Hopedale has a $50M dream
By Christopher Gavin / Daily News Staff
Posted Jul 5, 2018 at 6:56 PM Updated Jul 6, 2018 at 6:27 AM
Hopedale’s Draper factory renewal plan will cost nearly $50 million and will include more than 500
residential units and commercial and industrial space. Funding for the project would rely heavily on state,
federal and private sources.
First of two parts
HOPEDALE – The extensive plan set forth by selectmen and other town officials to redevelop the long-
dormant Draper Corp. factory site would cost nearly $50 million to bring in more than 500 residential units
and commercial and industrial space.
“The Draper Falls Urban Renewal Plan,” filed this week in the Town Clerk’s Office, would rely heavily on
state, federal and private funding to see through its estimated price tag of $49.9 million, the plan indicates.
“There’s a lot of different financing mechanisms,” Selectman Thomas Wesley said Thursday in an
interview. “Clearly, the goal here is to have joint investment here.”
The 42-page document filed Monday spells out several financial means Hopedale can consider regarding
how to carry out the 13 phases, over two decades, needed for the project.
Here are a few key points:
Private, state and federal funding could make up almost $30 million. Town officials estimate a total of
$29,970,450 in various grants and programs could potentially cover the majority of the project’s expenses,
according to the plan..
Other money contributed by the town could come through the use of a “district improvement financing plan”
– a mechanism under state law that allows municipalities to channel tax dollars to a particular
redevelopment area involved in a public-private partnership.
The urban renewal plan shows Hopedale could match the initial investment of $10 million put forth by
developers through the financing plan.
Major expenses include planning, demolition and amenities. Among the most costly parts of the urban
renewal plan are the planning, site engineering, permitting and design portions, which total an estimated
$4,995,300, according to the project’s budget.
Last month, Wesley said the town would seek to keep as much of the 1 million-square-foot factory for reuse
as possible, although portions of the site – unoccupied for nearly four decades - would likely need to be
Demolition expenses are budgeted for approximately $5,875,000, with the demolition of the remaining
portions of the Hope Street bridge budgeted at an additional $190,000, the plan says.
Wesley said Thursday the plan calls for considering moving Town Hall into the planned 170,000 square
feet of commercial space at the site with the potential to make the existing Town Hall into condominiums.
The new 12,000-square-foot residences could cost $2,460,000, according to the plan.
Other aspects of the plan call for $1,050,000 for new synthetic athletic fields; $950,000 for a new
Department of Public Works building; and $2,850,000 for site remediation.
Acquisition of properties
There are 26 sites that make up the proposed project, including properties that are owned by the Town of
Hopedale and by private owners.
Twenty of those parcels would need to be acquired, with 16 owned by either Hopedale Industrial Center,
LLC, or Hopedale Properties, LLC.
Phillip Shwachman is principal of both groups.
“Based on current highest and best use, these private properties combined would have a negative net
valuation and therefore it is anticipated the owner will most likely attempt to donate them to the town,” the
plan says regarding properties owned by Shwachman.
When reached Thursday, Shwachman said he had no comment on the plan because it had not yet been
shared with him.
However, Wesley said several options for land acquisition can be considered, including through purchase,
donation or agreements.
Upcoming public hearings, meetings
The Planning Board is set to meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Town Hall, 78 Hopedale St., to discuss a
concept plan for the site with Selectman Brian Keyes, according to a meeting agenda.
Selectmen will discuss the plan at 6 p.m. Thursday in Town Hall with state Secretary of Housing and
Economic Development Jay Ash, according to a copy of the agenda.
A public hearing on the urban renewal plan, organized by selectmen, is also scheduled for 6 p.m. on July 16
in the Hopedale Junior-Senior High School auditorium, 25 Adin St.
A report on other aspects of the urban renewal plan will appear in Saturday’s edition of the Daily News.
Hopedale mill, downtown revitalization could cost $50 million
The former Draper mill site takes up 100 acres of Hopedale's downtown.
by Zachary Comeau
Worcester Business Journal
The total cost to redevelop the vacant Draper Corp. mill and revitalize 139 acres of land the center of
Hopedale would cost an estimated $50 million.
In a new Urban Renewal Plan filed with the Town Clerk's office, the town calls for nearly $30 million in state
and federal funding for the project, dubbed Draper Falls.
The town -- via a district improvement financing tax method -- and developer Draper Falls LLC, owned by
Milford builder Kevin Lobisser will invest a total $20 million.
The conceptual plan includes demolishing much of what remains of the 1-million-square-foot Draper Mill
and building new a new housing community overlooking Hopedale Pond.
