Up until the 1970s, the West Virginia Pulp and Paper mill helped sustain Mechanicville by providing jobs to about 700 people.
The last vestige of that mill now is being reduced to rubble, but developers plan in its place a $58 million project city leaders hope will revive the former industrial city.
In June, workers started demolishing a large warehouse on the east side of North Main Street that was part of the mill complex, which originally extended across the street to the current sites of Price Chopper and DeCrescente Distributing Co. Most recently, the warehouse was home to Leonard Bus Sales, a distributor of school and commercial buses.
Bill McNeary IV, president of Logistics One in Saratoga Springs, now owns the riverfront property and is tearing down the warehouse to make way for the Esplanade, a development that is expected to include 339 apartments, a cafe, a public walkway to the river and a public ice skating rink.
The warehouse demolition is one more visual reminder that Mechanicville is no longer the booming industrial city it once was.
“The industrial past is gone,” city Supervisor Tom Richardson said. “Mechanicville has turned into basically a bedroom community.”
Fifty to 70 years ago, “you either worked at West Virginia Pulp and Paper or the railroads,” Richardson said of city residents.
Now the biggest employers of city residents are Momentive in Waterford, the Mechanicville City School District, DeCrescente Distributing and state government.
But with the Esplanade, city leaders hope to attract people to relocate there for GlobalFoundries and other high-tech businesses, since Mechanicville is only 10 to 15 minutes from the Luther Forest campus in Malta.
And they hope that just as most paper mill workers in the middle of the last century walked from home to North Main Street to work, the 400 to 500 residents of the Esplanade will walk to shops and restaurants downtown, boosting businesses and sales tax revenue.
The development also will increase the city’s tax base by 40 percent, Richardson said. And the developers gave $50,000 to the city to use as a public benefit, said Mayor Anthony Sylvester.
“It will make a big difference to the city,” Sylvester said.
Most of the 11-acre property is in Mechanicville, with a small portion in Stillwater.
Eastview Development of Webster, McNeary’s partner for financing and development, plans to finish the demolition in the next couple months and then start building either late this year or next spring, Richardson said.
Most of the apartments will have one or two bedrooms, with a few three-bedroom units. They will feature hardwood floors, granite countertops, ceramic tile and washers and dryers. Residents will share a gym, indoor pool and hot tub.
Current residents of Mechanicville will benefit from the development, too, as the boardwalk to the Hudson river will be open to the public. It will include a convenience store, a cafe and a reflecting pool that in the winter will become an ice skating rink.
Developers have not announced yet who will run the cafe.