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 Hopedale.” 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.

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. Read more from hopedale.wickedlocal.com…

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