The remaining 73,000-square-feet of space would be transformed into condos or apartments. Also
included are commercial and business opportunities and transforming the remaining portion of the mill
into a mixed-use building.
There are even conceptual plans to include office space for a new Town Hall, Department of Public Works
facility and potentially a new athletic field.
The town will need to assemble 20 different parcels, 16 of which are owned by First American Realty and
its CEO Philip Shwachman. The plan does not call for any acquisition costs related to those parcels due to
the negative net valuation of the crumbling properties.
"It is likely the current owner will most likely attempt to donate these properties to the town and take
advantage of any tax write-off he may be entitled to," the plan says.
The largest costs, according to a breakdown, are site preparation at nearly $9 million, and planning, legal,
financing and managing the massive project, which would run the parties about $16 million.
Now, the project needs approval from several town boards, including the Board of Selectmen and Planning
A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for July 16.
The town was once close to executing a similar plan more than a decade ago. However, the committee
charged with the plan stopped meeting after the 2008 economic crisis.
A new Downtown Revitalization Committee began meeting late last year and used many of those same
materials to conceive of a new plan that could dramatically transform a town in need of an economic boost.
The mill, which once fueled the local economy, has been vacant for about 40 years. The Draper Corp. was
once the largest maker of textile looms in the country and employed thousands of local workers until it
ceased operation in the 1970s.
By Christopher Gavin / Daily News Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2018 at 6:53 PM Updated Jul 6, 2018 at 6:53 PM
Second of two parts
HOPEDALE - The urban renewal plan that envisions over 500 residential units and 170,000 square feet of
commercial space on the site of the former Draper Corp. factory indicates Hopedale’s desirability as a
place to live will play a key role in bringing the plan to fruition.
The residential aspect of the “Draper Falls Urban Renewal Plan” is the factor needed to make the $50
million transformation a reality, says the 42-page plan, released this week.
Housing makes the project feasible for developers to finance it, according to the plan.
As the document says, Hopedale residents pay a premium to live where they do.
“If the design, construction, and pricing is ‘on point,’ people will come to live in Hopedale and support the
redevelopment as well as providing housing options for young people that grew up in Hopedale but are
unable to afford the current housing stock and are forced to move outside the town they grew up in,” the plan
“Housing is the engine that can drive the overall feasibility because the market for housing has been
historically strong and deep.”
The plan calls for a mix of duplex, townhouse and condominium units - 565 units in total - that will offer new
views for the public of the Hopedale Pond and parklands while revitalizing the town’s center.
In the plan, town officials write that the Grafton and Upton Railroad - whose tracks run across the 77 acres -
has capability of financing portions of the project.
They anticipate signing a development agreement with the railroad company to make it the project’s
developer through its subsidiary, Draper Falls LLC, the plan says.
Milford-based developer Kevin Lobisser is listed as the principal of Draper Falls LLC - formed in May - in
records filed in the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office.
But large portions of the proposed site are privately owned, with 16 of the 20 properties that the town would
need to acquire owned by either Hopedale Properties LLC or Hopedale Industrial Center LLC.
Philip Shwachman is principal of both companies.
The plan says the properties combined could have a negative net value because of their current condition
and the owner may attempt to donate them to the town.
Shwachman had no comment about it Thursday because the plan had not yet been shared with him, he
Selectman Thomas Wesley said the town could consider several options in the acquisition, including by
purchase, agreements or donation.
“I still remain very excited about the future of Hopedale in this development and it’s our fervent desire that all
parties can amicably agree as to how to proceed,” Wesley said in an interview Thursday.
Here are other key points in the plan:
Job creation, economy growth
Local officials see the revitalization of the Draper factory property as necessary for new economic growth,
according to the plan.
Commercial space at the site could house all sorts of new businesses, from offices to a grocery store,
banks, restaurants and an assisted living facility, the plan indicates.
Construction would generate approximately 200 temporary jobs, with about 100 permanent jobs once the
project is completed, the plan shows.
An environmental approach
The urban renewal plan, by revitalizing town center areas, will help protect those spaces from unnecessary
future development, the document says.
The plan also states that cleaning up of the brownfield, or contaminated, property would better serve local
Officials would also explore the possibility of installing a hydro-power generator at the falls under the
Freedom Street dam and solar energy panels on roof-tops and carports to provide electricity to the site, the
plan says. Rainwater could be collected for irrigating the property.
The Planning Board will meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Town Hall, 78 Hopedale St., to review a concept plan
for the site, a meeting agenda says.
Selectmen are set to meet at 6 p.m. Thursday in Town Hall with state Secretary of Housing and Economic
Development Jay Ash, according to an agenda.
