CANAJOHARIE — On Wednesday, Montgomery County officials provided an update regarding progress at the former Beech-Nut site, located in the village just off Exit 29 of the New York State Thruway.
Their update noted that there is interest in the cleared eastern portion of the complex even as asbestos abatement continues in the four-story western complex.
In 2019, Exit 29 site owner Montgomery County contracted for the removal of structures on the eastern, or former warehousing side of the former Beech-Nut facility.
The Exit 29 Project website (exit29project.com) was launched last May, as a way to put potential occupants for the space in touch with county officials.
Demolition was completed on the now-shovel ready eastern site last August, and Apollo Dismantling Services LLC is now moving forward with demolition and asbestos abatement in the four story western complex, which faces Church Street.
Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose said Wednesday that a Letter of Resolution signed by the State Historic Preservation Office, Montgomery County, the Village of Canajoharie, and Empire State Development in late spring, provided a green light for the completion of a State Environmental Quality Review Act and facilitation of work under a previously-awarded $6.5 million Restore New York grant.
Stated County Executive Matthew Ossenfort of SHPO, “Initially, their first position was that we keep every building up on the western side, and that request has been pulled back and we do not have any of those requirements.
“We were able to negotiate hard to get that ability and not have them [SHPO] prevent us from being able to do demo on the western side.”
While the Letter of Resolution ensures that some “artifacts and remnants of the old Beech-Nut plant,” remain, according to Rose, SHPO “authorized us to move onto the next steps after the asbestos abatement is completed, and hazardous abatement is completed… to move forward with selective demolition,” if that’s determined to be the proper course of action.
Canajoharie Code Enforcement Officer Cliff Dorrough explained Wednesday that asbestos abatement has been completed on the entire first floor and on a portion of the second floor of the western site’s massive main structure. The process continues on the other portion of the second floor. Once the second floor is fully complete, abatement will resume on the third and fourth floors.
Ossenfort said interest has been shown in the eastern site by a potential buyer in the hemp industry, though the pandemic has served as a “bump in the road.”
Rose noted, ”A lot of individuals and companies are taking a wait and see approach, to see how this all plays out with COVID-19, how the election is going to pan out at the national level and what type of ramifications that may have for business development.”
Though strong interest from the potential eastern site user remains, the county still plans to move forward with an advertising push this year, creating a new video for a September release that details Exit 29’s assets and potential.
‘We really want to focus on the video production as we move forward so we don’t leave any stone unturned,” commented Ossenfort, adding, “We want to continue to market the site even though we think we might have an acceptable, viable potential tenant.
“I think we have a decent lead, but that doesn’t mean we rest on our laurels, and we want to put some real dollars behind an additional marketing effort.”
Ossenfort pointed out that many counties in the state, including Montgomery County, have been recently focused on efforts to highlight and help existing businesses, the county having launched a new “Buy it in Montgomery County” campaign.
Said Ossenfort, “Everybody’s really trying to hang on and limit the pain and negative impact of this year and focus on existing businesses,” continuing of the Exit 29 project, “But, obviously, this is a top priority and we’re still going to push as hard as we can,” that process also involving an ongoing search for additional funding.