SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 12, 2013

At last, Salem's Universal Steel parking lot is paved

By Bethany Bray
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — The parking lot at the site of the former Universal Steel building is — at last — being paved.

The 120-space lot is slated to be ready and open Oct. 25, said Lynn Duncan, director of the city’s planning and community development department.

The construction schedule is weather-dependent, she said. However, the goal is to have it ready by Halloween.

“We’re really close (to having it ready),” Duncan said yesterday.

The lot’s base layer was paved this week. Once that cures, final paving will be done, along with more drainage work, landscaping/planting and the installation of handicapped-parking signs, Duncan said.

The city originally planned to have the 297 Bridge St. lot open as the parking at Salem’s MBTA commuter rail station closed for a construction project in July.

The project hit weather delays through the winter and spring, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency excavated and decontaminated the 1.2-acre property.

The former Universal Steel and Trading Co. building, which had been vacant for more than a decade, was demolished in December. EPA crews had to remove soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCB, at the site.

Universal Steel ran a scrap metal and recycling plant that, among other items, handled fuel storage tanks and transformers. The city acquired the property in a tax title foreclosure.

Once the new parking lot is finished, the city will not charge folks to park there, said Duncan.

The redevelopment of the Universal Steel property has been a collaboration between federal, state and city agencies. MassDevelopment, a statewide economic development agency, is paying the paving costs, said Duncan.

“It was a lot of work to get here (to it being paved),” she said.

The lot is meant to be temporary, to alleviate the city’s parking squeeze as the MBTA station parking is closed.

The MBTA’s $37 million upgrade of Salem’s train station, including construction of a 700-space parking garage, is slated to be complete by the fall of 2014.

The plan has always been, Duncan said, to solicit bids for re-use of the property once the new MBTA garage is open.

“Once the T station is in place, we look forward to returning this site to productive use,” Duncan said. “... This could become a tax-generating site.”

Bethany Bray can be reached at bbray@salemnews.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.