Over the past century Troy Mills has been many things to its eponymous community.

For decades, it was the economic lifeblood of Troy, employing hundreds in its textile operation, first making blankets, then automobile seat coverings.

After the company closed, then filed for bankruptcy, it became an albatross, including a 2-acre Superfund site so polluted with decades of waste that the federal government needed to step in to assure it was dealt with. That site, a little more than a mile from the main mill, contained solvents, vinyl resins, plasticizers, pigments and top-coating products. The EPA substantially finished its Superfund work in 2005, but that was only part of the pollution. The rest was cleaned up over the next decade or so using more than $1.5 million in Brownfields grants and other funding.

In the meantime, the mill site itself had become something else: town-owned. Troy Mills Inc., unable to pay its back tax bill, handed over the property to the town, which created a panel, the Troy Redevelopment Group, appointed by the selectmen, to market it. Thus it had gone from an abandoned factory to something new: an opportunity.

For the past two decades, it’s been the subject of endless speculation, plans, drama — at one point, the entire redevelopment panel resigned amid a right-to-know squabble and alleged back-room dealing — and disappointment. Twice, would-be buyers promised $30 million projects that would reinvigorate the otherwise economically challenged community. Both times, those deals fell through.

And so it remained what it’s been for many years: potential. Among the various visions woven for the site: residential condo units; senior assisted living; an upscale grocery store; a heated indoor swimming pool; a pharmacy; a health club; rooftop gardens; a movie theater; a hydroponic fish farm, distribution network and farm-to-table restaurant; storage units; a conference facility; high-speed Internet service; educational and research facilities; a charter school; and, of course, manufacturing.

Last spring, the redevelopment group sold part of the land to a real estate firm that runs a PODS-like moving and storage company called Mi-Box in Fitzwilliam. And more recently, the town sold the rest of the land and buildings to a developer, Christopher Eric Harris, who says his plan is to convert part of the factory into 100 or so apartments and use some as commercial space.

The sale of the site doesn’t end the saga for the community. The project will have to go through local planning and zoning, and as previous projects have shown, any such proposals are subject to the whims of the economy and other forces.

But these two sales have brought the site closer than any previous efforts to realizing that potential. At the very least, it returns the property to the town’s tax rolls. It could also spark some modest business growth while adding to the region’s housing stock. It also should finally make something useful of what’s long been an eyesore dragging down property values on the outskirts of the town’s center.

That means its latest role for Troy is a newfound source of hope.

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