There’s a renaissance in of sorts going on in Middlesex where a trio of entrepreneurs has purchased several properties with plans to create a community and attract people and businesses with shared social values.
In January, Planetary Matters purchased Camp Meade and the small ranch house immediately west of it. The three principals of Planetary Matters are Russ Bennett of Northland Design; Alan Neuman, founder of Magic Hat Brewery and Seventh Generation; and Mike Pelchar, an entrepreneur who lives in Middlesex.
“One of the reasons we purchased the properties is because of the tenants who are there. They are great folks that run good businesses with a social conscience. Red Hen has great folks and makes great food. Nutty Steph’s offers great food as well as art. The Hive is a great gallery and Mud Studio is an important studio; many people are able to make pottery there. We want to be involved with more food and more art and more social values that are good for the community,” explained Bennett.
“We want to help the people there be more successful and bring like-minded businesses to the property and to the area, and we want to create community,” he added.
Planetary Matters hopes to attract more makers and artisans and include value-added food makers and other types of artists. The founders have recently started a regular Sunday afternoon/evening Eat Up on the Green event, similar to Waitsfield’s Round Up on the River.
The Eat Up events takes place on the green at Camp Meade and features food and drink along with music and art.
A TOWN GREEN
“Middlesex doesn’t have a town green; we think the space out back can be Middlesex’s town green. There’s room for people to hang out,” he said.
Bennett said that he and his partners want to help revitalize Middlesex, which had been a vital mill town decades ago. He said they anticipate creating a streetscape along Route 2 with a sidewalk and bike lanes.
The trio anticipates renovating some of the buildings and increasing the density on the property, perhaps adding another building on the 9-acre parcel. When they do, Bennett said the in-fill development is likely to include business space on the first floor and residential space on upper floors.
Either this summer or next, artists will be encouraged to paint murals on the little cottages that surround the property and Bennett said they have more plans for the cottages.
“This is just the beginning; the Eat Ups are just a start. We’re going to have more things going on as we try to create community. Out of that will come more social interaction. We’re considering things like a bread festival and having talks and other social events,” he added.
Camp Meade was created as a Civilian Conservation Corps work camp in the 1930s. The 110 CCC Company, Veterans Contingent were known as the Monarchs of Middlesex. Many public works projects were built by these men and women, including the flood control projects of Waterbury dam and reservoir and Wrightsville dam and reservoir.