ERS mounts aggressive effort in redeveloping Pfizer property

SUZANNE MOORE/P-R PHOTOTwo of ERS Investors' partners, Mark Hynes (foreground) and Dave Kreutz, look over the expanse of rubble that made up buildings on the former Pfizer campus in Rouses Point. The warehouse seen to their left, Building 25, is one of two that may be left standing for a future tenant to fill.

ROUSES POINT — Razing the former Pfizer buildings here is the easy part.

"The more time-consuming part is processing all the materials and segregating them," said Mark Hynes, one of four managing partners of ERS Investors.

Most of the structures on the 36-acre property have been reduced to rubble; high fences wrapped in tarps block the view from village streets.

But the view is shaping up for the former pharmaceutical facility's future, and its developers exude enthusiasm about it.

"We have great plans for the site, said Dave Kreutz, another partner. "We're ahead of schedule, in talks with manufacturing firms ..."

 

ALREADY IN TALKS

ERS, based in New York City, is a privately held real estate development firm that, according to its website, focuses "exclusively on acquiring underutilized, distressed and environmentally challenged industrial real estate."

It acquired the Rouses Point site from Pfizer late last year, renaming it the Northern Gateway Industrial Park.

The partners — also Chris Wilson and Andrew Staulcup — define their company as non-traditional.

If the usual developer were tackling the Pfizer property, Kreutz said, "there wouldn't even be a conversation started right now.

"We do things a little differently — we accelerate the timeline for everybody."

And as demolition and cleanup continues, Kreutz said, "we are in realistic and significant discussions" with potential tenants.

Many of those have come through the efforts of Matt Boire, president of CDC Real Estate, who is marketing the site.

The partners praised local government leaders, including Clinton County, and also North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas, for their cooperation and assistance.

ERS expects to hold a press conference later this summer with more specific news, Kreutz said.

"We want to be transparent to the extent that we know what is going to happen."

The company presents "statements, not 'what ifs,'" he said.

 

INFRASTRUCTURE SUSPENDED

Kreutz and Hynes were in the village to attend Monday night's Village Board meeting, where they expressed their enthusiasm for their project and the community.

And they invited input.

"Good, bad or indifferent," Hynes said before the session. "Community involvement is extremely important."

"It appears that it's going well," Mayor Tom Batha said Thursday.

The village shut off electricity serving the property some time ago as part of the demolition effort.

And last week, the five or so water mains that lead there were closed down — that's why a boil-water order was in place for a day or so, Batha said.

The village is making what preparations it can as it considers what kind of businesses might locate in the new industrial park.

In the event a cryptocurrency miner might be drawn there by the village's cheap municipal power, Batha said, "I've taken steps with the (village) board to contract with a consulting company to analyze load usage of potential tenants.

The village, he said, "wants to make sure anybody who may come in doesn't adversely impact the village rate payers."

A two-year moratorium on data mining operations is set to expire next spring.

 

STRINGENT REGULATIONS

Some have expressed concerns about possible environmental issues from the demolition.

"I think anybody who's anxious should take (the continuing takedown) as good, not bad," said Hynes, whose primary role is project predevelopment.

That means he directs the demolition process, including the handling of any regulated building materials, including asbestos, and export of the waste.

"We make sure all permits are in place, that it's all done (following) state and federal regulations," he said.

"Regulations are very stringent," Kreutz added.

This is the largest project Hynes has tackled in terms of footprint.

"We look at it as pretty straightforward (though)."

The company handling the teardown and remediation is one ERS has used many times.

Environmental Remediation Services Inc. of Syracuse, which only by coincidence shares the same initials with ERS, "specializes in handling complex environmental remediation projects," according to its website.

"There isn't anybody as good as they are," Kreutz said.

 

DISPELLING RUMORS 

While Pfizer remains involved as the Rouses Point is site redeveloped, it will not make decisions on what companies locate there, Kreutz said.

Nor does the pharmaceutical giant in any way hold ownership in ERS, he and Hynes said, dashing a rumor circulating locally.

"If it's not coming from one of the four partners, it's a rumor," Kreutz said.

 

And there's no deal that would prevent another drug manufacturer from coming to the spot, they said.

"That would never happen," Kreutz said bluntly. "This is a very challenging part of the country" for such an industry.

In fact, he noted, it was more or less an accident that representatives of Montreal drug manufacturer Ayerst happened to get off the train in Rouses Point as they entered the United States is search of a spot for an American subsidiary.

They bought a former school buildng on the corner of Maple and Academy streets, setting up shop in 1934.

"It was a very romantic story," Kreutz said. 

 

The company really got cooking in the '60s, he said.

And by the time of its closure — by then Wyeth Pharmaceuticals — was announced, it was the largest private employer in Clinton County.

"We feel their pain," Kreutz said of the communities that lost those many jobs.

 

MATCHING NEEDS

ERS has several other projects in various stages of development in a number of states.

Due to nondisclosure agreements, Hynes said they can't share details about them except to say not all of them are industrial sites.

Some offer multiple mixed-use development.

"We deal with big companies who are risk-adverse," he said.

Pfizer, Kreutz added, "has been great to work with, very transparent.

"Our plan was very attractive to Pfizer — they were very particular about who they would do a transaction with."

 

NEEDS, EXPERTISE

Companies that come into the Rouses Point park may lease tenant buildings constructed for them by ERS or they may build their own.

"Development of a business park community is matching needs with expertise," Kreutz said. "Funding would be part of it."

Two warehouses, No. 21 and No. 25, may not be razed, the partners said, but that, too, remains to be seen.

Those buildings stand over 40 feet high and are filled with racks of steel shelving, the mayor said.

"The forklift (that serves them) looks like an elevator," he added.

 

If those buildings are re-purposed, it gives Gateway Industrial Park a head start in getting established, Batha said.

"That means they stay on the tax rolls."

Among buildings yet to come down is the one at the corner of Maple and Academy that sits where the original Ayerst facility sat, across from Rouses Point Elementary School.

ERS put those on the schedule for after school let out for the summer, Batha said.

 

GIVING BACK

Under discussion, the partners said, is the possibility of donating land to the village near its elevated water storage tower off Academy Street Extension for a new water purification plant.

Another arrangement may provide rights-of-way to extend Pineview Drive to Academy Street Extension and also connect Beechwood Drive to what would be the new Pineview Extension.

That would provide space for village growth, Batha said.

"Our commitment is to work for the best for everyone, especially the village," Kreutz said.

And ERS has been in contact with Northeastern Clinton Central School about establishing a work-experience program for students.

"These are the kinds of things that are very important to us," he said.

 

BEAUTIFUL PLACE

Rouses Point has much to recommend it to companies seeking a site, the partners said.

"The infrastructure here is phenomenal," Kreutz said, referring to the village's cheap electricity and water and wastewater systems.

"It's a beautiful place."

"Great cost of living," Hynes said.

"Our job is to put all those ingredients into a cake and bake it," Kreutz said.

"We think we can get it done."

He encouraged anyone with questions about the Rouses Point project to reach out through the contact box on the firm's website: http://ersinvest.net.

"We will get back to you, whoever it is."

 

Email Suzanne Moore:

smoore@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @editorSuzanne