In response to a public Request for Proposals from the Town of Camden, entrepreneur and community organizer Michael Mullins of Rockland has submitted a proposal to build “Tannery Park,” a first-of-its-kind ‘affordable-industrial’ maker park at the site of the former Apollo Tannery.
The Apollo Tannery site, formerly home to the Camden Woolen Mill, is a town-owned 3.5 acre parcel. The Town of Camden took it for non-payment of taxes in 2003, and has since entertained a number of redevelopment proposals. One of the challenges to redevelopment of the parcel is environmental contamination, including volatile compounds and other soil contaminants, and solid waste from the operation of the tannery and woolen mill.
The Tannery Park is described as an industrial eco-village complete with 19 locally-sourced post-and-beam workshops and studios starting at just $300 per month for entrepreneurs who are just starting out or are in their growth phase.
Mullins’ plan also includes a large barn to serve as a venue for a year-round farmer’s market and event center.
If adopted, Mullins’ plan would include a large plaza built atop the foundation of the old mill building to house pushcart vendors for public markets, that can also be used for outdoor events such as film screenings. In winter, the plaza will be flooded and converted into an ice rink for an event called Fire and Ice every Friday with ice skating and live music.
Mullins has proposed a $250,000 purchase price which would be earmarked as a match for the EPA’s Five Star and Urban Rivers Program, which helps fund the restoration of rivers impacted by urban development. If awarded a matching grant, the proposal calls for $500,000 in spending to restore a portion of the Megunticook River bordering the site that was impacted by the mill and tannery.
“I started working on this plan in December 2018 after learning that the Town was considering putting the parcel out for RFP sometime in 2019,” recounts Mike Mullins. “I am proud to have been able to pull together a very talented team to tackle this challenge of marrying the concept of “affordability” from affordable housing with early stage industrial (maker) uses, using green construction. I call it an ‘affordable industrial eco-village.'”
“It’s not easy working with contaminated sites, but I have done so in the past and It’s very rewarding to see the end result,” says Mullins. “The Apollo Tannery site has a difficult mix of contaminants, including liquid volatiles in the center that are contained within a slurry wall as part of a prior mitigation effort.”
By working closely with the Maine DEP, Mullins’ team would address the contamination by keeping several existing slabs in place and building up over existing grades, reducing the need for deep trenching. The Mullins plan calls for minimally invasive structural techniques, such as helical pilings, to greatly reduce the handling of toxic materials.
“I’m most excited about the concept of the Fire and Ice festival,” said Mullins. “It’s something that goes hand-in-hand with Camden’s identity as a town that embraces the outdoors year-round at the Snow Bowl, Mt. Battie State Park, and Megunticook lake, to name a few. Today, there are few community activities for teens. Fire and Ice would be something for that demographic, and others, to look forward to as a fun winter activity.”
“This project is intended to be a crucial part of what is known as the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, a systemic approach to supporting small business and entrepreneurship by considering the types of spaces and programs startups need at each stage of their development,” Mullins explains. “I want towns and cities to develop a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem by cultivating spaces for small companies to form and expand. Municipalities also need venues for events like startup weekends, entrepreneur training, networking opportunities, and investor pitch days to match entrepreneurial energy with capital and other resources to emulate the interaction that happens in startup hubs found at universities and innovation districts within cultural capitals.”