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GM Task Force to shift focus to creating a vision for former plant site

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MASSENA - Following an invitation only forum held last week at the site of Massena’s former GM plant, Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said he would like to see the GM Task Force shift its focus from being a watchdog group to creating a vision for what they would like to site to one day look like.

“What I took from the forum is we are seriously behind in terms of redeveloping the property, because we don’t have a vision,” he said.

The forum was attended by Mr. Gray, representatives from the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust, representatives from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, real estate brokers from both Syracuse and Canada, as well as three site selectors.

“They were very frank in what we’re up against and where we stand,” Mr. Gray said, referring to the forum’s attendees.

Business Development Corporation Executive Director Thomas Sullivan, who also sits on the task force, said now that the state has made Brownfield Opportunities Area (BOA) grants, he is optimistic that the task force can secure some of those funds to help market the property.

“Money from a BOA grant will be able to help us create a vision,” he said. “We need to collectively come together and decide what an acceptable reuse for that site is, and until we do that, we’re not going anywhere.”

Mr. Gray agreed and said, in his mind, a vision for the site is something that should have been done a long time ago.

“This task force, I believe by design from the beginning, was tasked with finding a way to reuse this property,” he said. “We’ve been spinning our wheels for two years.”

RACER Assistant Redevelopment Manager Patricia Spitzley, who attended the meeting via conference call, said she thought the forum was a beneficial event.

“Overall I think this was a very helpful process,” she said. “We’re hoping that this exercise has generated some interest in the property.”

While a vision for the site has yet to be determined, Mr. Gray and Mr. Sullivan said it’s important for the task force, as well as community members, to be realistic in what they’re hoping to see at the former site.

“Is it likely we’re going to get a heavy industrial plant with 800 jobs? It is very unlikely,” Mr. Gray said.

“We have to be realistic about it,” Mr. Sullivan added.

Mr. Gray then suggested creating a wish list for the property.

Also attending the meeting via conference call was Rosemary Edwards from the Empire State Development Corporation, who advised the task force that creating a vision for the property is about more than determining what they would like to see there.

“The vision should also include what you don’t want. We have to be pretty specific about what we don’t want, as much as what we do want,” she said.

St. Lawrence County Legislator Jason Clark, who chaired the meeting in the absence of task force chair and fellow legislator Anthony J. “Tony” Arquiett, said the topic will be discussed when the task force meets again in December.

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