Press-Republican

July 31, 2013

Imperial Mill reuse a local success

DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — Congressman Bill Owens saw a prime example of facility reuse Tuesday morning when he toured the 500,000-square-foot Imperial Industrial Park.

About 30 companies have space in the facility, Property Manager David Bray said. At last count, around 235 people held jobs there.



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This shows “you can invest in some of these old structures,” Bray said.

TIES TO CANADA

About 70 to 80 percent of the tenants have some form of Canadian relationship, Bray said. Several of them support Nova Bus and Bombardier. 

Bombardier and one of its logistics providers, Key Logistics Solutions, now use about 120,000 square feet in the building. Bray said that could increase to 160,000 square feet.

Making sure U.S.-content provisions remain part of transit authority contracts for major cities is crucial to keeping manufacturing jobs at Bombardier and Nova Bus in Plattsburgh, Owens said.

“That’s what’s driving the trains and buses (made there),” he said.

Working to keep the area attractive to Canadian companies is also key, Owens said, which is why he keeps an eye on any issues that could hinder crossing the border.

“It is very important to keep the border fluid. We think we’ve really killed the entire idea of putting a fee to cross the border in place.”

The next steps to help revive the economy will be to tackle sequestration and the debt ceiling, Owens said.

“We need to get those issues resolved in a sensible way,” he said.

MACHINE GAP

The leased space amounts to about 80 percent of what’s available at the Industrial Park, but the remaining 20 percent includes the area where a massive wallpaper manufacturing machine was located. It will be difficult to find a way to use that without a total reconstruction, as it contains a huge opening for the machine, Bray said.

The best option may be to tear that section down and rebuild.

Imperial Wallcovering closed in 1998. The property was acquired by Main Mill Street Investments LLC in 2003.

“It’s been a challenge to reinvent this place,” Bray said.

RENOVATIONS

Main Mill spent millions to renovate and improve the plant, which was built in phases between 1903 and the mid 1980s, Bray said.

That includes a rebuild of one of the boilers, which has reduced heating costs from $286,000 to about $100,000 a year for the last two years. 

Bray said they are in the midst of roof repairs. They spent about $500,000 on that work last year and have about 120,000 square feet left to finish.

The site covers 46 acres, with about 20 acres available for expansion, Bray said, including sites with scenic views of the Saranac River.

When he took over as property manager, Bray said, the biggest challenge was finding tenants.

“Now my challenge is finding space to fit them in.”

Email Dan Heath:dheath@pressrepublican.com