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City still exploring uses of Ogilvie site

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The city’s Planning Department has not given up on redeveloping the former Ogilvie Foods plant site off North Pleasant Street.

Noting cost constraints, Kenneth A. Mix, the city’s planning and community development coordinator, said creating about nine lots for houses may be more feasible than developing a subdivision of about 19 homes.

It would cost about $1 million more to construct a street and remove some remnants of the plant’s foundation than just to build five houses along North Pleasant Street and four along California Avenue, he told members of Advantage Watertown on Thursday.

But Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham questioned whether the city should proceed with the redevelopment, wondering whether people would purchase homes “on the site of a brownfield.” He also had concerns about the cost of the houses, surmising they would each cost about $200,000 to develop and would sell for only about $140,000.

The city has been talking about redeveloping the site for about 10 years, with nothing ever coming of it, he said.

“Are we just fixating on it to fixate on it?” he asked the other Advantage Watertown members.

But Mr. Mix said it took the city some time to obtain the land. The city also has had to deal with cleaning the site of contamination.

Neighbors of Watertown or the local Habitat for Humanity organization could become involved in constructing the houses, Mr. Mix said.

City officials also are trying to figure how land could be used between the potential two rows of houses. A neighborhood park had been mentioned.

Two years ago, the city was working with Neighbors to redevelop the site for a subdivision with about 19 houses, but more construction debris was found at the five-acre site, making the construction too costly.

The city will use a $200,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to clean the site of soil contamination, cement foundation slabs and other debris from the old food plant. The city has set aside $400,000 in its capital projects budget to complete the job.

Part of the work will include determining whether any contamination is under the slabs and how to remove it, Mr. Mix said.

For years, residents of the neighborhood have called the site an eyesore. They generally have supported turning it into a residential property.

Advantage Watertown members — business and community leaders interested in city issues — also discussed the potential of redeveloping Sewall’s Island on the city’s north side.

They wondered what could be done to spruce up the area while officials figure out whether developers may be interested in the former Black Clawson Co. site.

The Planning Department and City Manager Sharon A. Addison may look into whether the fencing that runs along Pearl Street could be moved farther back on the property and trees could be planted in its place.

Black Clawson Co. closed its foundry in 1991 and demolished the buildings in 2001.

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