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DANC to aid Lyons Falls mill redevelopment with expertise, loan

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LYONS FALLS — The Development Authority of the North Country will assist redevelopment efforts at the former paper mill here, both through project management and bridge loan funding.

“We think it has the potential to be a model of redevelopment of paper mills,” said James W. Wright, authority CEO.

The authority’s board of directors last week approved contracting with the village to aid redevelopment at the former Lyons Falls Pulp & Paper plant and providing a $330,000 no-interest loan to the Lewis County Development Corp. to provide cash flow for the project.

“They have the expertise,” said Lawrence L. Dolhof, president of the development corporation.

The corporation, which last year purchased 10 acres of the former mill property off Center Street to redevelop it as an industrial business park, was awarded a $330,000 grant through Empire State Development Corp., but state funds may be used only as reimbursement for money already spent.

The DANC money is to be used for up-front costs, with the Empire State money used to repay the bridge loan.

The technical services agreement will allow DANC engineering, regional development and finance division workers to perform up to $50,000 worth of work on the redevelopment project.

While that work will be paid for through project funding, DANC is contracting with the village — with the village having a separate contract with the development corporation — to help ensure a cooperative effort, Mr. Wright said.

“You never have a successful project if you don’t start out with a coordinated approach,” he said.

Given the scope of the project, redevelopment must be done in “reasonable bits,” as funding becomes available, under a long-term plan, Mr. Wright said.

“We have had success in attacking sites that way,” he said.

Mr. Wright compared the old Lyons Falls mill to the former Frink America snowplow plant in Clayton, which closed in 2000. A $1 million dock project is under way there, and a private developer is proposing to erect a luxury hotel at the site.

The $330,000 funding for the Lyons Falls project primarily will cover environmental and asbestos surveys, engineering work and some redevelopment planning, including setting priorities for buildings slated for demolition, Mr. Dolhof said.

Demolition work probably will not begin until some time next year, he said.

Applied Biorefinery Sciences, a spinoff company from research conducted at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, is eyeing the site for a proposed wood-chip chemical extraction operation, Lewis County Economic Development Director Eric J. Virkler has said. However, the company would have to secure a substantial amount of startup capital and conduct a successful 12- to 18-month trial run before beginning commercial production.

A state-funded Brownfield Opportunity Area study conducted by Elan Planning, Design & Landscape Architecture of Saratoga Springs has concluded that the site could be redeveloped for clean energy production and support facilities for backcountry and adventure tourism, gun-cleaning-related industries, manufacturing of agricultural products and other uses. Elan officials also suggest developing a pedestrian/bicycle path and waterfront overlook area at the old mill site and an adjacent hydroelectric dam property.

Local officials hope to secure further funding through that state grant program, along with other federal and state programs, to further redevelopment efforts.

A $95,320 grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission that was awarded in October will be used to rehabilitate a short railway spur at the former mill.

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