JAY — After five years of trying to get manufacturing back into the Otis Falls Mill, owners Mary Howes and her husband, Tim DeMillo, of Otis Ventures LLC are thinking of other ways to revitalize the former paper mill.
Those ideas include a banquet facility surrounded on three sides by the Androscoggin River and offering the use of the mill to the movie industry.
The complex is 600,000 square feet and has a restaurant, a business and a storage area for vehicles, boats and other items.
The couple bought the mill Oct. 13, 2009, after Wausau Paper Corp. closed the paper mill earlier that year.
The original mill was built in the late 1800s and in 1906 became home to International Paper before the company built a new mill on Riley Road in Jay. The Otis Mill became home to other paper manufacturing companies throughout the years.
“We realized we needed to start thinking outside the box,” Howes said Monday. “We’re not going to get manufacturing in here.”
The reason for that is they are competing with other states that offer incentives. Maine doesn’t offer any, she said.
Jay, Livermore Falls and Livermore are small towns and don’t have the money that a lot of the bigger communities such as Portland and Falmouth have to invest in these type of projects, DeMillo said.
“It needs a higher source” of funding, he said, which is beyond their capability.
The couple is hoping to find investors and a developer who would be interested in working with them.
One possibility the couple has talked about is a banquet facility. People have been telling them the area needs one, Howes said.
They hired architect Grant Hays Associates of Falmouth to show how a banquet facility could look on the north side of the mill, where the original pulp mill and storage was located. The entry would be redone and have a promenade. The 16-foot arched windows would be put back on all three sides of the room to offer views of the river, Howes said.
Set up concert-style with chairs, the room could fit 1,500 people, and set up with tables and chairs it could fit 750 people.
Other than Lewiston and Augusta, there is no place around that could fit 1,500 people for a music concert, Howes said.
“Its a huge project. We have to find investors and go out and sell the project,” she said.
Howes and DeMillo held a business-after-hours Friday for the Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls Chamber of Commerce. About 40 people attended and learned about the proposed ideas, Howes said.
A rough estimate to create a fully-functional banquet facility is $6 million to $8 million. It would encompass about 20,000 square feet on the ground level, which has more than 200,000 square feet.
There are no firm numbers yet, and no plans drawn up, Howes said.
Howes and DeMillo are also thinking about marketing the mill to the entertainment business through the movie industry. The rooms are so big and so tall a movie could be made in the mill, she said. The pluses include the four seasons, major ski slopes, the river, multiuse trails and being close to international airports, she said.