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WAKEFIELD, MA-Shaw’s Supermarkets Inc. wants to build a store in the Robie Mills complex but if local activists have their way the four buildings that are sited on 11 acres in the Robie Industrial Park on Water St. will be preserved.

Paul Greavis, Wakefield’s town planner, tells GlobeSt.com that the supermarket chain has filed its proposal with the town, including a demolition request. But a local group, the Wakefield Association to Keep Environments Under Protection, is trying to get the buildings onto Historic Massachusetts Inc.’s list of Ten Most Endangered Historic Resources. The mill buildings, which are owned by Danvers, MA-based Robie Properties, are currently listed as historically important on both the state Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the association’s web site, the buildings “are the only physical remains of the 19th century wicker furniture manufacturing era founded by Cyrus Wakefield,” for whom the town is named. Wakefield was the “father” of American rattan furniture, which became a staple in functional as well as decorative furnishings not only in the United States but around the world.” The site adds that the association’s members believe that the “Historic Massachusetts endangered building designation would help mount local and state support to preserve” these buildings.

At this point the designation is the group’s only hope. Greavus points out that the request for demolition can result in either a permit or a six month delay to give the owners an opportunity to entertain other offers by someone who will acquire the site and preserve the buildings. But Greavus stresses that there is no obligation on the part of the owners to act on those offers. “There is no way to protect the buildings under the town’s bylaws,” he says.

Furthermore, Greavus adds that “historically the town has been looking to bring a supermarket in.” The town does not currently have a supermarket in its borders. The local association is working with the National Trust for Historical Preservation to seek alternatives for Shaw’s to construct a supermarket. Whether Shaw’s would consider an alternative is unclear. Calls to the company were not returned by press time.

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