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Ogdensburg eyes revolving fund to encourage investment in surplus psychiatric center land


OGDENSBURG — A proposal for the state to turn over 160 vacant acres of land at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center to the city for development could also see the creation of a revolving fund to spur economic growth and possibly restore some of the historic, empty buildings at the facility.

The plan was initiated by state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton. Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, has pledged to co-sponsor companion legislation.

Ogdensburg City Manager John M. Pinkerton said the fund, which is still in a conceptual phase, would ultimately be managed by City Council. Start-up capital could come from selling some of the land once the state turns it over to the city.

In particular, Mr. Pinkerton said, a 45-acre wooded plot the city hopes to take over could be immediately capitalized if the city can find a business with a commercial interest in clearing the land.

“This could give us some of the income to start that revolving fund,” Mr. Pinkerton said.

The lot is at the intersection of 1 Correction Way and Woods Road.

If the city successfully gets the state to turn over the land — which was designated as surplus by the state Office of Mental Health in 2011 — Mr. Pinkerton said future investment could also come by selling off property to business and real estate investors.

A 45-acre parcel that runs along the north side of Route 37 would make an ideal business park, Mr. Pinkerton said, adding that it is already connected to city water, sewer and electrical service.

The Ag Energy LP cogeneration plant could be expanded to provide energy to the business park in the future, Mr. Pinkerton said, which could cut costs and attract businesses to Ogdensburg.

A 50-acre parcel that runs along the St. Lawrence River at Point Airy would make for prime waterfront real estate, Mr. Pinkerton said, with the potential to build dozens of homes with waterfront access and scenic views.

Eight homes are already on the land, Mr. Pinkerton said. He said it is the only waterfront property in the city that is both uncontaminated and undeveloped.

“This is small potatoes for the state, but for us it’s potentially a huge benefit,” Mr. Pinkerton said.

The proposal put forward by Mrs. Ritchie and Mrs. Russell would not see the city take over responsibility for any of the stone buildings on the point, many of which have been vacant for decades and are in varying states of decay.

Mr. Pinkerton said the city wouldn’t be in a position to rehabilitate or demolish any of the buildings.

But with the revolving fund, Mr. Pinkerton said, the city hopes to be able to acquire some of the buildings down the road, either returning them to their former glory or tearing them down to make way for new growth.

“When I was a kid this was a very dynamic place,” Mr. Pinkerton said of Point Airy. “It was vibrant; it was very alive.”

Mr. Pinkerton said he hopes to see the point restored as a destination for north country residents and visitors.

While the state doesn’t have a need for the land, Mr. Pinkerton said, the city has a stake in seeing the area developed.

“There is a direct relationship between getting something done and seeing an impact [for the city],” he said.

Legislation for the turnover of the property is expected to be introduced in the state Legislature this week.

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