A public hearing on the urban renewal plan is also scheduled for 6 p.m. on July 16 in the Hopedale Junior-
Senior High School auditorium, 25 Adin St.
Hopedale board postpones Draper vote
By Cesareo Contreras / Daily News Correspondent
Posted Jul 12, 2018 at 6:20 PM Updated Jul 12, 2018 at 7:48 PM
HOPEDALE - The Planning Board has postponed until next month a vote on a plan to economically revitalize
the site of the former Draper Corp. property, after its principal property owner complained he was not
adequately informed of the undertaking.
Making his case before the board after an overview of the nearly $50 million “Draper Falls Urban Renewal
Plan” presented by Grafton and Upton Railroad President Michael Milanoski on Wednesday, Philip
Shwachman, owner of the former Draper Corp., called the plan “a land grab by the railroad company,” and
that he only learned about the plan just a few days prior.
“The statutory conditions of taking my property as part of the urban renewal plan simply have not been
satisfied,” he said. “This plan is not well thought out. This plan is a land grab by the railroad company.”
Wednesday’s meeting was meant to serve as an opportunity for the Planning Board to get a general
overview of the concept and take a vote on whether it believed the plan is consistent and in line with the town’
s overall comprehensive plan - an essential decision needed for the urban renewal plan to move forward,
The plan calls for a number of changes to the property, including the construction of more than 500
residential units, as well as the reallocation of up to 175,000 square feet of the property for commercial,
recreational and industrial uses.
The plan, created by selectmen and other town officials, aims to address the 35-year question of what to do
with the vacant facility and “strengthen the heart of Hopedale, the town center, and sustain the quality of life,”
according to a 37-page document filed with the town clerk outlining the concept.
Milanoski said the town had reached out to the railroad company about a year ago to help expand on a study
the town had put out in 2007 to determine how the town could redevelop the Draper property.
In a public-private partnership with the town, Grafton and Upton Railroad has stated it will invest in the
development of the project, according to the urban renewal plan.
“The urban renewal plan is really the vehicle to help implement that 2007 study,” Milanoski said.
The document states the plan will help create 200-plus temporary jobs during construction of the
redevelopment, and 100-plus jobs once it is completed.
Seconds before the board was set to vote on the concept plan, Shwachman took the floor to speak.
“No one ever contacted me from the town,” he said.
Shwachman said he had inquired about being part of the planning process earlier and was told to call
Grafton and Upton Railroad. He said he first met with selectmen regarding the issue only the previous day. It’
s not clear whether he has contacted the railroad company.
In addition to not being made aware of the plan earlier, Shwachman said he also took issue with a number
of assertions brought up in the document, including a claim that he would most likely donate the land to the
town due to his property having “net negative valuation.”
“I’ve got millions of dollars invested in this property,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. There
is no way I’m going to donate it to the town.”
Of the 140 acres the town is seeking to develop, 77 acres is property that Shwachman owns.
Shwachman also said many comments about building contamination were without merit, as he has spent
millions of dollars cleaning up the property.
Taking into account Shwachman’s claims, the Planning Board held off on voting on the proposal until its
next meeting on Aug. 1 to allow Shwachman an opportunity to review the plan.
The Board of Selectmen had planned to meet Thursday with Secretary of Housing and Economic
Development Jay Ash to discuss the renewal plan, but that item was removed from the agenda. A public
hearing on the urban renewal plan remains scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at Hopedale Junior-Senior High
Hopedale residents cite schools, public safety during hearing for proposed Draper Corp. development
By Cesareo Contreras Daily News Correspondent
Posted Jul 16, 2018 at 10:58 PM
HOPEDALE - Residents Monday night pointed to a lack of infrastructure, the possibility of overcrowded
schools and overwhelming public safety officials at a public hearing hosted by selectmen that discussed a
proposed development at the former Draper Corp. site.
Selectmen attempted to gauge community reaction to the nearly $50 million “Draper Falls Urban Renewal
Plan,” and more than 100 residents attended and nearly a dozen spoke. Selectmen gave an overview of the
Outlined in the plan is the construction of more than 500 residential units, as well as the development of up
to 175,000 square feet of the property for commercial, recreational and industrial uses.
Major topics of discussion included how Hopedale’s school, fire and police systems will accommodate the
increase in single-family residential units, traffic flow, and the next steps forward after the hearing had ended.
Philip Shwachman, property owner of nearly 80 acres of the 140 acres planned for development, also
appeared at the meeting with his attorney, Douglas T. of Radigan of Bowditch & Dewey, LLP. Shwachman
repeated statements he made during last week’s Planning Board meeting that the concept plan is full of
inaccuracies and that he was not consulted prior to the concept plan being filed to the clerk’s office.
