Radical changes are underway in the village of Canajoharie, as the massive baby food factory that dominated the landscape for more than a century is coming down, piece by piece.
The new owner’s originally stated plans were to demolish a third of the 851,000-square-foot Beech-Nut factory complex and revitalize the rest, renting it out for new uses that offered the promise of replacing some of the economic activity that vanished when Beech-Nut moved east to a new factory near Amsterdam in 2011.
After permitting delays, the new owner began demolition several weeks ago. Building 74 is gone, and Building 73 is now being stripped in preparation for being leveled.
Together, they totaled about 444,000 square feet, more than half the floor space in the complex. Village Mayor Francis Avery said the rest of the complex will be demolished after that.
Village Code Enforcement Officer Clifton Dorrough echoed the sentiments of many in the village sorry to see the landmark go, saying he thought the owner “should have left it up and done something with it.”
Todd Clifford — co-owner of Ohio-based TD Development LLC, a company specializing in the rehabilitation of old industrial buildings — could not be reached for comment, but in January 2014, he told The Gazette about his plans to demolish buildings containing 300,000 square feet that summer. He said he would open the remainder to warehouse industries and use the newly vacant land for parking and loading and unloading large trucks.
Within two or three years, he said, there would be a gas station and fast food restaurant right at the adjacent Thruway exit and light manufacturing in the western section of the building.
“This is going to have to happen piecemeal,” he said. “As businesses come in and the building is refurbished, property tax revenue will be rebuilt.”
The latter remark was in reference to his seeking a reduction in the property’s assessment from $9.4 million to $200,000, which is what he paid for the 20-acre site.
Dorrough said Clifford drafted plans to start the demolition almost a year ago, but the demolition process has been extremely difficult because two companies Clifford hired to knock down the buildings did not abide by state-mandated labor guidelines.
“Eight months ago, a crew came in, and they were working on areas they didn’t have permits for,” he said, adding that the Department of Labor subsequently came in and ordered the work stopped. “Then the second team came in, and the Dumpsters they were using were lined with asbestos, and they had to go also. You just have to follow the rules the state puts out.”
Dorrough said the company now doing the work — B&B Recycling of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma — is doing a good job, has kept the area clean and is “moving right along.”
“You have to stay on them but they seem to know what they are doing and they are abiding by the rules,” he said.
Dorrough said the company is breaking down the buildings and selling the pieces for scrap, a “lucrative business.”
Mayor Avery said taking down the buildings is the best thing for the village now because there is “no use for it anymore.”
“All options for the plant have been exhausted,” he said. “They need to come down, and then we can go forward from there.”
Avery added he is not aware of any plans Clifford has for the property, which is bounded by Thruway Exit 29 to the east, Route 10 to the west, Route 5S to the south and the Mohawk River to the north.
“I have no idea what he wants to do with it,” Avery said, adding that Clifford has not reached out to village officials for help in locating a tenant. “It is really all on him; whatever he wants to do with it, he can.”
Dorrough said he heard speculation about a year ago that a truck stop might move into the facility.
“That was a long time ago,” he said. “I really have no idea what he’s planning to do with the space.”
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