A sprawling piece of industrial-zoned property, bordering the new stretch of Route 44 through Plympton, may look deserted, as though the development boom has passed it by. But in this case, looks are deceiving.
Selectmen have been inching for years toward building an industrial park on the 130-acre site, as a way to dramatically lessen the tax burden on homeowners. Recent permit approvals now put that prospect within reach, with road construction expected to start this spring and marketing perhaps even sooner.
The preliminary plan calls for 800,000 square feet of warehouse and distribution space, 200,000 square feet for general business use, a 200-seat restaurant, and a 120-room hotel.
"We've had a lot of discussion for a great variety of possibilities," said Richard Gauley, a longtime town official who is now a real estate consultant.
The environmental review process, quietly taking place over the past three years, has been extensive. The project exceeds state thresholds for traffic, size, parking, and water and sewer daily usage amounts. But now permits, both state and local, are in place.
Site work was held up by 3 acres on the fringe of the industrial park that were owned by the state. Last week, the state completed the sale of that parcel to the owner of the future industrial park, California investor Robin Arkley, who holds the land under
"Now people are going to see a lot of grading and tree clearing," Gauley said.
Local boards have been very supportive of the project. "I think town officials all realize this is the only star we can hitch our wagon to," Gauley said.
Six years from now, the industrial park could boost the town's commercial and industrial tax base from its current 7 percent to over 30 percent - a split any town would be glad to have.
"Some of the people who live in town now weren't even born when we started planning for this," said Joseph Freitas, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. "That's how far back this goes."
In addition to road construction, the installation of underground utilities should be well underway in the spring. While a well has already been drilled and permitted by the state's Department of Environmental Protection for up to 400,000 gallons per day, a water tower and sewer treatment plant must still be built.
"The developer has committed $8 [million] to $10 million to this for infrastructure," Gauley said. "He's already spent $1 million on engineering."
The industrial park has been a dream of the town's since the 1960s. Back then, the Industrial Development Commission persuaded the state to reconfigure its plans for Route 44 to include a ramp on Spring Street in Plympton. In the late 1960s, Plympton voters then rezoned about 350 acres off Spring Street as industrial. But then plans for Route 44's upgrade and expansion remained on hold for 40 years.
In 1995, Security National bought 130 acres on Spring Street for $650,000. The property features 3,500 feet of frontage along Route 44 for businesses looking for visibility. And its location makes it attractive to warehouse and distribution operations, since 44 connects Interstate 495 and Route 24 to Route 3.
Former selectwoman Christine Joy said she has watched closely the development boom Plymouth has enjoyed directly off Route 44. "It's definitely coming more slowly to Plympton than we had hoped for," Joy said. "But we're still hoping at some point to have a functioning industrial park that will kick in to taxes."
There has been some interest in leasing space in the industrial park. A bottling company wanted to lease the entire site, but town officials deemed it too much of a water draw.
"We are looking for businesses that are more environmentally friendly," said Gauley.
He said it could take as long as a decade to complete the park, but predicts it will be done in five or six years.
"That's not bad, when you think of how long we've waited," Freitas said. "It's been a long, hard battle, but it looks like we're finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel."
Longtime former selectman and local businessman Richard Springer said he will be excited to see some activity in the industrial park. "Everybody feels the same," Springer said. "Everybody would love to see it be developed."
"This is definitely needed," Freitas said. "You can't keep hitting the homeowner with more taxes. There are a lot of people in town that can't afford it. This is going to be awesome for Plympton."
Christine Wallgren can be reached at email@example.com.