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City considering new plans for Ogilvie Foods site

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Plans to redevelop the former Ogilvie Foods plant site into a neighborhood of single-family homes along a new street appear to be dead.

Instead, the city of Watertown may develop lots for about four homes and transform the remainder of the 5-acre site into green space. The city’s Planning Department has put together conceptual drawings of what the site could look like if the city goes ahead with in-fill housing there.

Kenneth A. Mix, the city’s planning and community development coordinator, said on Wednesday it would cost too much for the environmental cleanup and construction of a street on the site.

City officials projected it would cost between $800,000 and $900,000 to construct a street and complete other infrastructure work if the site were fully developed, Mr. Mix said. And city officials determined there was more debris at the site than they had anticipated; remnants of the plant’s foundation still remain there and would have to be removed before a street and homes could be built.

“We’re leaving the remnants in the central part of the site,” he said, adding that some type of green space or recreational use for the Parks and Recreation Department would be considered instead.

Mr. Mix also confirmed that the Thousand Islands Area Habitat for Humanity has expressed interest in building homes on the four lots. Two would face California Avenue and two would be on North Pleasant Street.

Mr. Mix could not provide any details about Habitat’s plans for the in-fill housing. The organization’s interim, part-time executive director, Lynn K. Morgan, could not be reached for comment.

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

Mr. Mix said the city’s Parks and Recreation Department will look at how a park or playground could fit into its plans.

The city has been talking about redeveloping the site for about 10 years. Residents of the neighborhood have called the site an eyesore; they generally have supported turning it into residential properties.

Two years ago, Neighbors of Watertown Inc. considered seeking state money to turn the site into a subdivision with 19 homes, a road and a quarter-acre park. Last year, the conversation turned to scaling back the project to about nine houses along the two city streets after state funding ran dry.

Neighbors officials ultimately decided not to become involved, citing the exorbitant construction costs for the infrastructure and the homes. They said their agency would lose money on the venture because it would cost about $150,000 per house to build and each could be sold for only about $120,000.

Despite those developments, city officials have indicated redeveloping the site might still be worth subsidizing because it could revive an ailing city neighborhood.

City Council members plan to discuss what to do with the site during a work session at 7 p.m. Monday in the third-floor council chambers at City Hall, 245 Washington St.

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