Greenfield makes offer on Lunt Silversmith property
GREENFIELD — If the Town Council and the Bankruptcy Court give their approval, the town could own the former Lunt Silversmith property for $1.5 million by spring, and redevelopment could start there by next summer.
Mayor William Martin said Monday that he will ask the council to approve $75,000 for a down payment on the Federal Street property the town has offered $1.5 million to buy.
The town is currently near the end of a two-year lease with the option to buy the property and would like to keep control of it.
Martin said he has been negotiating with Lunt since the town decided to enter into a lease agreement in 2010. The property has been in bankruptcy for the past couple of years and is behind in property taxes and sewer and water payments with the town.
“We’ve been in negotiations throughout the lease,” said Martin, who wants to buy the property and then look for someone, or more than one person, to redevelop the property.
“We took into consideration many facets before we signed the agreement to purchase last Friday,” said Martin.
The mayor said those considerations include use of the property, the price, any liabilities, redevelopment options, zoning changes, financing and all of the public input the town has received over the past two years about what people would like to see done with the property.
“In every instance, we saw residents leaning toward wanting the town to have control of the property,” said Martin.
He said plans are preliminary, but the town would like to save and maintain the ball fields, possibly building a “mini Fenway,” as the mayor called it.
“We would build a small Green Monster and the town’s Recreation Department would operate out of there,” he said.
Martin said he’d look for financing that the town could “get in and out of” in a short time.
The mayor and his economic development director plan to put out a request for proposals if the council approves the down payment and the court approves the purchase and sale agreement.
“We’ll be looking for two things in particular as we decide who will redevelop the property,” said Martin. “We want the property on the tax base and we want jobs created there.” Economic Development Director Robert Pyers said the town will have more concrete plans in the future.
Pyers said the town will continue to clean up the industrial site with the help of grants and the Environmental Protection Agency.
He and Martin said if the town closes on the property by its target date of March 31, redevelopment could begin as early as May.
“We’ll be asking for approval from the council and the Bankruptcy Court simultaneously and we’ll be putting out a request for proposals as soon as we have the property,” said Pyers.
Martin said the property would include 7.62 acres of recreational space — right now there’s about six, so that would be expanded — and 3.7 acres of developable space, which would include some of the buildings already there and some demolition and rebuilding.
The town will also ask that the property be rezoned. The 3.7 acres would be rezoned from general industrial to limited commercial and the ball fields would be zoned urban residential. Both zones would be consistent with the areas that surround them at this time.
Martin said the back taxes and sewer and water fees owed on the property at this point are between $400,000 and $475,000 and that amount would be paid to those town accounts when the sale goes through, as per the town’s agreement with Lunt.
“We’d be spending money, but getting some of it back,” said Martin.
Pyers and Martin said they’d also like to see someone lease the design building, which is the newer of the buildings on the property. That way, they said, the town would have income to help pay the mortgage as the rest of the property is developed.
The town paid $130,000 for the two-year lease ($65,000 each year) to control the property over the past two years.
Martin said the town was able to negotiate the price to $1.5 million, instead of more than $2 million, because that amount was taken off the price.
Two appraisals were done, one by the town and one by the Bankruptcy Court, and both were more than $2 million.
The town has assessed the property at $1.5 million and the three baseball fields at $5,000. James Lunt, owner of the then 107-year-old factory, announced in November 2009 that Lunt Silversmiths was to become strictly a design and product development business with an office in Greenfield.
Lunt’s parent company, Rogers, Lunt and Bowlen, decided to sell the Lunt brand to its now 177-year-old Taunton-based competitor, Reed and Barton.