Selectmen also held off on voting on the urban renewal plan, because the Planning Board has yet to vote on
if the plan is consistent with the town’s overall comprehensive plan.
Citing concerns that the current police force and fire department aren’t properly equipped to handle the
increased load of individuals, resident Tara Cahalane called on selectmen to take a closer look into securing
enough police officers are hired to accommodate more people.
“I don’t think we have the infrastructure right now to support that,” she said.
Michael Carpenter called on selectmen to establish a way for the board to explain the process of the urban
renewal plan to make it more digestible to the town.
Video of Monday’s hearing will appear online sometime on Tuesday.
Hopedale Selectman Tom Wesley. Click here to go to Tom's
statement about the proposal to develop the Draper property.
By Alison Bosma
Posted at 8:21 PM Updated Jul 27, 2018 at 10:35 PM
HOPEDALE – Selectmen will handle an Open Meeting Law complaint Monday night, filed on behalf of a man
who owns the majority of the town’s signature landmark.
The town has compiled a plan to develop the largely vacant former Draper Mill complex, through a
combination of commercial and residential use. The plan has been presented at least one public hearing,
and officials intend to submit it for state approval after it clears local boards.
In mid-July, attorney David Lurie filed an Open Meeting Law complaint against Hopedale’s three selectmen
after a meeting in which selectmen discussed the property. Lurie represents Philip Shwachman, principal the
companies that own nearly 80 acres of the 140 acres officials hope to develop.
The complaint claims selectmen improperly discussed the Draper complex plan in executive session July 12.
Shwachman attended the meeting that evening, but left after selectmen told him the public agenda item
containing the Draper complex plan would be removed.
Selectmen later went into executive session to talk about the plan, according to the agenda.
“Such action was in violation of the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law,” Lurie wrote.
Town Administrator Steven Sette said the issue is a clerical error.
Selectmen cited the incorrect language, out of the handful of state-sanctioned reasons, for going into
executive session that evening, he said. The board used reason three, which allows discussion out of the
public eye for collective bargaining or litigation. It should have used reason six, which is for real estate
″.We are being transparent with the process and are answering the complaint as is required by the statute,”
Sette wrote in an email.
The board will also release minutes from the executive session Monday night, he said.
Lurie’s letter also references the town’s July 16 public hearing on the plan, the original agenda of which
included a vote by selectmen. Lurie claimed selectmen could not vote on the plan without prior approval by
the Planning Board.
“If you do proceed to hold a public hearing on the Plan and/or Agreement,” Lurie wrote, “you should not hold
any vote but rather continue the hearing .... to allow Mr. Shwachman - who was excluded from the process of
preparing the Plan even though his properties comprise the bulk of the Plan - to have input into these very
important decisions that will have substantial financial and other consequences for the Town.”
Shwachman attended that public hearing and said the plan was full of inaccuracies, and that he had not been
consulted in its creation.
The voting portion of the July 16 meeting did not take place, and selectmen will meet jointly Wednesday with
the Planning Board to discuss the Draper complex plan.
A call to Shwachman was not returned.
Draper owner: Property ‘won’t be ‘stolen from me’
By Cesareo Contreras / Daily News Correspondent
Posted Jul 29, 2018 at 12:01 AM Updated at 11:23 PM
HOPEDALE — Selectman Tom Wesley says Hopedale officials didn’t discuss the drafting of the recently
unveiled “Draper Falls Urban Renewal Plan” with a key property owner because they were under the
impression that he was not interested in developing the site.
But that property owner, Philip Shwachman of Worcester-based First American Realty Inc., says that’s not true.
The nearly $50 million urban renewal plan aims to economically transform the site of the vast - and long
vacant - Draper Corp. site and the area surrounding it.
In a video about the plan posted July 20 on Facebook, Wesley cites two recent discussions he and another
town official had with Shwachman as evidence to back up their claim.
First, in a conversation with Shwachman on May 10, Wesley said Shwachman informed him that he was
marketing the site, stating that “my development days are over.”
Second, after the development plan was made public earlier this month, Wesley said Shwachman had a
conversation with Town Administrator Steven Sette during which Shwachman said he’d be willing to sell the
land to the town and, should the right developer be retained, “might be willing to put up my own money for a
piece of the action.”
Of the 26 parcels envisioned for redevelopment, 16 are owned by Shwachman. He first acquired a portion of
the properties in 1990, and has acquired others over the next 25 years
But in a recent interview with the Daily News, Shwachman said some of his comments were “taken out of
context” and that the Facebook video was an “inaccurate conclusion on my discussions with the town of
Furthermore, Shwachman said those conversations are an inadequate excuse as to why the plan was
developed “secretly” from him.
