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Democrat Photo by Dan Hust

PICTURE THIS AS an upscale housing development, and you’ll get a sense of what officials are hoping will be a new life for the mostly empty Woodridge Feed Mill on Green Avenue.

Once a Factory,
Now a Home?

By Dan Hust
WOODRIDGE — April 7, 2006 – Turn a feed mill into a housing development?
Is that even possible?
According to Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development Vice President Don Perry, not only is it possible, it’s a growing trend throughout the world.
In a December 2005 report to the Woodridge Village Board, Perry detailed how former feed mills, grain elevators and similar industrial structures have staved off a long, slow deterioration by being transformed into upscale high-rises.
And he’s of the mind that the same can happen at the Inter-County Farmers Cooperative Association’s old grain feed mill off Green Avenue in Woodridge.
Woodridge Mayor Ivan Katz agrees.
“It fits the village perfectly,” he said this week. “It would be great for Woodridge.”
For one, Perry recommended that the apartments be priced below luxury but above low-income – “given the economic demographics of the Woodridge area, it would be ideal to attract residents with greater disposable income and thus capable of helping to boost retail sales and support new businesses catering to residents’ needs on the main downtown shopping strip.”
The mill, after all, is located next door to the village hall, which itself anchors the eastern end of Woodridge’s struggling downtown business district.
And though only Perry will address it publicly, a private hope of village residents and officials is that it will force the neighboring egg processing facilities to permanently resolve persistent odor problems.
When contacted Wednesday, Perry said the Partnership is taking that into account and plans on obtaining a grant to put a “green roof” on Newburgh Egg’s plant to be more environmentally friendly, along with relandscaping the area to make it more attractive.
Of course, any potential developer – of which none have yet been approached – would want all this done ahead of opening day.
The whole project isn’t really one yet, anyway. The December report was the result of a request by Inter-County to investigate ways to make the feed mill viable, as it has been on the market for years, said Perry. The near-100-page document was solely meant to be conceptual, he explained.
The Partnership, however, is now in the midst of preparing a full feasibility study, engaging engineers, architects, real estate agents and developers familiar in such conversions. That study is due to be complete by June, said Perry.
If realized, such a project would be a major shift in usage of Woodridge’s largest factory. The earliest structures on the two-acre site date back to the first half of the 20th century, but their wooden frames have mostly been overshadowed by the 100-foot-tall concrete building and four 5-story silos that greet passersby.
That expansion happened in 1955 right next to the O&W Railway tracks that would disappear just two years later; nevertheless, the mill operated for 35 more years processing and supplying grain to various businesses and individuals.
Inter-County Farmers Cooperative Association, which has been the sole owner for the mill’s entire existence, still has an active office next to a printing plant in a small part of the otherwise dormant complex.
Developable space is around 80,000 square feet, estimated Perry, with a range of possible configurations. In his report, Perry explored the possibility of offering 480-square-foot studio and 580-square-foot 1-bedroom apartments. Utilizing a similar arrangement already in existence elsewhere in the country, Perry figured about 155 apartments could be offered as a senior housing complex.
Regardless of who inhabited the old mill, there’d also be room for anything from meeting rooms to a pool, a cafeteria to a solarium, even exercise and game facilities.
But what about the outside of the uniformly brownish-gray structures?
“The biggest hurdle for people is the visual one,” Perry acknowledged.
Then again, he said, “if I were sitting in Woodridge and had that eyesore to look at . . . I think I’d be interested [in this project]!”
It beats tearing it down, he added, because “the thing is built like a tank” – with much of it foot-thick concrete reinforced by steel bars.
“The idea of trying to demolish that . . .,” Perry said, trailing off at the thought of such a monumental effort.
He’s hoping developers will latch on to the building enthusiasm for converting the mill, as he plans to take the idea on the road once the feasibility study is complete. And there are public grants to tap into if this really gets going, he added.
Regardless, it seems Perry and village officials agree that this incorporated village of 900 souls could use the infusion of residents and money.
“It is evident . . . that there is a strong case to be made for the conversion of the Woodridge feed mill to residential housing,” wrote Perry in his conceptual report. “The size of the site, the amount of potential developable square footage, the proximity to retail and recreational amenities, and the potential for substantial density all would seem to point to the possibility of a successful residential conversion.”
“I don’t think anybody would be against it,” agreed Mayor Katz, echoing the thoughts of a unanimously favorable board.
Looking for more info? Perry’s happy to talk about it – call 794-1110.

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