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Village eyes host of options for Waterbury Felt Mill site

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
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Posted 2/27/23

From small shops and cafes to a local brewery or apartments, a variety of options are being considered for the future of the historic Waterbury Felt Mill.

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Village eyes host of options for Waterbury Felt Mill site


ORISKANY — From small shops and cafes to a local brewery or apartments, a variety of options are being considered for the future of the historic Waterbury Felt Mill.

Last month, the village applied for a $2 million Restore NY grant offered by Empire State Development. Projects that worked to demolish, deconstruct, repair, and rebuild empty, abandoned, condemned, or surplus properties were eligible for the funding.

If received, the grant funding would be used toward the demolition and restoration work planned for the site. The total project cost is $5 million, with developers Adam Kernan and Swift Rescue, providing an additional $3 million.

Located at 107 River St., the former Waterbury Felt Mill has a two-century history with the village. The first textile mill on the site, Oriskany Manufacturing Company, was incorporated in 1811.

Village officials said plans call for cleaning out portions of the site and restoring parts of the mill for viable use. A large portion of the roof on the former Waterbury & Son Felt Company building fell in February 2018. That section is set for demolition.

“Nothing is cast in stone” as far as future development for the site being considered, said Village Mayor Clifford O’Connor, adding that even the Village Green/Park Row area of Clinton has been considered as a possible model. “That will be up to the developer, and the planning board will work with them.”

O’Connor said there has been talk of possibly transforming the site into between 36-40 apartments. But the projected demolition of the collapsed roof portion of the building has taken first priority, he said.

“It could be senior housing, storefronts, or little restaurants, or bar/restaurants, eateries, maybe even a little brewery or pub,” the mayor said. “They also mentioned a small grocery store with fresh meat and produce — because all we have in the village is the Dollar General store — or a bakery.”

The main focus right now is to clean up the fallen portion of the former mill, which O’Connor has referred to as Phase I of the overall project. Considered an “eyesore” for a few years, the mayor said he hopes once that phase is complete, it will encourage more development in the area surrounding the mill.

“Right now, we’d love to get (the collapsed portion) knocked down and cleaned up — that would be Phase I,” he said.

In order to help promote safe pedestrian traffic in the area of Route 69 and River Street, especially with the Nice N’ Easy gas station/convenience store at the corner, and ensure the future success of the development, O’Connor said the state Department of Transportation is already planning to install a crosswalk this spring or early summer.

Starting in July 2019, the traffic light at the intersection of Route 69 and River Street went from a blinking red and caution signal, to a three-colored (red, yellow and green) signal with construction on the Utica Street bridge. Village officials wound up permanently changing the light to a three-way signal, as the intersection had been known for its high volume of traffic accidents over the years.

“It’s a blessing, that light,” said O’Connor, referring to the three-way signal. “The state is going to put in a crosswalk over to Nice N’ Easy and we’ll also get a more modern (traffic) light.”

As for when the Waterbury Mill will be transformed into what planners and developers agree to envision for the site, the mayor said it will be a “long process.”

“It took about 25 years to build up Griffiss (Business and Technology Park) and to build up the Nano Center (in Marcy), so I hope we’re faster than that, but the clean-up alone will take at least a year or two,” O’Connor said.

Village officials, Mohawk Valley EDGE and LaBella Associates of Rochester held informational and public feedback sessions on the remediation process of the site back in September, during the Wednesday Oriskany Farmers Market at Trinkaus Park. At that time, EDGE announced it had received $300,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop remediation plans for brownfield sites across Oneida County, and the former felt mill was selected for use of the funding by EDGE.

In the meantime, O’Connor said that the village will keep looking for more grants and other ways to get money to help clear and build on the site.

“We hope to apply for more grants out there, but we’re hoping to receive the Restore NY grant and get some movement” on the clean-up, he said. “The application went in on Jan. 27, and Mohawk Valley EDGE thinks we have a really good chance.”


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