Lyons Falls Mill Project: Then and Now

The Lyons Falls Mill site has been a designated priority project by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council and Lewis County.  Hazardous materials abatement and demolition of the site have been ongoing since 2011 and future plans for the site are currently in the works. 

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THE HISTORIC VILLAGE OF LYONS FALLS 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, as it was the largest employer in that area.  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 (LCDC) 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 LyonsFallsMill501(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.

What is a BOA, might you ask? The program provides municipalities and community based organizations with assistance, up to 90 percent of the eligible project costs, to complete revitalization plans and implementation strategies for areas or communities affected by the presence of brownfield sites, and site assessments for strategic brownfield sites.  Lyons Falls has been engaged in the BOA program for almost ten years and considerable progress has been made related to the mill site as well as other projects in the Village. 

Over the last 5 years, the LCDC, with the assistance of its partners, have obtained significant outside financing and have accomplished three out of the four phases of demolition and cleanup of the Lyons Falls mill property.  Currently, the LCIDA, LCDC, Village of Lyons Falls, and the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) are working together to apply and obtain outside grant financing to complete the project.  The cost of the final phase of the project is $1.6million.   In 2017, Lewis County Economic Development has led this effort applying for a CFA grant through Empire State Development, which was awarded December 13, 2017.  A federal EPA grant application was submitted in November, and a Restore NY grant was submitted December 2017. 

Market analysis and studies have been completed by consultants on targeted industries and different types of businesses that would make a good fit for the mill location.  Throughout this process, Lyons Falls has created a new “brand” for the Village, coining the phrase Lyons Falls Connects.  Larry Dolhof, president of the LCDC, stated that this brand simply means that Lyons Falls is the location where the Moose River lyonsfallsconnectsconnects with the Black River, and that their location also connects the Adirondacks and East to the Tug Hill Plateau and West.  The Village plans to use this branding in their future tourism and economic development marketing.

In addition to the mill site project, BOA consultants have discussed, with the Village of Lyons Falls, integrating plans for beautification of streetscapes, providing more green space within the Village, restoring the historic Black River Canal, creating a Rails to Trails system, and identifying revitalization for many other strategic sites within the Village.  The Village of Lyons Falls and its partners will work together to seek funding to help these projects become a reality. 

We are optimistic that the finalization of the demolition and cleanup project at the Lyons Falls mill site is near, and that the Village can get that  “fresh start” that they very much deserve.  If you are looking to invest in Lyons Falls, or simply want more information on the progress of these projects, visit http://www.lyonsfallsconnects.com/home/ or https://lyonsfallsboa.wordpress.com/, or contact Lewis County Economic Development at 315-376-3014 or info@naturallylewis.com!

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