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Local developer unveils plan for new industrial park off I-81 with rail access

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An industrial park with railroad access and space for up to 20 businesses will be hatched by a Watertown developer on a commercial parcel off outer Bradley Street at Interstate 81.

Purcell Construction bought the 89-acre parcel Oct. 3 from Pyramid Cos., Syracuse, for $1.25 million. Owner Mark S. Purcell said the construction company plans to build a rail siding at the north side of CSX Transportation’s adjacent rail line to serve industrial clients at the proposed park. That railroad segment runs east from West Main Street to Route 12, bordering Superior Street at the park’s southern boundary.

“We decided to buy it because it was the biggest parcel next to Interstate 81 for sale, and it’s wedged between the highway and the railroad,” Mr. Purcell said. “Any company that is shipping a large quantity and could use rail would be a good fit.”

The timing of the sale was also a factor, Mr. Purcell said. Land available for prospective businesses at the Jefferson County Corporate Park off outer Coffeen Street is now scarce, leaving few options for site selectors eyeing the region. Though plans are being developed to launch a corporate park at Watertown International Airport near Dexter, it could take several years before land is made shovel ready.

“The big advantage this piece has over the airport parcel would be the proximity to Interstate 81 and its access to rail,” Mr. Purcell said.

The company’s first task is to plan water and sewer infrastructure on the parcel, Mr. Purcell said, which is expected to take about six to eight months. The parcel is primarily outside the city limits in the town of Pamelia, while about 15 acres of the property are in the city. The plan would call for the city’s water main to be extended onto the property, while water and sewer districts would have to be created for the park by the town of Pamelia. Sewer service likely will be provided by a line owned by the Development Authority of the North Country that crosses the parcel.

The company also will consider building a large warehouse facility with access to the rail siding, including space for multiple tenants to lease, Mr. Purcell said. An outside company would be responsible for managing the warehouse on behalf of the tenants.

“It would be a managed warehouse, because we would unload and load products for people,” he said.

In scope, the project will resemble the Murrock Circle industrial park off outer Coffeen Street that was developed by Purcell Construction about 20 years ago, Mr. Purcell said.

“That one was about 100 acres, like this one,” he said.

Officials from the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency are keeping a close eye on Mr. Purcell’s plans, because the agency has acquired about 100 acres of land at the Watertown airport off Route 12F near Dexter that will be needed to launch a corporate park of its own. It teamed up with Jefferson County and the town of Hounsfield this year to hire consultant David L. Mosher, who has facilitated the development of a business plan for the park. Mr. Mosher, who was hired by the three municipalities for $30,000, is expected to present results of that business plan at December board meetings.

Purcell Construction’s project could make it more challenging for the JCIDA to secure state and federal grant funding for the airport park, because the demonstrable need for the project will be reduced, CEO Donald C. Alexander said . But there likely will be demand among businesses at both parks, he said, because each has its own set of strengths

Rail is conducive “for businesses that move large volumes of material,” he said. “But the airport park will support a high-tech company that needs access to air freight. The more choices we have in the community, the better off we are. The public sector has a different mission than private, because we’re not in the business to make money but create jobs.”

Purcell Construction’s plan will meet the immediate need for developable land in Jefferson County to attract new businesses, Mr. Alexander said.

“The fewer choices you can offer businesses, the less likely you are to capture them,” he said. “If someone came to me looking to locate in Jefferson County a year from now, I would certainly refer them to Mark’s operation rather than seeing them move to (a different county) where they have a building ready to go. For example, if Mark identified a major manufacturer that wanted to put in a plant on I-81, we’re going to participate by developing tax incentives.”

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