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Hyde Park residents consider redevelopment possibilities for former Lewis Chemical site

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  January 22, 2013 01:18 PM

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Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com

James Smith, senior environmental compliance manager for the Department of Neighborhood Development, and Reay Pannesi, a senior project manager for the department, addressed Hyde Park residents.

A scenic overlook. A bed-and-breakfast. A Hubway bike-sharing station. An industrial arts center. A canoe launch. A community kitchen for caterers and food trucks.

But please, not a casino.

These were the uses Hyde Park residents proposed for redevelopment of the former Lewis Chemical site at a Jan. 16 community meeting hosted by the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development. The former industrial site lies between the Fairmount Line Commuter Rail tracks and the Neponset River, near the Fairmount Avenue overpass above Walnut Street.

Many agreed that public access to the Neponset was a top priority.

“A lot of people don’t even know there’s a river running through Hyde Park,” one woman said.

Last November, Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray announced that that the site had been selected for assistance from the state’s “brownfields” support team, launched in 2008 to aid in the cleanup and redevelopment of some of the state’s most difficult former industrial sites.

The .7-acre Lewis Chemical site, obtained by the city through foreclosure, was home to a leather tannery from the 1940s to the 1960s, and from 1963 to 1983 was the site of Lewis Chemical, a company that specialized in recovering solvents from waste liquids.

The site is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly called PCBs, and chlorinated volatile organic compounds. Those pollutants must be cleaned up and the disused building on the site demolished before it can be commercially redeveloped.

Since September 2010, soil vapor extraction system has been in place, with 10 wells that draw vapors out of the polluted earth beneath the building and a system of carbon filters that remove the contaminants before discharging the air into the atmosphere.

So far about 1,400 pounds of contaminants have been removed, Project Scientist Daniel Clinton said at the meeting.

Over the next few months, the city plans to remove the extraction system and begin demolition on the building while continuing to test soil samples for pollution and meeting regularly with neighborhood residents to discuss redevelopment priorities. At least for the time being, the concrete slab at the building’s base will remain in place as a cap on the polluted soil.

Several community members, including Brian Clinton, chief of staff to Boston City Councilor Robert Consalvo, asked that demolition debris be removed via the Commuter Rail tracks adjacent to the site rather than trucks that would rumble down neighborhood streets and could leave behind pollutants from the structure, which contains asbestos and other hazardous materials.

Reay Pannesi, a senior project manager in the Department of Neighborhood Development, said community feedback will guide the city’s decisions as it puts the site out to bid for developers and reviews their proposals.

Pannesi said the city hopes to receive considerable financial support from the state and to move quickly on clearing and redeveloping the site, possibly opening the bidding process by late spring. She said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, whose home is in nearby Readville, had expressed a personal interest in the project.

“I talked to him yesterday, and he was like, ‘When are you guys going to do something about that site?’” Pannesi said of Menino.

To view city documents regarding the Lewis Chemical site cleanup, visit http://cityofboston.gov/dnd/rems/M_Lewis_Chemical_Property.asp.

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
Follow Jeremy C. Fox on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow Hyde Park on Twitter: @YourHydePark.

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