Lewis IDA officials hoping to soon close on Climax building

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County Industrial Development Agency officials are hoping to soon close on the former Climax Manufacturing Co. building and use it to house multiple businesses and other organizations.

“It could really be that one-stop shop,” IDA Executive Director Eric J. Virkler said during a board meeting Thursday, noting the IDA and other local development agencies could all utilize space in the mammoth building.

Mr. Virkler said his agency could close on the 170,000-square-foot building at 7840 Route 26 as soon as the next week or two.

He declined to divulge the planned purchase price, noting all such details would be announced after the closing is final, but did say it would be well below the listing price of $2 million through Syracuse real estate company CBRE.

The building — which includes sections that were used for office, manufacturing and warehouse space — is adjacent to roughly 40 acres of farmland owned by Allen W. Matuszczak on which the IDA has a purchase option and hopes to develop into a commerce park featuring five shovel-ready building sites. The IDA in December 2016 was awarded $130,000 toward the latter project.

While agency officials intend to continue moving forward with the commerce park, they have asked ESD to let them use that money for the Climax purchase instead, as that is the more immediate need, Mr. Virkler said. However, they have yet to hear back from the state agency, he said.

Even without the state funding, Mr. Virkler said the IDA would have enough money for the purchase in its economic development project fund, created in 2016 by a $700,000 transfer from the county and bolstered later that year by an additional $400,000 county transfer using surplus sales tax revenue. IDA officials are also looking at securing a line of credit through a local bank to cover any needed upgrade costs, he said.

As part of the deal, Carthage Specialty Paperboard, which has been using part of the building for warehousing space, could continue to use 80,000 square feet, another business is very interested in leasing space and a few others have been informally approached, Mr. Virkler said.

There was also some discussion at Thursday’s meeting about the possibility of Lewis County leasing some office space in the former manufacturing facility.

County Manager Ryan M. Piche said this is a good time to begin having those discussions, as BCA Architects and Engineers, Watertown, recently completed a five-year capital plan on the county’s behalf.

“This needs to be part of the conversation,” he said. “I don’t know where it will go.”

While calling the building a “beautiful space,” Mr. Piche cautioned that government typically moves more slowly than the private sector.

If and when they do take control of the building, IDA officials said they intend to develop a marketing plan to try to bring in tenants.

IDA board member Christina J. Schneider suggested eventually contacting commercial real estate agents to see if they could help. “They typically bring you clients you wouldn’t get otherwise,” she said.

Climax was abruptly shuttered April 1, 2016, by corporate owner DeltaPoint Capital, Rochester, displacing 158 workers. DeltaPoint also owns Carthage Specialty Paperboard, which closed temporarily and is undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, but that was split from the Lowville operation several years ago.

IDA attorneys said the bankruptcy should not impact the pending sale of the former mill here, since the building is owned by a separate corporation: Climax RE Holdings.

The former mill still contains some old equipment and chemicals, and IDA officials said some kind of disposal plan will need to be in place before they will take title to the property.

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