HOLYOKE — The Paper City continues to draw attention from cannabis companies embracing the city’s new status as “Rolling Paper City.”
Earlier this month, Colebrook Realty Services announced that the national cannabis grower and retailer Green Thumb Industries, or GTI, has purchased the 326,664-square-foot industrial mill building at 100 Water St. that was long owned by Hampden Papers. The purchase price was $4.56 million, according to Colebrook, which represented the seller.
One of the country’s largest marijuana companies, GTI — which does business locally as “Rise” — is based in Chicago and has 13 manufacturing locations and 97 retail stores across the country. It is one of a growing list of cannabis companies to buy mill space in Holyoke, which because of its status as one of the country’s first industrially planned cities boasts cheap hydro-powered electricity and plenty of old buildings.
Marijuana businesses in Holyoke have received a total of 40 licenses from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission — second most in the entire state behind only Boston, which boasts 50 licenses. Another 19 licenses are pending for businesses in Holyoke, which is the most in the state.
A total of 69 businesses in total have signed host-community agreements with Holyoke — a required step companies have to complete before applying to the state for their license.
Aaron Vega, the city’s director of planning and economic development, said that some of those companies may have dissolved, while others are fundraising or rehabilitating buildings in the city. After the city signs agreements with companies and grants them a special permit, he said, city planners aren’t aware of where those companies are at in the state licensing process.
“There’s close to 18 mill buildings that have been purchased or have a lease agreement to become cannabis,” Vega said. “Some of them being older mill buildings, like Hampden Papers, and others manufacturing spaces built in the ‘70s.”
With its purchase of 100 Water St., GTI is expanding its growing and manufacturing operations in Holyoke. It is already operating in a 30,000-square-foot grow facility at 28 Appleton St. and its license allows it up to 100,000 square feet of space. Vega said it is his understanding that the company intends to occupy both buildings, at least for the present moment.
Efforts to reach GTI on Monday were unsuccessful.
The Water Street property was long owned by Hampden Papers, which was founded in 1880 as the Hampden Glazed Paper and Card Co. and had operated as a family-owned business in Holyoke for five generations. Last September, however, Hampden Papers was purchased by the Kentucky-based company LLFlex.
“It was difficult to close down a family business that has been in my family since 1880, but I am pleased that GTI has purchased our facility at 100 Water Street in Holyoke,” Hampden Papers CEO Bob Fowler said in a statement issued by the company’s real estate agent, Colebrook Realty Services. “GTI has already proven that they are a good neighbor and a significant contributor to the economy of Holyoke, providing good jobs and significant tax revenues for the City.”
Vega said that cannabis plays an important role in the city’s overall economic development plan. He said city planners hope that big companies with national reputations like GTI, Pleasantrees and Trulieve will stay around for the long term, anchoring a sustainable industry in the city that features not just retailers but also growers, manufacturers and other ancillary parts of the cannabis industry such as independent testing labs.
“We’re trying to look at the whole industry,” Vega said. We want to have all of our eggs in many baskets.”
Dusty Christensen can be reached at email@example.com.