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Redevelopment at old Lyons Falls mill kicks off with demolition phase

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LYONS FALLS — After six years of planning and discussions, redevelopment efforts at the former Lyons Falls Pulp & Paper Inc. property have become more tangible with commencement of the demolition stage.

“This is a long-awaited occasion for Lyons Falls and also for all of Lewis County,” village Mayor Catherine L. Liendecker said Tuesday afternoon during a kickoff ceremony for project’s first phase.

Calling the site the “heart of Lyons Falls,” Mrs. Liendecker said redevelopment of the riverfront property will give local residents some hope that was lost when the plant was shuttered in 2001.

“The LCDC has been very committed to this project and the goal of bringing a community revitalization project to southern Lewis County,” Lewis County Development Corp. President Lawrence L. Dolhof said. “Without the cooperation of New York state, the village of Lyons Falls and the assistance of the Development Authority and other partners, we would not be able to initiate this work today.”

The development corporation, which purchased the property in 2011, has been awarded $330,000 in state funding through the regional economic council for planning and an additional $1 million for initial demolition work on the redevelopment project, being managed by the Development Authority of the North Country.

Demolition will be conducted by Ritter & Paratore Contracting Inc., Utica.

Plans are to demolish 12 deteriorating buildings over the next few months, allowing the LCDC to focus on the next phases of cleanup at the mill and providing access to the adjacent hydroelectric generation facility owned by Northbrook Lyons Falls.

The plant’s owner, Kruger Energy, for several years has discussed a large expansion project that would replace its aging turbines with new, larger ones, and the development corporation’s planned demolition will provide better access to make that project possible.

Kruger also helped fund the demolition, helping to cover the necessary local match to the state funding, said Mr. Dolhof, also a county legislator from Lyons Falls and owner of a hardware store across Center Street from the old mill.

“Without their help, we would certainly not be standing here,” he said.

DANC Executive Director James W. Wright equated the Lyons Falls project to one that was completed recently after 10 years of work, that of converting the former Frink snowplow factory in Clayton into the 105-room 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel.

“These are long projects if you’re going to do them right,” he said.

However, given the partnership with Kruger, Mr. Wright said he believes this project may not take as long to complete as that one did.

He added that while many people are asking what the site ultimately will be used for, that cannot really be determined until after cleanup efforts are done.

“We’re not going to think about it until we have a clean site,” Mr. Wright said.

Applied Biorefinery Sciences, a spinoff company from research conducted at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, has been considering the location for a proposed wood-chip chemical extraction operation.

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.

When the first phase of the redevelopment project is complete, future phases may include demolition of other deteriorated buildings at the complex, a feasibility study to determine whether reuse of the remaining structures would be cost-effective and removal of ancillary structures, such as old tanks.

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