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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

BOA grant will help create a vision for former GM site

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MASSENA - Members of the North Country Redevelopment Task Force met Thursday to officially kick off the Brownfield Opportunities Area grant it received from the Department of State to help develop a vision for the site of the community’s former GM plant.

“It’s a big day for us with the kick-off of the Brownfield Opportunities Area grant,” said Task Force Chairman Anthony J. “Tony” Arquiett, who also serves on the St. Lawrence County Legislature.

Explaining the grant program were Gary S. Bowitch, the attorney representing the task force and David MacLeod from the Department of State.

Mr. Bowitch said the situation in Massena is unique, because a lot of the background work that typically goes into redeveloping a brownfield site has already been done.

“Unlike other brownfield sites where a lot is unknown, we already know everything about this site,” he said, adding now is the time to begin working on a vision for the site.

“Redevelopment hasn’t happened because no one really knows what’s going on at the site,” he said. “A vision is certainly something we need to work on.”

Mr. MacLeod said in general the grant program is about redevelopment and revitalization; however, in Massena’s case, redevelopment will certainly be more of the focus.

“It’s about redevelopment and community rehabilitation. In this case more so redevelopment, because it’s an industrial site,” he said. “We’re interested in identifying things that need to be done to get things done on the site.”

RACER (Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response) Trust Deputy Project Manager Patricia A. Spitzley said this grant is a perfect partner for the trust’s ongoing marketing efforts.

“We see this as a wonderful accompaniment to what we’re doing,” she said.

Once the contract for the grant is finalized, Mr. Bowitch said a RFP (request for proposals) will be sent out seeking consultants to work with the task force and specifically a steering committee to help identify potential uses for the site in the future.

In the meantime though, Mr. Bowitch said the RFP will be developed so once the contract is finalized the RFPs can be sent out.

“Once the contract comes back we’ll be ready to rock and roll,” he said.

The steering committee will include Mr. Arquiett, Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray, Ms. Spitzley, Massena Business Development Corporation Executive Director Thomas Sullivan, St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director Patrick Kelly and Michelle Mitchell, who serves as general counsel for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.

Once a consultant is selected St. Lawrence county Planning Office Grants Manager Heidi Ames said a scoping session will be held, where the committee will look at potential uses for the property, as well as market research.

Ms. Ames said the final product will be a revitalization plan, as well as a revitalization strategy report, which is basically a summary of the entire plan in a more manageable form.

“You should end up with a redevelopment concept that could develop some excitement and help bring a developer on board,” Mr. MacLeod said.

With a great deal of progress already made in cleaning up the site, Ms. Spitzley said the time to develop a vision is now.

“I think this is coming at the right time,” she said. “We’re getting to the point where we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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