City right to give 31 E. Mill St. one more try

THE CITY CONTINUES ITS commendable effort to preserve the historic buildings that give downtown Plymouth so much of its unmatchable character.

The city has taken ownership of two of those buildings – 133 E. Mill St. and 31 E. Mill St. – in tax foreclosure proceedings.

In both cases, city officials have avoided taking the easy way and tearing down the building, which would leave a gaping – and irreplaceable – hole in the downtown picture.

Instead, under the direction of the Redevelopment Authority, the city is striving to not only preserve the historic structures but to bring them back to new life.

While the effort at 133 E. Mill St. is making tremendous strides, with around $1.2 million in private and public – mostly private – committed creating a cheese center/retail store that should be a real addition and a great attraction for downtown, along with two upstairs apartments to add to the potential economic viability of the project.

A few blocks to the west, the news has not been so good for the little building at 31 E. Mill St. nestled up against the railroad trestle.

A number of negatives have combined to thwart efforts to find a private developer to save that long-vacant building.

The amount of work needed to bring it back to life is daunting. There are serious structural issues with the building, the plumbing, electrical and insulation all need replacement, and the first floor must be converted from residential to commercial space.

As if that wasn’t enough to overcome, the state Department of Transportation didn’t help this summer when they reconstructed State

67 and, with the new grade, eliminated the driveway access for the building, leaving no parking on or off site for 31 E. Mill St.

Before that happened, the RDA had reached tentative developer’s agreements with two different potential buyers for the building, only to have each fall through for one reason or another.

At this point, many are ready to run up the white flag and tear the building down.

But, at the instigation of RDA member Jackie Jarvis, the authority recommended that the city take one more shot at saving the building.

Her suggestion was to offer a developer’s incentive of $15,000 to anyone who would buy, preserve and rehabilitate the building. That amount is roughly equivalent to what it would probably cost the city to tear down the building, so in effect the city will be spending the same amount either to save the building or make it go away.

The City Council went along with the RDA’s suggestion, agreeing to the incentive and to keep the building on the market for another year in hopes of finding another buyer.

It is more likely that there won’t be a savior who will ride in and swoop up the building to save it for the city and downtown.

But the possibility exists that someone might still come along in the next year and decide the little building at the end of the block has enough potential to be worth the effort – and the incentive – to bring it back to life.

It’s certainly worth giving it a shot and one more year of waiting to see if 31 E. Mill St. can be restored and returned to the tax rolls is not too much to ask.

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