AXE FACTORY RENOVATION
It is not news that the Collins Axe Factory is in serious need of renovation. Nor is it news that a renovated Collins Axe Factory could spark an economic, cultural and social renewal that so many have envisioned for Canton.
What is news is that 66 years after the flood of 1955 destroyed one third of the factory’s buildings and 55 years after the factory closed for good, a developer has come forward with a comprehensive plan to save all of the historic buildings and breathe new life into our community.
Will there be traffic? Will there be noise? Of course there will – pending approval of the project. We may also see new features on the site, like a parking garage, which could help alleviate parking pressures throughout Collinsville.
What’s missing from the discussion is the consequence of this developer walking away. The Collins Axe Factory has deteriorated so badly that we could easily be facing an empty site within the next few years. Buildings have been condemned and more will follow until the site is eventually torn down.
This development proposal has the potential to generate $1 million or more in annual tax revenue plus additional commerce for Canton businesses. Without this development, we may well see a brownfield site that generates little more than bills for remediation and police surveillance.
Our community has been waiting on pins and needles for a proposal as good as this. Collinsville tops nearly everyone’s list of what is best about Canton, yet we have greeted this proposal with grudging acceptance. “We support the project, but…”
Some residents don’t like the garage. Some worry about the developer’s proposal to squeeze a setback from 30 feet to 10 - which the developer explained would better hide the garage from view and more likely reduce potential impacts to wetlands at the same time.
We are losing sight of the prize. This developer has shown remarkable sensitivity to the history and culture of Collinsville. The town has seen proposal after proposal for the factory - none of them have come near the quality and scope of this one. This proposal would go a long way toward realizing the potential of the Collins Axe Factory to attract business, residents and recreation to Canton.
We cannot afford to become another reason for another developer to walk away. To quote deputy town historian David Leff in a speech to the town in 2011: “The Collins Company produced this town – the finest product it ever made. The factory’s purposeful demolition by neglect is shameful.”
Let’s greet this proposal with excitement and enthusiasm. It is the best we have seen and our best hope for the future of Canton.