“I’ve had numerous discussions with the town in the past year on other operational matters, and they never
once brought this up,” he said.
Reclaiming its destiny
The plan calls for the redevelopment of 140 acres of land for more than 500 residential units and up to
175,000 square feet for commercial, recreational and industrial use.
The main goal of the project, as explained in the renewal plan, is to develop a mix-used development on
property that town officials have deemed a blighted safety hazard and which has plagued the town - which has
a limited commercial tax base - for more than 30 years.
Wesley said the plan acts as a vehicle for Hopedale to reclaim its “destiny.” Without the plan, Wesley said the
town of about 6,000 residents is at the mercy of a “speculator” who “has never offered to develop that property.”
“Mr. Shwachman has had his development interest at heart with this property, and I understand that,” Wesley
said. “What we’re trying to do is put the needs of this community, front and center - to defend this town.”
Along with housing units and space for industrial, commercial and recreational endeavors, the plan calls for a
number of other changes, including a potential relocation of Town Hall, the reconnecting of Fitzgerald Drive
and the creation of a new athletic field.
One difference from a previous study in 2007, on which the new plan is based, is the town’s partnership with
the Grafton and Upton Railroad. Town officials reached out to the rail company to serve as their “preferred
developer” early in the process, because it now owns some of the land envisioned for redevelopment.
In turn, the plan notes, the Grafton and Upton Railroad established a joint partnership with Milford developer
Kevin Lobisser, “a well-known and also respected developer in the Greater Hopedale region.”
Working together, the two entities will be known as Draper Falls LLC, the plan explains. Lobisser serves as
Town officials estimate that $30 million of the plan will come from private, state and federal funding, primarily
through grants and special programs.
An additional $20 million could come from the town through so-called “District Improvement Financing,” in
which communities channel tax dollars into targeted redevelopment districts, and from Draper Falls LLC,
according to the plan.
Also noted in the plan, under a future land disposition agreement with the rail company, selectmen would
“transfer the acquisition parcels for redevelopment and implementation of the project to the Grafton and Upton
Grafton and Upton Railroad President Michael Milanoski said in an interview that the purpose of the
agreement is “to have an experienced and financially capable development team with decades of experience
in housing, commercial and industrial development use their combined experience to properly remediate the
properties following to DEP and EPA regulations.”
Aspects of that remediation would include services such as fixing sewer issues, demolishing buildings,
installing new water and sewer lines, building new roads and removing any leftover asbestos and lead paint,
Additionally, the plan notes that selectmen and other town officials will review each phase of development and
that certain performance and timetable standards will have to be met.
“Once the infrastructure is completed, they will be turned back over to the town as public roads and utilities,”
Milanoski said. “This is about a public-private partnership with the town of Hopedale to jointly redevelop the
project in the town’s best interest.”
Now that Shwachman has reviewed the plan, selectmen hope to come to an agreement with him and have
him work in partnership with the town and Grafton and Upton Railroad.
But Shwachman said he believes aspects of the plan are ill-conceived and misleading. He also takes issue
with the possibility of the land being taken from him through eminent domain, as the town has deemed it as
He sees that is as “a land grab by the Grafton and Upton Railroad.”
Given his 50-year career in real estate, Shwachman said he is “a recognized expert in valuation” and
estimates that his 77 acres are worth more than $10 million.
And in response to claims made by Wesley that he is “speculator” and not a developer, Shwachman said
millions of dollars have gone into demolishing and cleaning up the property, and in removing asbestos and
Wesley said he is unsure how Shwachman came to a valuation north of $10 million, but added the town is
willing to come to some type of an agreement with him. He is unsure what such a partnership would look like.
“It’s up to Mr. Shwachman to decide whether he wants to participate - whether he wants ‘a piece of the action’
or not,” Wesley said. “This project will go on, with or without him.”
Shwachman said he’s had a productive relationship with the town in the past, and was an active participant of
the Draper Rescue Complex Committee that created the 2007 study on which the urban renewal plan is
based. He said he can’t stand by the new plan, however, especially because it was developed without his
A better plan, according to Shwachman, would involve the town sending out a request for proposal to find the
“best and brightest and most successful” developers to submit proposals for the revitalization of the area.
“That was my intention - to sell or joint-venture my property with others - and I suggest it’s the most
appropriate process for the town to follow as well,” he said. “I would be pleased to follow independently on my
own or with them.”
In Shwachman’s estimation, partnering with the Grafton and Upton Railroad may not be in the town’s best
“Why would the town want an entity controlling their downtown that might use the pre-emption of the federal
railroad commission?” he said.
