WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — The manager of a mostly vacant Woonsocket mill is making a push to repurpose part of the facility.
Gerry Beyer, the building manager of the former textile mill in Woonsocket, said he would like to see the 10,000 square-foot space utilized by a company to cultivate medical marijuana.
“This space has been empty, God, it’s got to be 15 to 20 years that this spot has been empty,” Beyer said Tuesday.
The once bustling mill was built in 1910. There are still a few businesses in the building, but Beyer says it is three-quarters empty. Some of the rooms have not been occupied in decades.
“I don’t want to tell you the figure we’re losing, but we’re losing money,” Beyer added.
Beyer is proposing to bring the new business into the old building to revitalize the space.
“Last September, we were approached by somebody that had a license to cultivate marijuana for compassion centers,” he said.
Since then, Beyer has been trying to get the Woonsocket City Council to modify the ordinance that prevents a company from cultivating marijuana for medical purposes at the mill. Beyer said a company would have a Class B license to cultivate medical marijuana in the space.
“I’m thinking this is a new wave of manufacturing,” Beyer said. “Nobody else is knocking on the door.”
Beyer’s plan has the support of Councilman-at-Large Richard Fagnant.
“We want this business to survive because we gain tax money from this building,” Fagnant said. “We don’t want to see them close, and the cannabis cultivation is heading this way. We need to embrace it and not fight it.”
Fagnant said he has been researching medical marijuana grow sites and even visited one in another part of the state just a few weeks ago. He’s trying to change a single word of a town ordinance to allow for the cultivation site but said there’s been a disagreement among council members on whether a new ordinance should be created.
“Certain council members want to put in more words, start it from scratch,” Fagnant said. “The cake has already been made, it’s right here.”
Fagnant said the council is in budget discussions right now, but he plans to keep bringing the proposal up any chance he can.
Eyewitness News reached out to Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt about the proposal. She was unavailable to directly comment but her office said this is more of a legislative issue than an administrative one.