City officials say they had no choice but to have a contractor cut down a large oak tree at the former site of Gro Mor fertilizer plant.
The 20-foot-tall oak was a casualty of the $400,000 environmental cleanup at the business at 307 S. Evers St.
"We wanted that tree to stay. That was our goal," Community Services Director Jim McDaniel said.
A contractor working on behalf of the city excavated about 3,600 tons of soil contaminated with nitrates and arsenic, left by the fertilizer manufacturing. The soil around the roots of the tree was contaminated, and the only practical solution was to cut it down, McDaniel said.
The city bought the old Gro Mor property and other businesses as part of the effort to redevelop Midtown, 85 acres of mostly commercial and industrial property, south of the historical downtown district.
While the oak is gone, the city plans to plant trees to landscape Midtown, McDaniel said.
City officials hope to find someone to redevelop the area with a central park, sidewalk cafés and restaurants, boutiques, and town homes. City officials want the architecture of Midtown to complement the character of downtown.