He is also reluctant to trust Milanoski, whom he said “seems to have a controversial past,” primarily based off
Milanoski’s previous work experience as executive director of the Attleboro Redevelopment Authority and
financial issues surrounding an industrial business park project in that community a decade ago. (https://bit.
But Milanoski said Shwachman is “using an apples-and-oranges comparison to another project that has
been implemented per its original intent,” and that the comparison is “out of context.”
Shwachman has hired Ted Carman, president of Concord Square Planning Development Inc., the developer
who helped craft the Draper Complex Reuse Study in 2007, to review and comment on the Draper Falls Urban
Shwachman has also hired legal counsel and plans to do everything necessary to protect his land, he said.
“I’ve spent many years and millions of dollars acquiring and improving the properties, he said. “There is no
way I’m going to allow it to be stolen from me.”
Selectmen hosted a public hearing on July 16 to gauge residents’ thoughts on the undertaking, and plan to
hold more in the future.
The Planning Board will review the plan on Wednesday on whether it believes the plan is consistent with the
town’s overall comprehensive plan. The board was originally scheduled to vote on the plan earlier this month,
but held off after Shwachman said he hadn’t yet familiarized himself with it.
The results of Wednesday’s meeting could determine whether selectmen can go forth and take a vote on the
plan and move it along for state approval.
Hopedale selectmen, Planning Board canceled meeting about Draper buildings
By Alison Bosma
Posted at 1:33 PM Updated at 2:41 PM
HOPEDALE - A joint meeting scheduled for Wednesday, to discuss a comprehensive plan for the town’s
signature Draper Mill complex, has been canceled.
Selectmen and the Planning Board were expected to review the Hopedale Draper Falls Urban Renewal Plan
Aug. 1, after a public forum July 16.
The plan proposes both commercial and residential uses for the empty acres of downtown buildings, and
has been opposed by Philip Shwachman, principal of the companies that own the majority of the Draper Mill
complex. Shwachman’s chief complaint has been that he has not been included in the process of
developing the plan.
Small town’s big eyesore
Hopedale officials again seek to develop vacant factory and transform the
By Emily Williams, Boston Globe Correspondent August 09, 2018
HOPEDALE — For more than a century, the Draper Corp. factory stood at the center of this small town,
serving as its economic base and prime benefactor. But in 1980, the company, once the country’s leading
producer of textile machinery, closed for good.
Nearly 40 years later, the vast brick factory still looms over the Mill River, a ghost of a bygone era. Despite
multiple plans for redevelopment, the complex remains a vacant eyesore, casting a long shadow over the
town’s efforts to reinvent itself.
“When Draper left, it left a hole in Hopedale’s psyche,” said Tom Wesley, a selectman in this town of 6,000,
about 30 miles southwest of Boston.
Now, after years of false starts and dashed hopes for the property, the Board of Selectmen has introduced a
new plan — a $50 million mixed-use development that would preserve some of the property’s historic
Calling the property a “scar across the center of Hopedale,” the plan envisions more than 500 residential
units and as much as 175,000 square feet of retail, industrial, or recreational use, an ambitious project that
would transform the quiet town center.
Draper Mill in Hopedale, which the town has targeted for redevelopment after many previous failed attempts.
“This is Hopedale’s first real chance to define itself,” Wesley said. “This plan is the result of more than 30
years of frustration.”
In keeping with the longstanding struggles to redevelop the property, there’s a catch. The plan calls for Phil
Shwachman, who owns the factory and a number of surrounding parcels, to donate his land to the town,
estimating that cleaning up the property will cost more than it’s worth. If he doesn’t, officials say they would
consider seizing the land by eminent domain.
Shwachman has “put a stranglehold on the development of the town” by allowing the factory to sit vacant
since he bought the property nearly 30 years ago, Wesley said.
But Shwachman, who owns a real estate company in Worcester, said his properties are worth far more than
that, and bristled at the prospect of the town taking his land without market-rate compensation.
“I’m getting railroaded here,” Shwachman said. “I won’t stand for that.”
He said he has spent millions on the complex over the years, demolishing 14 structures, clearing debris
and furnishings from the buildings, and disposing of a “tremendous volume of asbestos.”
In 2007, Shwachman participated in a town study of the property and was interested in pursuing
development then, he said. As a result, he was surprised to hear that town officials had been meeting for
the past year to discuss redevelopment plans without notifying him.
Wesley and Town Administrator Steve Sette said town officials didn’t tell Shwachman because they didn’t
think he would be interested.
Sette said the town is willing to purchase the land from Shwachman but hasn’t been presented with a price.
While the plan’s budget includes $120,000 in legal costs related to eminent domain, Sette said that option
is “always the last resort.”
