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Housing plan gets aid from $73K EPA grant; Fitchburg, North Brookfield also get funding.

Byline: Scott J. Croteau

WORCESTER - An important piece of plans to demolish the old City Builders Supply Company at Southgate and Armory streets and put up several rental- and owner-occupied housing units came yesterday with $73,250 in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brownfield grants being presented to the South Worcester Neighborhood Improvement Corporation.

The nonprofit development organization on Camp Street received two grants to clean up the former business site. According to the EPA, the site was once a lumber company, dry cleaner, auto repair shop and hazardous waste container storage facility.

The site is contaminated with inorganic materials and needs to be cleaned up before any construction begins.

At a check presentation at SWNIC yesterday, Ronald Charette, executive director for the organization, said the old company is a mess of rubbish and is a safety concern for the area.

"It really contributed to terrible blight in the neighborhood," he said. "This is the first step in the journey of rebuilding neighborhood housing over there."

About two years ago, SWNIC bought the property for a little under $500,000 and has put together a plan to build $7 million in subsidized housing there. Mr. Charette called it a private/public partnership and SWNIC is seeking state funding to help pay for the construction.

Plans call for 25 rental units and six owner-occupied units that can be built to the owners' specifications, he said. The time frame of the project is to demolish the current building late this summer and start construction next fall, Mr. Charette said.

The cost of the environmental cleanup is about $200,000 and the EPA has committed to pay the remainder, he said.

With the city working on the South Worcester Industrial Park nearby, Mr. Charette said it is a necessity to revamp the other decaying property as well.

State Rep. John P. Fresolo, D-Worcester - one of several local legislators who helped get the funding - said yesterday at the check presentation that the work on the former lumber company site won't be done until it is rehabilitated.

"It's one of the biggest eyesores in the city of Worcester," he said. "Unfortunately for those people who live there and have to put up with it each and every's just not permissible."

U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, who was not able to attend yesterday's event, echoed the need to rehabilitate properties in south Worcester.

"This is great news for Worcester. Brownfield remediation is critical to maximizing our future economic development," he said in a statement. "Making sure that properties in South Worcester are safe for sustainable development is essential."

Carol Goldsberry Tucker, Brownfields Section Chief for EPA New England, said there were 130 applications in New England and 53 awarded.

"Brownfields are a significant problem throughout our mid-sized cities throughout the United States," she said.

Two other communities in Central Massachusetts also received Brownfield grants - $200,000 to North Brookfield and $50,500 to Fitchburg.

North Brookfield will use the money to clean up a three-acre parcel of land at 55 School St., the former Aztec Industries/Asbestos Textile site that is part of the North Brookfield Downtown Development Project area.

The town has already received a $200,000 Brownfield grant for the cleanup of the Grove Street section of the Aztec Industries/Asbestos Textile site. The site is in a location where residents would like to see the planned $3.1 million police station built. The EPA said soil at the location is contaminated with inorganic compounds.

There are still ongoing discussions on where to build the police station.

Fitchburg's grant will go toward the cleanup of the two-acre Central Steam Plant Facility at 465 Westminster St. According to the EPA, cleanup of the facility, built in 1928 and used to provide steam and electricity to paper mills along the North Nashua River, will prevent "future discharges of contaminated substances into the North Nashua River and remove a substantial barrier to the site's redevelopment and productive use."

The soil and groundwater at the site is contaminated with metal and inorganic contaminants, the EPA said. The city has developed a .5-mile recreational trail along the river and near the plant.
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 8, 2008
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