The former Hancock Ellsworth Tannery, which is visible on Route 1 heading east before the Tideway Market, could be cleaned up and developed into new businesses with land set aside for affordable housing. FILE PHOTO

Hancock sees revitalized business, economy around former tannery

HANCOCK — Right now it’s a health hazard, sitting empty on a small hill overlooking Route 1. But the former Hancock Ellsworth Tannery could eventually be filled with businesses and housing if two grant applications submitted by the town of Hancock are approved.

The grants would total $480,000, the vast majority of which would come from a program run by the Environmental Protection Agency. That grant program, called brownfields grants, provides technical assistance to communities looking to clean up former industrial sites.

The EPA defines a brownfield as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.”

The deadline for the grant is today, Nov. 16. As of Tuesday afternoon, town officials had finished up drafts of the grants.

Right now, the former tannery site is “a dilapidated, graffiti-ridden eyesore that kids hang out in,” said Rich Campbell, who runs the Falmouth-based Campbell Environmental Group. His company specializes in brownfields grants, according to its website.

Campbell’s company wrote the grant for the town of Hancock, after an assessment by the Hancock County Planning Commission identified the site as a possible brownfields site. Hancock officials applied for the grants last year, but didn’t receive funding to clean up the tannery.

The town has owned the building and land since the previous owner, TT Corp., LLC, of Hermon, failed to pay back taxes in 2015, violating an agreement between that company and Hancock officials.

Campbell called the industrial building the “ultimate detriment to economic development in the area,” and explained that the grant imagines a revitalized area in Hancock with small businesses and affordable housing.

Frenchman Bay Conservancy has committed to building a parking lot, opening up access to hiking trails around the former tannery if the grants are approved. The area around the building is “quite attractive,” Campbell said.

Another benefit to the plan is the already existing bus line operated by Downeast Transportation Inc.

“It basically will allow people to live there, walk to a job at the businesses,” Campbell said, “or take the bus into town to whatever job they might have … it’s a fairly exciting project. I’m hoping it gets funded.”

Hancock Selectman Rick Merchant said the hope was to get the funding, but no plans were set in stone for what the tannery might look like after it’s cleaned up.

“It’s in a good area of Hancock and if we get it cleaned up, then we can do something with it,” Merchant said.

Jack Dodson
Jack Dodson began working for The Ellsworth American in mid-2017, and covers eastern Hancock and western Washington counties. He grew up in the Mid-coast region before living in New York City for five years, where he freelanced in documentary filmmaking and journalism. He is particularly interested in criminal justice, environment and immigration reporting.

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