KEESEVILLE – The Keeseville Waterfront Park inches closer to reality after the demolition of a 1954 asbestos-laden building over recent weeks.
“This has been a project we've been working towards doing, I would say four or five years,” Steven Engelhart, executive director of Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH), said.
“It was complicated by the fact that we didn't own the property at the time when this idea was planted.
“We had to come to an arrangement with the George Moore family and then the estate of George Moore to acquire the property, which they very generously sold to us at a very low cost.”
The Moore family was excited about the prospect of turning the property into a public park and threw in their support.
“But before we were in a position to accept ownership of the property, we wanted have some confidence we could raise the funds necessary to demolish the building and to do the project,” Engelhart said.
“So it took a couple of years to get all or most of the funding in hand to be able to then acquire it. We didn't actually acquire it until December 2018.”
The Keeseville Waterfront Park is the tentative name of the property located on the west bank of the Ausable River.
“It might get renamed eventually,” he said.
“We would never have done this project if we didn't have the support of the Town of AuSable. The Town of AuSable is important for three big reasons.
“One is some of the funding for the project comes through the Town of AuSable. The town is also committed to do some of the preliminary landscape work on the site once the demolition work is done.
“So that's kind of an in-kind donation to make the project possible.”
Once the project is finished, AARCH will turn the property over to the town to manage as a town park.
“Because obviously AARCH is not in the business of managing public parks,” Engelhart said.
It is a two-phase project.
The first phase is demolition and remediation of all the asbestos and cleanup of the site.
“So that it is clean and clear,” he said.
“Then probably next spring the Town will start doing their piece of the project, which is to bring fill into the site and get it up to a basic grade level,” he said.
“Meanwhile over the winter, the landscape architects who are planning this project will complete their work.”
RE-GREENING OF AUSABLE RIVER
In early summer 2021, finished work will be accomplished including sidewalks, playground equipment, benches, landscape features and tree plantings.
“What we're seeing is in a way another example of the re-greening of the Ausable River, which is happening all up and down the river,” Engelhart said.
“For instance on the other side of the river from where this site is, there was also a big stone industrial building, which was owned by R. Prescott & Sons and that burned in a very, very big fire in the 1960s.”
The former Village of Keeseville created a public park where there is now outdoor concerts and Farmers Market on the site.
“We're doing exactly the same thing on the opposite of the river,” he said.
“We're taking down a 1950s industrial building and creating a public park on this site. We would like to think that these two green spaces will complement each other. They are connected together by the Pedestrian Bridge so that people will be able to get back and forth between them quite easily. It' another nice piece of the riverfront that's been revitalized.
The revitalization of the 1849 Stone Mill, owned by AARCH, was also a catalyst for the Keeseville Waterfront Park project.
“We realized one of the disincentives for doing that, whether it was something done by us or something done by a partner or something done by a completely different entity, was literally attached to this Stone Mill was this other building, the 1954 building, that was collapsing, was an eyesore and just detracted from the whole site,” Engelhart said.
“Now by creating a public park adjoining this project, we can see the redevelopment of the Stone Mill will now be seen much more favorably.
So, we hope this will sort of open the way for someone to take this project on, probably not us.”
It is hoped the redevelopment of this property, 11,000 sq feet. (two levels about 5,500 sq. feet per floor) leads to a thriving, exciting, public or semi-public space.
“Which could be some combination of residences or studios or commercial spaces,” Engelhart said.
“We don't know how it is going to be used, but it's riverfront location makes it a very exciting venue for all types of things.”
Email Robin Caudell: