LYONS FALLS, NY - Where the Moose and Black Rivers connect in the Village of Lyons Falls, there is tremendous opportunity for community revitalization. After a decade of demolition and clean-up, the six-million-dollar project at the former Lyons Falls Pulp and Paper Mill has come to an end. The Village of Lyons Falls is looking forward to the next phase of redevelopment and downtown revitalization for the location that had been known as the Village’s largest enterprise, and one of the County’s largest employers for over a century. The Lewis County Development Corporation (LCDC) is spearheading the next phase of development by forming an Ad Hoc Committee to discuss the future of the Lyons Falls High Falls site and will look to the community for input for Lyons Falls redevelopment.
THE HISTORY - The historic village of Lyons Falls, New York became an incorporated municipality in 1899, planting its roots on the Black River to allow for industrial growth for many years to come. For 100 years, the Lyons Falls Pulp and Paper Mill operated on the High Falls site, until its closure in 2001. The closing of the mill was extremely detrimental to Southern Lewis County. Not only did hundreds of residents lose jobs, but small businesses closed, leaving the main streets of Lyons Falls empty and abandoned.
In 2011, the Lewis County Development Corporation acquired the mill property after a number of years of attempting to work with the previous owner on a redevelopment plan. The LCDC is a 501(c)3 entity with a primary purpose of economic and community development in Lewis County. At the same time, the property and other numerous sites within the Village of Lyons Falls achieved NYS official designation for its Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) program, which would help in assisting in future revitalization plans. Over the last 10 years, the LCDC, with the assistance of its partners, have obtained significant public and private financing and have completed demolition and cleanup of the Lyons Falls High Falls property.
Kruger Energy, a hydro facility, is currently located next to the site and has been a provider of hydroelectricity at High Falls for a number of years. In 2018, the site secured its first tenant in the only building left on the property: Black River Valley Natural (BRVN). BRVN is a small-scale dairy processor who purchases local milk and produces various dairy products, such as creamline whole milk, flavored milks, artisan flavored butters, various cheeses, and various co-packed products for other dairy and goat farms in the region. Black River Valley Natural was the first business to invest and create jobs on the former mill site since 2001.
LYONS FALLS FUTURE - With excitement, the LCDC looks to the community to provide support and guidance for the future of the remainder of the nine-acre High Falls Site development. The first Ad Hoc Committee Meeting was held at the beginning of December comprised of LCDC board members, Lewis County Industrial Development Agency staff, the Development Authority of the North Country, Lyons Falls residents and business owners. The LCDC emphasizes the need to have community involvement in the redevelopment of the site, making it essential to the success of the Village and the community. The committee determined that infrastructure improvements for the future expansion of Black River Valley Natural, as well as other future site developments, was the first step. Creating a site plan that shows the easily developable areas, as well as the square footage allowances, was also a top priority. Ultimately, bringing jobs back to the site, as well as site beautification and utilizing the river as a community asset in redevelopment were high on the priority list.
The opportunity for revitalization in Lyons Falls does not stop at the High Falls site. The committee is helping to bring the brand “Lyons Falls Connects” to life as they determine community development strategies for revitalization of recreation, business and preserving the village history. The committee has discussed matters as small as roadway signage and concepts as big as aspiring to become a recreational hub for Lewis County.
“Though the closing of the paper mill hurt the community, the sight of it’s slow decay was salt in the wound,” shared Lyons Falls Mayor, Beau J. Bailey. “Watching the demolition process was also difficult, but the cleanup has helped us to heal and begin visualizing the next chapter for our beautiful little village. I look forward to the new opportunities that await our residents and visitors in the coming months as this once bustling complex is revived and developed with new purpose. We will bring downtown Lyons Falls back to life again!”
The LCDC will host a ribbon cutting ceremony in the spring to recognize the progress, highlight partners of the project, and to unveil the vision for the next phases of redevelopment in Spring 2021.
For more information on the project, visit www.naturallylewis.com. If you are interested in developing on the site, or getting involved, contact the Lewis County IDA at 315-376-3014.