HARRISVILLE — After years of discussion, the long-vacant property formerly known as Harrisville Dry Kilns has been purchased by the Lewis County Industrial Development Agency as the next step in getting the 40.9-acre property back into productive use as a regional recycling facility through the Development Authority of the North Country.
The IDA considered re-acquiring the 8023 Washington St. property in 2016, when owner LPS Real Estate was “talking about donating it” to the agency. However, IDA Executive Director Eric Virkler said that the real estate company’s plans went through a number of variations since that time including taking it off the market until recently.
The property was purchased for $350,000, the majority of which will go to cover back taxes owed on the property, IDA Board of Directors Chairman Joseph Lawrence said.
Because of financing the development agency provided the kiln company in its early days, it was better for the IDA to take temporary ownership to alleviate the building’s title issues.
“We only bought the property with the assurance that DANC would buy it from us,” Mr. Lawrence said, noting that his agency’s desire to re-develop the property is intertwined with its past connection to it.
In October 1998, Harrisville Dry Kilns Inc. was the first business to open in what was then the county IDA-owned Diana Wood Products Industrial Park.
The industrial park, equipped with sewer and water facilities, was a $1.2 million project with funding from the IDA, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Association, Empire State Development Corp., the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Office and a state budgetary appropriation.
Dry Kilns was originally run by Paragon Laminated Wood Products, Lakeville, New Brunswick, but in 1999, Bestway Enterprises Inc., Cortland, took over and expanded with a $5 million sawmill addition in 2006.
Bestway closed Dry Kilns in the summer of 2013, when it employed 30 people, but couldn’t find a buyer at auction later that year for the whole package, valued at $8 million.
LPS Real Estate bought the property for $300,000 in July 2014, but failed to find a buyer at auction as intended in the fall of 2015.
Mr. Virkler had said in 2016 the IDA would work to bring something new to the location, a commitment that is expected to finally bear fruit.
According to a memo of understanding with the IDA, DANC will purchase the property once “agreed-upon criteria” are met and will be used for a regional recycling transfer station Development Authority Executive Director James W. Wright said.
The facility will service Lewis, St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties, the city of Watertown and Fort Drum, Mr. Wright said, to help consolidate the volume of recyclables and reduce transportation costs.
“I’m optimistic the conditions will be met and the purchase concluded in the middle of July,” Mr. Wright said, “And this will be a successful collaborative project.”
Details of the recycling transfer station are still in the process of being established.