As he led BusinessWest on a tour of what’s known as the ‘carpentry building’ at the Ludlow Mills complex, A.J. Crane walked up a deteriorated but still solid set of stairs to the second floor, and then to the row of new windows looking out on the Chicopee River, maybe 150 feet away, the riverwalk in front of it, and a stretch of land before the walk on which a patio could be built.
“Imagine the possibilities,” he said, adding that he certainly has, and that’s why he acquired the property from Westmass Area Development Corp., which purchased the mill in 2011, with the intention of renovating it and then leasing it out, perhaps to a restaurateur — the master plan for the mill complex calls for one at this location — although he doesn’t really know what the market will bear at this point.
What Crane, president of Chicopee-based A. Crane Construction Co. (and a Westmass board member) does know is that nothing can be built that close to the river today. Well, almost nothing; this property is grandfathered, so it can be developed. And that’s a big reason why he took on this risk — the property has been vacant for decades and needs a considerable amount of work for any reuse — and has invested heavily in its renovation.