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Brownfield grant to help create a vision for Massena’s former GM site

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MASSENA — Members of the North Country Redevelopment Task Force met Thursday to kick off the Brownfield Opportunities Area grant it received from the state to develop a vision for the GM Powertrain site.

“It’s a big day for us,” said task force Chairman Anthony J. Arquiett, who also serves on the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators.

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

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

Patricia A. Spitzley, deputy project manager for the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust, said the grant fits in with 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 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.

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

Once a consultant is selected, a scoping session will be held, during which the committee will consider potential uses for the property, according to Heidi Ames, St. Lawrence County Planning Office grants manager.

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.

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

With 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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