CANAJOHARIE — Several buildings on the former Beech-Nut factory site at Exit 29 will be removed from the property’s western end, according to a plan shared Tuesday by the county executive.
State, county and village officials toured the former baby food company quarters and later convened at the Village Hall to discuss progress and plans for the long vacant property.
Work began at the western end of the bifurcated site following the demolition of all of the buildings on the eastern part of the sprawling Beech-Nut complex. The building removal created a vast empty space which is now shovel ready. Cleanup also was completed recently in the site’s remaining buildings.
Building 17 along Church Street, which was formerly filled with moldy and decaying old office spaces and the requisite furniture and filing cabinets, also has been cleared out.
Additional demolition on the western site demolition will target all but two buildings, including the former office space in building 17 and the Incinerator Road-facing distribution warehouse and loading docks, according to County Executive Matthew Ossenfort.
When considering the future of the property, Ossenfort said that stakeholders considered two questions: “How much does it cost to be demolished and can it be reused?”
The latest buildings targeted for demolition, Ossenfort said, “were all built one on top of the other … over a period of 100 years.” Some structures located inside the western complex, Ossenfort said, were built with wood instead of concrete.
“We have the funding to complete this, and there’s very little chance this will ever be reused,” continued Ossenfort of the section scheduled for removal, adding of the targeted buildings, “There’s no way they were ever going to be saved.”
If all goes according to plan, Montgomery County will put out a demolition bid package the first week of December, awarding it sometime in January, according to Ken Rose, director of the Montgomery County Development Corp. The eventual bid recipient, “should be able to mobilize on site probably sometime in February,” Rose said.
The upcoming phase of the Exit 29 project is expected to take at least six months.
The cost of demolition for all western site structures is estimated at $2.64 million. With Montgomery County in possession of approximately $2 million, attempts will be made to secure additional state and federal funding.
Part of Rose’s job, Ossenfort pointed out, is “to see if there’s a fit with the private sector.”
He commented, “It may be a private-public partnership moving forward, which is great news, because three years ago, nobody would touch this with a 10-foot pole.”
Ossenfort noted that he was encouraged by a visit from U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19th, to the Exit 29 site Tuesday, since awareness of the project could open potential funding avenues. Delgado represents the area in Congress.
Canajoharie Mayor Jeff Baker said the Village Board’s wish is to have all remaining former Beech-Nut buildings demolished. “So far, there’s no other viable option,” he said. “The reason why it’s empty now is because it was antiquated. Manufacturing would not have come back.”
To refurbish the buildings as office space, he said, would be a costly and “fruitless” endeavor.
“The plant sits on a 100 year flood plain,” said Village Trustee Francis Avery, who supports the full demolition. “The entire ground floor has to be retrofitted to address the flood plain issue. That alone would cost a fortune.”
Said Avery of his wishes for the western complex: “Take the whole thing down. Demolish it, start new, and you can address the flood plain issue as you construct your building.”
When Beech-Nut was operational in Canajoharie, the plant used one million gallons of water per day, the village’s facilities having the capacity to handle double that amount. Though Baker said the village was able to facilitate the extensive use, “It put a strain on us, because you couldn’t clean the filters the way they should’ve been.”
“When Beech-Nut moved out, we were left with a $4.2 million deficit we had to pay back,” Baker said of the Village of Canajoharie. If a large water user were to move in — as long as the village could handle its discharge — “It would help tremendously,” financially, he said.
“The board has talked about giving an incentive like six months of free water” to potential tenants, said Baker.
No new site owners have yet been identified, Ossenfort said, but, “There has been recent and ongoing interest in the site.
“We’re very mindful of all the community work we’ve done and what people expect here, and what the village officials expect here, and we continue to do this as a team, and continue to try to be responsive to what the community wants. That is always at the forefront of our mind. This is not a county project. This is a community project.”