Canajoharie will receive $6 million to partly demolish a factory that was the heart of the village’s economy for decades but now is a crumbing hulk. The Restore New York grant announced Monday will cover planning, demolition and cleanup of the eastern portion of the sprawling Beech-Nut complex that is beyond salvage, and pave the way for conversion, renovation and redevelopment of the western portion. It was hailed as a landmark moment for the little village, which has struggled with the 2011 departure of the baby food-maker and the factory that it left behind.
“This is the best news I’ve heard in ages,” Mayor Francis Avery said Monday. This really is going to help a lot”. For the first time, he’s convinced something will finally happen with the site. This is something solid now that we can count on, he added.
Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort was effusive, noting the grant was possibly the largest single infusion of cash the county has ever received. “I am floating [on air] at this point,” he said. We’ve worked real hard on this for a while.” Ossenfort said the site’s location — right beside a Thruway exit ramp and in the center of the village — probably helped it be chosen as the only “special project” in the state in this round of Restore New York funding. The amount being channeled to the village is three to nine times larger than other grants for projects in this part of the state.
The demolition work will come after a private investor bought the empty factory from Beech-Nut for less that $1 per square foot, stripped it of anything with scrap value, then abandoned it as an asbestos-contaminated wasteland. The county took a major risk in seizing the parcel for unpaid taxes, Ossenfort said, because that left it liable for demolition and cleanup. But the degree of inter-municipal cooperation was part of what secured the grant, he believes. The $6 million demolition grant, he said, will be a critical part of the rebirth of the old Beech-Nut factory. It will remove most of the structures that are unsound and provide private investors a major impetus to develop and reuse what remains. “It’s big shot in the arm and a big catalyst for us,” Ossenfort said.
Ken Rose, CEO of the Montgomery County Business Development Center, said his agency laid the groundwork in hopes of receiving the grant and is ready to go, now that it has. Within two or three weeks, a request for proposals will go out for engineering work, demolition of everything east of the Canajoharie Creek, and cleanup of any contamination. Rose expects the $6 million will be more than enough to cover this, but he won’t know until proposals are submitted. Any money left over will help pay for demolition of any structure west of the creek that is deemed unstable. The wrecking ball could swing by mid-summer.
“It’s going to allow us to keep going forward with everything we’ve planned,” Rose said of the grant. “Obviously, the state sees the potential for redevelopment of this location, as do we.”