PAWTUCKET — With its prime location along the banks of the Seekonk River and visibility from the new Pawtucket River Bridge, a 23-acre land parcel known as Tidewater has often been mentioned positively as part of the city's riverfront development plans. Yet, while some unsightly gas storage tanks have been removed from the property, and a total clean-up of the industrial site is planned, it appears that any possible re-use of the land is still several years away.
On a recent day, Michele Leone, a National Grid Manager for Site Investigation and Remediation, offered The Times a tour of the largely vacant property. The land offers open, grassy space and attractive views up and down the river, which have been enhanced by the removal of the old storage tanks. Yet, the bulk of the property still belongs to National Grid, which uses sections of it for energy production purposes.
The site is situated between Taft Street, an extension of Tidewater and Thornton streets to the west and the Seekonk River to the east. National Grid currently owns about 20 of the 23 acres while the city of Pawtucket owns a small section behind the Varieur School and adjacent to the Max Read Field.
Leone said that National Grid, which already operated an electrical power plant, substation and transmission towers near Merry Street and Tidewater Streets, acquired the rest of its acreage when it bought out Rhode Island's gas shares from New England Gas in 2006. Since the old storage tanks have been removed, it is now largely vacant with the exception of an active natural gas regulating station and an electric substation. Portions of the former brick power plant are also used as an active switching station.
The riverfront property has been involved in the city's energy production for over a century. The Pawtucket Gas Company built the Tidewater Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) in the 1880s on the northern portion of the site. The MGP operated from the 1880s to 1968, producing manufactured gas that helped power the city's street lamps and for cooking. From the 1880s until 1954, the MGP generat