‘This plan is the result of more than 30 years of frustration.’
Despite the clash, Shwachman said he agrees with town officials that it’s well past time to redevelop the
site into “a productive part of the Hopedale community again.”
That goal has been vexingly elusive. The momentum from the town study in 2007 was quickly stalled by the
economic downturn, and by the time officials revisited the issue, the Grafton & Upton Railroad had bought
the railroad that runs through the property, adding a new complication.
The railroad’s owner, Jon Delli Priscoli, has agreed to work with the town as a developer and invest $10
million in the project. The town will also contribute $10 million, Sette said, and officials hope to fund the rest
Delli Priscoli, the developer behind the revival of the Edaville Family Theme Park in Carver, says he sees
tremendous potential in the Draper site.
“I don’t know why Hopedale has waited so long,” he said.
Hopedale was founded as a utopian commune in 1842 by prominent minister and abolitionist Adin Ballou.
When the commune failed several years later, its assets were taken over by wealthy community members
Ebenezer and George Draper, who eventually established the Draper Corporation.
The town’s street names harken back to the community’s aspirational origins — Hope, Peace, Social, and
Union — and the Draper legacy runs deep.
The Town Hall, a 2½-story mass of Milford granite and reddish-brown sandstone, was dedicated in 1887 as
a memorial to George Draper, who had planned, built, and paid for the building. Across the street from
Town Hall is the Unitarian Church, also planned and built by the Drapers.
Hopedale is exceptional for its origin story and close ties to the Drapers, said local historian and longtime
resident Dan Malloy.
“It’s almost impossible in New England to find anything quite like it,” Malloy said.
But decades after Draper’s last employees locked the factory doors behind them on Aug. 29, 1980,
residents are ready to move on.
“We are past the nostalgia,” Wesley said. “We’ve run out of patience.”
At a public hearing about the plan in mid-July, some community members expressed concern about the
impact of more than 500 residential units on such a small town. But officials say the change would be
gradual, allowing the school system and police department to adjust over time.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in this town that doesn’t think we need to take the most blatant eyesore in town
and do something with it,” said Carole Mullen, who directs the town’s Council on Aging. “The question is
what’s right for Hopedale.”
Comments to the Globe article:
There are three now and this property is an eyesore!! Shwachman needs a dope slap before they take this
property by eminent domain. Imagine doing this to a whole town. Jerk.
cbolon08/09/18 01:48 PM
The former Draper Company factory is a handsome example of nineteenth century industrial architecture--
anything but an "eyesore." If it were located in the Seaport district of Boston, it would honored by
preservationists, Globe reporters, always driven by company politics rather than by news, would seek out
favorable opinions rather than angry ones
jjshello08/08/18 11:23 PM
Hopedale is a jewel of a small town. Not sure of the tax rate and if the tax base can support needed
services, but it appears to be absolutely lovely. It is right next door to the much bigger town of Milford that
offers lots of needed (non tax services) such as supermarkets, retail shopping, access to I-495, a decent
hospital and more.
Looks like a great place with an excellent quality of life. Not familiar with the property in question but I hope
they can work something out.
smack52208/09/18 08:31 AM
How is it possible to have such an opinion of this town but be "unfamiliar with this property in question"? It
is an enormous structure set in the center of this jewel of a small town and impossible to be unfamiliar
jjshello08/09/18 09:29 AM
I had reason to be in the center of town of several occasions. Wasn't doing any deep research such as
what one might do if they are considering moving into the community.
It just seems like a nice small town and wholesome charm.
Olivette08/09/18 12:21 AM
I can't stand greedy, selfish owners like the one in the article. He obviously doesn't need the money or he
would not let the building just sit there for so long.
This is reminding me if the Druker company and how they let that beautiful Shreve, Crump & Low building
sit there and rot for so many years. They also own many of the vacant stores on that block.
I used to work at the Colonnade Hotel, owned by Druker, and he would make restaurant employees work
on Thanksgiving just so he and his wife could have Thanksgiving dinner there, along with various higher-
ups who felt obligated to attend. Nice.
twik-d08/09/18 05:40 AM
Way to pass judgement on someone you don’t know and read one article abut in the Globe Olivette! The
town was talking behind his back for 2 years. Give me a break, property owners do want to develop but not
at the risk of losing their shirts. Its called private property for a reason.
richstan08/09/18 05:54 AM
He's owned it for 30 years and has done nothing with it. I don't blame the town for doing what they're doing.
Show more replies (5)
user_349688008/09/18 05:56 AM
POOR OLIVE HAD TO WORK ON THANKSGIVING! STOP FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF!GROW UP
mikestatic08/09/18 06:25 AM
Go away, ignorant child - no one needs to hear the contents of your empty mind.
