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March 1, 2013

Model depicts new Salem power plant

SALEM — The public got its first look this week at the natural gas plant that the new owners of Salem Harbor Station plan to build on the waterfront site.

The principals of Footprint Power, the New Jersey firm that bought the aging power plant last year, brought a model of the new plant to a public meeting Wednesday at Bentley School. They also brought along the architect who designed it, Bob Fox of COOKFOX Architects of New York City, who showed slides to the crowd of more than 100 that filled the meeting room.

The model shows a facility nothing like the coal- and oil-fired plant that has operated on Fort Avenue for more than a half-century and is slated to close next year.

For starters, the new plant would take up only one-third of the 62-acre site. And its smokestack will be 230 feet tall, which is less than half the height of the tallest current stack. A large portion of the new plant will be screened, Fox said, by a 25-foot-high mound of grass and trees.

Footprint CEO Peter Furniss made a number of promises, including one that got applause.

“The coal pile will be a thing of the past ... and that’s just the beginning of the story for the site,” he said.

The company executives said they will tear down the “entire existing power plant,” a process that will begin next fall with the removal of oil tanks. They hope to complete demolition by 2015 and open the new plant the following year.

Some of the debris from demolition will be recycled and used in a 12-foot security wall that will enclose the plant, Footprint officials said. They promised that the ugly fence that surrounds the site now will be gone.

“Pat Gozemba made me promise there will be no chain-link fence,” Furniss said of a request from a local environmental activist.

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