A $15 million proposal to redevelop an old mill complex on Mallison Falls Road in South Windham, which would create 109 housing units along the Presumpscot River, continues to move forward after the prospective developer received funding for environmental cleanup efforts.

Hardypond Construction of Portland was awarded a $360,000 loan in October through the Greater Portland Council of Governments’ Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund for the remediation work. Engineers from Ransom Consulting in Portland, hired by Hardypond Construction to lead the cleanup, as well as council of government officials discussed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s required cleanup of the 5.26-acre site during a public meeting Dec. 3, which drew two Windham residents.

The proposal would convert the existing main building on the property into a 45-unit apartment complex, and build two multi-story buildings that would consist of 54 market-rate and affordable units.

The complex would be marketed toward millennials, those in their 20s and 30s, and retirees, according to Frank Carr, director of business development for Hardypond Construction.

Two smaller buildings on the property would each include five units, Carr said.

“We’re very excited about being part of the history here,” said Carr.

“The only reasonable reuse (of the building) is (as) an apartment complex,” added Bob Gaudreau, Hardypond Construction’s vice president. “I think Windham deserves this project. I really believe in this building. It’s not a light endeavor. It’s going to be done over (many) years.”

But some residents are concerned about the volume of traffic the new development would generate on a portion of Mallison Falls Road that is notorious for traffic issues. Windham resident Madeline Brown, one of the two residents to attend the meeting, said she did not support the developers’ proposal to turn Mallison Falls Road into a one-way street as part of the project. The driveway entrance to the mill building is located next to a granite overhead bridge abutment for the Mountain Division Trail that blocks the sight of oncoming traffic.

“I think you will find that the (residents) of Standish, Gorham, Windham and Westbrook are really going to fight (the proposal) if you close that street down to one-way,” Brown said of the road which connects two major commuter routes – Mosher Road in Gorham and River Road in Windham.

Windham Town Manager Tony Plante said the Town Council plans to hold a special meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 6 p.m. to discuss the possibilities for addressing the sight-distance problem.

“There’s almost no sight distance going up the hill,” Plante said. “In order for the Planning Board to approve the project, we have to find some way of dealing with the sight distance issue. I think it’s safe to say that without a satisfactory solution to the sight-distance problem, this project probably won’t happen.”

Besides traffic concerns, the cleanup of the former mill is an issue. According to Steve Dyer, principal engineer for Ransom Consulting, last year the company completed an environmental site assessment, which identifies potential and existing contamination of the old mill site.

Carr said the plan is to start the remediation work this winter, begin construction in the spring and open the first 45 apartments by fall 2016.

The Mallison Falls mill has a long industrial history. Beginning in 1749, the property operated as a sawmill. Since then it has been converted to a woolen mill, a cardboard storage center, and has housed several other companies, including the Steel Products Corp., which produced block and tackle pulleys during World War II. Since the 1960s, Baker Ice Machine Co., American Wheelabrator & Equipment Co. and Rich Tool & Die have also owned the mill. According to Dyer, Portland Safe Inc. of Gray now owns the building.

In July, the Windham Town Council approved a contract zone for the property, previously zoned for commercial use, to allow for dense residential development.

According to Dyer, Ransom Consulting identified some “recognizable environmental issues” during the initial environmental site assessment, which were investigated further during a Phase 2 site assessment. That follow-up study found low-level or minor contamination, including arsenic, lead and petroleum. The second report was delivered to Hardypond Construction in April, Carr said.

Data from the second phase will be transferred to what’s called an analysis of brownfield cleanup alternatives, said Dyer, which is required as part of the cleanup process.

Aaron Martin, a geologist for Ransom Consulting, who was also at last week’s meeting, said developers are required to look at three alternatives for the environmental work as part of the brownfield cleanup funding: taking no action; removing contaminated soils and adding a 1-foot layer of clean fill; or installing a cover system over the contaminated soils to prevent surface water from infiltrating the site and further spreading contaminants into the groundwater. Developers said they chose the latter alternative because it’s less costly than removing the soils.

Some restrictions will also be put on the property prohibiting the extraction of groundwater for drinking purposes, Martin said, and any hazardous materials identified in the building, such as asbestos, will be removed as soon as this winter.

“A lot of the contamination that we found here is low-risk and it’s stuff you’d typically find in industrial, mill-type properties,” Martin said. “The big driver here is converting a mill property into a residential property. The property here is serviced with municipal water. Although there is some petroleum-contaminated groundwater, it doesn’t pose a risk” to potential residents, he added.

Martin explained that the developers are also required to submit a National Historic Preservation Act review to EPA “to determine if any of these cleanup activities are going to impact the historical nature of the property.”

According to Dyer, “the developers are really working to maintain the historic nature of the mill and to integrate the new residential features into the historic structures.”

Vincent DiCara, owner of DiCara Training and Consulting in Brunswick and a member of the Greater Portland Council of Government’s loan committee, said the organization is providing the loan funds to the developers because it is “impressed with the past experience of Hardypond Construction Co.”

Although the loan is essential to the project, DiCara added, “What we are doing is a very small part of the overall financing” for the construction, which is expected to cost millions. Gaudreau said the firm is trying to obtain additional financing.

A CLOSER LOOK

Additional public comment on the Mallison Falls mill redevelopment project will be allowed until Dec. 21. Contact Aaron Martin at Ransom Consulting, 400 Commercial St., Suite 404, Portland, ME 04101 for details on how to submit comments.

Documents regarding the cleanup are available for viewing at the Greater Portland Council of Governments offices at 960 Baxter Blvd., Suite 201, Portland, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday until Dec. 21.

Hardypond Construction of Portland plans to convert this historic mill building on Mallison Falls Road in South Windham to a 45-unit apartment complex as part of a $15 million proposal. Another 10 units would be built inside two smaller, existing buildings on the property while two buildings would be constructed to include 54 units.Frank Carr, director of business development for Hardypond Construction in Portland, speaks during a meeting inside the main Mallison Falls mill building on Dec. 3 about the firm’s renovation plans for property, which includes creating 109 apartment units.


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