Montgomery County has hired Buffalo-based LiRo Engineers — at a cost of $475,000 — to conduct an engineering study to determine the cost to demolish remaining structures at the former Beech-Nut baby food plant in Canajoharie.
“This is for the whole site — both the eastern and western portions of that site — so it’s for the whole Exit 29 project,” said Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose.
Montgomery County took ownership of the 29-acre site through tax foreclosure in 2017. Since then, the county has made what it has dubbed the “Exit 29 Project” an economic development priority.
The county and the village have received a combined $6.5 million in state grants to remove asbestos debris and do other cleanup work to redevelop the site.
Rose said it will be LiRo’s role to conduct a new asbestos survey for all of the buildings on the 29-acre site, and then do an overall structural assessment to determine what, if any, adaptive reuse potential may exist for the former Beech-Nut office building on the western part of the site.
“The asbestos survey and any work associated with that remediation is going to be critical as to how far the dollars will go. So, the more remediation and asbestos abatement we have to do, obviously, that will take some funds away from the actual demolition,” Rose said. “We’re confident we can demolish at least the whole eastern part of the site with these funds.”
In addition to identifying potential uses for structures on the site, the engineering study will provide some estimated costs affiliated with each option, Rose said.
Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort has said the county would like to market the eastern part of the site as a conventional private-sector economic development park.
The county included a plan to transform the western part of the former Beech-Nut site into a joint town courthouse serving the western towns of Montgomery County as part of its application for a $20 million New York state government consolidation grant, but the county did not win a grant award.
Rose said the village of Canajoharie has received an $85,000 state grant to conduct an industry/community input analysis of the redevelopment potential of the western part of the site. He said that process will likely begin toward the end of the year.
County officials expect LiRo will have some of its initial studies done by mid-October, enabling demolition bids for the eastern part of the site to go out by the end of October.
“We’re anticipating that there will actually be some demo going on at this site probably sometime in November or December of this year,” Rose said.
He said one of the reasons LiRo was chosen from among the 12 firms that bid on the engineering study was because of the work the company did on the 800,000-square-foot Spaulding Fibre site in Tonawanda.
“That was about the same size building footprint as the Beech-Nut site, and obviously, when you look at the Spaulding Fibre plant, the potential contamination there was much greater than a baby food-making site,” Rose said. “They basically took that all the way through demo, and if you go out there now, it’s a clean, clear site.”