In a few months, the hulking, 20-acre former Beech-Nut facility on Canajoharie’s northeast side will ring with hammer blows, the rumble of heavy machinery and the general sounds of economic progress.
On Friday, Switzerland-based Hero Group, Beech-Nut’s parent company, closed a deal selling the facility to TD Development LLC, a company specializing in the rehabilitation of old industrial buildings.
“We look for buildings with promise, like proximity to the Thruway, then redevelop them,” said Todd Clifford, a partial owner of the development company. “We’re drawing up plans for the building right now.”
The imposing structure was left empty more than two years ago when Beech-Nut departed for a new facility in the town of Florida.
Clifford plans to convert the Church Street building into a multitenant complex, leasing the space to shipping and light manufacturing companies. He couldn’t comment on who those future tenants might be, but said there are interested companies.
“I wouldn’t buy a building if I didn’t have people lined up,” he said.
Clifford worked with Pyramid Brokerage real estate agent Christopher Westfall and Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose over the past few months to finalize the purchase. No one involved would disclose the purchase price.
Rose couldn’t comment at length on the project, but said a multitenant facility is, in many ways, better for the village than if a single company were to move in.
“If you look at history, one-industry towns don’t do so well,” he said. “It was hard on Amsterdam when the carpet mills moved out. It was hard for Gloversville when the glove makers moved out and it was hard on Canajoharie when Beech-Nut moved out. If there are multiple businesses in that place, it will make for a more diverse local economy.”
Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery also was pleased with the sale. When interest in the building was expressed in October, he said he’d hold off on a victory dance until it actually sold.
“Any use is better than it sitting empty,” he said Monday. “We could use the jobs.”
There’s quite a lot to do before any companies move in. Over the next 18 months, Clifford said, demolition crews will rip out a 220,000-square-foot section of the building along the eastern edge to make room for a shipping staging area.
“Without that staging area, the building is basically unusable,” he said.
After the demolition, he said, the remaining 70 percent of the facility will be renovated, with the interior reshaped to streamline movement from existing warehouse space to the new staging area. Even the buildings not slated for demolition were built in a patchwork of styles over decades, so everything must be modernized.
TD Development was incorporated in the state specifically for this job, but Rose said much of the construction work will be handled by Great Western Steel, which is based in Arizona.
It is still early in the process, but Rose said he is in talks with Clifford about a possible payment in lieu of taxes agreement to help the project move forward.
Beech-Nut officials drafted an upbeat news release announcing the sale Monday. The company has been paying regular property taxes on the unused facility for the past several years. Now they’ll be able to stop.
“We are extremely grateful to the village of Canajoharie as well as the Montgomery County Industrial Development Agency for their assistance in this matter,” the release read. “We know that this has been a long process and we appreciate the patience of the local community in our efforts to market the site over the last several years.”
With the sale final, Beech-Nut plans to focus its attention on growing its more modern facility in the town of Florida.
Rose said work will begin on the old Beech-Nut facility shortly after the start of the new year.