The saga of what is to become of the former Battelle Memorial Institute property on the Duxbury downtown waterfront may finally be over.
Island Creek Oysters, founded by Duxbury native Skip Bennett, bought the 11-acre property along Washington Street from Boston developer Diamond Sinacori, and is planning to move the business to the property, with intentions of maintaining some of the historic homes on the site for ongoing aquaculture research, in keeping with its history.
The sale of the property from Battelle to Diamond Sinacori for $7 million and then to Island Creek, listed as Ditch Diggers LLC, for $8 million was finalized on Nov. 1, according to Plymouth County Registry of Deeds records. Diamond Sinacori had been proposing an eight-home subdivision on the site, after a plan for 35 condominiums was rejected.
Previously, a local group of investors had sought to buy the property and lease it to the University of Massachusetts for a satellite campus, but the school ultimately rejected the proposal and the investors pulled out.
Battelle gave its blessings to the latest plan.
“As Island Creek Oysters is a Duxbury institution with the intention of keeping the site open to the public for educational purposes and retaining as many of the existing historic homes as possible, we believe Diamond Sinacori’s new plan is the best outcome for all,” said Battelle spokeswoman Katy Delaney in a company statement.
Battelle had occupied the campus since 1965, when it took over the William F. Clapp Laboratories, which had operated there since the 1930s. In 2014, Battelle moved to more modern facilities in Norwell.
Duxbury Board of Selectmen chairman Shawn Dahlen, who had been involved in town meetings about the property, said the issue of what was to become of the prime real estate had been a source of contention for people in town.
He said some empty-nesters had favored condominiums where they could spend part of the year after being away from Duxbury for the winter. Others, he said, were vehemently opposed to condos, or expensive new homes, taking over the property, with the possibility that historic homes would be demolished in the process.
“Well, the private sector should do what the private sector does,’’ he said. The sale to Island Creek Oysters “puts to bed all the discussion, the issues, the back and forth. ... There’s one part of me that says, ‘Thank God.’”
But some issues may still need to be resolved.
Dahlen said the property is not zoned for business, so Island Creek Oysters may need to seek approvals if it wants to locate any retail operations there. It may be using a farm credit, so it remains to be seen whether it brings any additional tax revenue to the town.
The property now contributes slightly more than $141,500 to town coffers, according to town officials.
Island Creek Oysters, which according to the company sells more than 10 million oysters a year, was started in 1995 by Bennett, who first tried growing quahogs in Duxbury Bay.
Company officials said in a statement they intend to move to the property at 397 Washington St. in 2018, consolidating its operations that are spread out in several locations in Duxbury and Plymouth.
It has a retail store at 296 Parks St. in Duxbury and also runs restaurants in Boston and Burlington and a distribution facility, retail store, and raw bar in Portland, Maine.
The company said the move will allow it to operate its existing hatchery, farm distribution company, and nonprofit foundation from one location. Additional plans calls for a retail outpost and a potential home for ongoing aquaculture research, education, and outreach efforts in keeping with the property’s legacy, according to a statement by the company.
“After nearly 25 years of farming oysters here in Duxbury Bay, it is our hope that such a property will not only help create a permanent foundation for our business, but also be a hub for aquaculture here in the Northeast, and an integral part of Duxbury’s historic waterfront,” Bennett said in a statement.
Merrill Diamond, of Diamond Sinacori, said the decision to sell the property to Island Creek Oysters was made jointly between the company and Battelle.
“Both entities, throughout this process, have always had one end goal in mind, and that is to do what is best for Duxbury,” he said.Jean Lang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.