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WORCESTER BUSINESS JOURNAL - Major Route 20 site can be had - for any price

September 25, 2019

By Grant Welker

A 56-acre property that's sat unutilized on Route 20 in Auburn despite high visibility from the Massachusetts Turnpike is now headed to auction.

It can be bought for any price.

The site at 190 Washington St. is owned by Dartmouth College but has been on the market for years. The New Hampshire school's trustees were given the site in 1984 for $100, but a spokeswoman said Dartmouth is now unloading the property as part of changes to its real estate portfolio.

The property has sat unused since then, but Auburn and regional planning officials have long seen the site as having major potential for that stretch of Route 20.

Auburn's master plan identifies the property as having potential for mixed-use development. The town administration would like to see a mixed-use development, or an office park and/or commercial development, said Julie Jacobson, the Auburn town manager. Some uses would require special permits or zoning variances, she said.

The site is zoned for industrial use, with access to municipal water and sewer connections, and construction possible on roughly 37 of its 56 acres. It stands in an area of Route 20 near Lundgren Honda of Auburn, a series of self-storage facilities, and Westec Drive, a small cluster of industrial buildings where the utility company Eversource bought three parcels for just over $9 million in a deal closed Sept. 20.

A 2013 report by the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission called the site a priority development area, with potential for new growth making it worthy of thoughtful consideration for potential uses. Auburn's master plan specifically ruled out residential or retail uses without a special permit or zoning variance, wanting to reduce retail activity and traffic, and create higher-paying jobs in town, the planning report said.

The site was last assessed by Auburn at $1.1 million. JJ Manning, the auctioneers selling the property, said a real estate appraisal in 2016 put the value at $1.7 million. The auction is scheduled to take place Oct. 10, with no minimum sale price set for a buyer.