Jeanne35708/09/18 07:22 AM
With all caps user is probably some addled old phart who is just learning to use a computor.
mikestatic08/09/18 06:28 AM
If Shwachman is that lame of an investor that he can’t make something work after 30 years, instead of
feigning anger he should thank Hopedale for paying him anything for it. He has done nothing but fail in his
attempts to profit from it, it is time to let more talented people take a crack at it.
Jeanne35708/09/18 07:25 AM
He did remove all that asbestos which is a shame since EPA is now letting contractors use it sgain. Lung
cancer, asbestosis for everyone!
FransBevy08/09/18 09:12 AM
Did he have to remove the asbestos for liability purposes? He doesn’t sound too philanthropic.
DennisByron08/09/18 07:15 AM
30-40 years ago, the investor was betting on the Wangs, Primes, Digitals and Data Generals expanding
forever, moving south along 495 and needing more and more floor space.
Turned out to be a bad bet maybe because -- my recollection -- then Hopedale town fathers were a tough
group to do business with and did not really want expansion. So DG and Prime built in next-door Milford.
Digital built in next-door Franklin. A big mega car dealer built in next door Mendon. But it's still the owner's
jvc12308/09/18 07:36 AM
The town should condemn the buildings and issue a demolition order, Thirty years is long enough...
jvc12308/09/18 07:42 AM
This whole thing is a sheist. The only possibility for development is through urban renewal or some other
government purchase. The owner simply holds out and demands big money for dangerous, abandoned
buildings. The buildings look dangerous to me, and should be torn down.
AL500008/09/18 08:56 AM
Sounds like an uninformed opinion to me. What "looks dangerous" about the building, and why is tearing it
down the solution?
Justthedata208/09/18 08:10 AM
The factory building is beautiful - I hope they can preserve it. The grounds are a mess which is probably
what everyone is complaining about.
johnson908/09/18 08:31 AM
These old buildings cannot be replaced.It doesnt make sense to knock it down when it can be repurposed.
JackBstn08/09/18 08:37 AM
The article doesn't mention Hopedale's newly formed historical commission attempting to make this
property part of a historical district. I cant think of a better way to stifle development and over-complicate a
dubsar08/09/18 09:51 AM
"I removed asbestos!" cries owner.
Congrats, dude, you just complied with minimum applicable legal standards for selling the property. Your
sainthood papers are being drawn up right now.
dubsar08/09/18 09:53 AM
Hopefully Hopedale's town planners are consulting with the folks who successfully converted mills into
multiuse buildings in Lowell and Easthampton. Both took a while to fill up, but now are bustling and
contributing to the towns again.
AL500008/09/18 10:37 AM
Why Lowell and Easthampton? How about old mills in Newton, Waltham, Needham, Medway, Walpole
(where one was just torn down to make room for new condos), others?
The state has a publication on converting old mill buildings:
marymelon152208/09/18 10:08 AM
i've lived a stone's throw from the plant for 35 years and can't believe that it hasn't gone up in a huge
conflagration like so many other old mill buildings. i was on the property once taking pictures and saw
electrical cabinets perched on the edge of the mill river, which at that point is contained in a channel of
rocks, and there were signs on the cabinets that read Caution PCB. nice. there used to be many more
buildings but schwacmann had them razed. now only the brick building is left. one summer some scenes
from the bruce willis movie Surrogates were filmed there. as far as the town acquiring it and doing
something with it, my father always used to say when i had a bright idea, I'll clap when i see the parade. i
can't see it being anything other than an enormous expensive headache. the road right beside it was
closed for a while yesterday because apparently water from the pond right next to it was leaking under the
building. everyone should come out and see it. bring dynamite.
Great building to convert to office or condos. Issue is that the demand for condos in Hopedale is not strong
and major corporations don’t want to locate there due to distance from 495. Add to this construction costs
are high right now.
No hope for Hopedale.
Hopedale is exceptional for its origin story and close ties to the Drapers, said local historian and longtime
resident Dan Malloy.
“It’s almost impossible in New England to find anything quite like it,” Malloy said.
Actually, this is a fairly common story in New England. Many towns had a main employer with a factory or
mill. The owner(s) often built worker housing, churches and other amenities. This local historian needs a
didn't get into the article) had nothing to do with the fact that Drapers built worker housing, a church, and
other amenities, as was also done in many other towns. It was about the fact that it appears to be in a
unique situation now. At least the Board of Assessors hasn't been able to find anything quite like it. The
difference is size and location. It seems impossible to find another old factory of its size that's not in or very
near to a city, or very near to an Interstate or a commuter rail station.