CANAJOHARIE — The western half of a Canajoharie village eyesore isn’t expected to last into 2024.
Ritter & Paratore Contracting, Inc. recently won a bid to demolish 22 buildings formerly associated with the Beech-Nut baby food company, another milestone in a piecemeal effort to revitalize the derelict property. The Utica contractor, approved by the Montgomery County Legislature last week, is slated to complete the $4 million project by next fall.
“Demolition of these remaining structures makes this site even more enticing to additional developers and investors,” said Montgomery County Business Development Center CEO Ken Rose in a press release. “When it’s completed, this demolition work will validate the significant potential for the property.”
A request for proposal was first issued in September. However, the county legislature in November was unable to approve a bid for Ritter & Paratore Contracting and extend a contract with project leader LiRo Engineering due to a lack of quorum.
Once completed, 7.9 acres of the western half will be home to a mix of private firms. It’ll encompass a slab of the village scenery seen from Interstate 90.
“We want to ensure the use is maximized in a manner that not only benefits the Village of Canajoharie, but also leaves a positive impression to thousands of vehicles that pass by it each day,” said Montgomery County Legislature Chairman Mike Pepe in a statement.
Montgomery County signed off on a purchase and sale agreement for cannabis producer E29 Labs to occupy 19.6 acres of land on the eastern half.
E29 Labs’ site plan will undergo a multi-step local approval process within the next two months. Once authorized through county and village checkpoints, project stakeholders expect the Office of Cannabis Management to grant E29 Labs a cultivation license come summer at the latest.
County Executive Matt Ossenfort is confident that OCM will budge based on previous allotments provided by the state, including respective demolition grants of $500,000 in 2017 and $5 million in 2018.
“Clearly it has the attention of the state, there’s a lot of enthusiasm,” said Ossenfort. “And lastly I would say, I think they understand that those empty buildings were a sign of the decline in upstate New York and to take something that’s a negative and turn it into a positive in such a visible location is exactly the type of progress that state and local officials are trying to push forward.”
The first round of demolition work on the eastern end started in late 2020.
Beech-Nut in 2020 began departing Canajoharie for a new $125 million plant within a town of Florida industrial park after more than a century in the village. Montgomery County foreclosed on the property seven years later in a deal with the EPA to avoid liability for environmental contamination issues.
The village’s vulnerability to flood waters from the Mohawk River and Canajoharie Creek has been the subject of concern in the past. Beech-Nut’s departure was due, in part, to storm damage during the 2000s. Candy factory 180,000-square-foot Richardsons also took losses recovering from unruly waters.
New construction requires elevating the site to comply with floodplain regulations. E29 Labs also plans to run part of the site on solar energy and increase pervious space.
The cultivation site is anticipated to cost upwards of $30 million and eventually attract as many as 500 unionized workers.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.