.
The entire project is based on a Massachusetts planning grant, which, under Executive Order 418, awards towns and cities up to $ 30,000 to create a Community Development Plan. Ultimately, the development of such a plan is intended to aid in the establishment of a full Master Plan (Erving has completed this in 2002). Located in the center of Erving, the now deteriorating structures that make up the Usher Mill complex belong to one of four mills that are still in existence in this traditional New England industrial town. Of these, only two are currently in use: the new Erving Paper Mill and the “Renovator’s” Mill that has been redeveloped and rededicated as a home of Renovator’s Supply. Of the remaining two mills, the International Paper Mill was vacated recently and remains boarded up.
The most crucial issue in the re-use of the Usher Mill is the fact that it was never properly boarded up, which permitted its enclosure to be vandalized and – together with roof problems – allowed the structure to deteriorate. In considering a re-use of the currently abandoned structures, it is important to recognize the advantages that their location presents.
Having been built directly on the banks of Miller’s River, between two state forests and almost adjacent to Route 2, accessibility in combination with already existing recreational activities should be able to offer this site a demand for a whole range of re-use options. It was identified early on during the investigation of development options for Erving (Hoke et al., 2000) that one of the most crucial points would be an assessment of the condition and reusability of the Usher Mill site.
In combination with an environmental assessment of the site, a structural assessment of all buildings was identified as an immediate requirement. This report provides a preliminary structural evaluation of the Usher Mill buildings and presents refurbishment options together with associated cost estimates. Although it was attempted to offer enough information to allow an educated decision to be made on the viability of any re-use (or demolition), the reader has to keep in mind that unless the environmental questions (possible soil contamination, asbestos in buildings, etc.) have been answered and an overall master plan has been created (by an architectural consultant), the final costs and efforts can only roughly be estimated.