Former Hamilton paper mill at center of demolition disagreement

Hamilton’s Architectural Design Review Board on Tuesday will consider demolition of a building at a former Mohawk Fine Papers Beckett Mill property. Several of the buildings on the site has been demolished following a fire in 2015. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Hamilton’s Architectural Design Review Board on Tuesday will consider demolition of a building at a former Mohawk Fine Papers Beckett Mill property. Several of the buildings on the site has been demolished following a fire in 2015. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The owner of a historic building on the former Beckett Paper Mill site wants to tear it down, but a number of citizens — including City Manager Joshua Smith — say they oppose a demolition.

The matter was to go before a city panel on Tuesday, but after City Manager Joshua Smith contacted a representative of the company that owns the property, the man agreed to pull the matter from Tuesday’s agenda.

Simfall LLC, based in Lockport, N.Y., has owned the structure since late 2015, when it bought the former mill, which most recently was operated by Mohawk Fine Papers until 2012.

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The structure, known as the “blue building” on the property at 400 Dayton St., is described in the company’s demolition request as a former warehouse, which city staff notes “has been vacant for over 5 years.”

After a reporter for this media outlet asked Smith about the proposed demolition, which was to go before the city’s Architectural Design Review Board at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Smith said he was disappointed to hear the company requested the demolition.

“I will be here (for the meeting) at 4 p.m. (Tuesday), because I’m opposed to that,” Smith said. Smith said the building was built by Web Cullen, who also put up Hamilton’s downtown YMCA and other buildings.

“I’ve already told the contractor that we wanted to save that building, so I’m upset that…” Smith said.

“I’m going to come speak against that,” Smith said, adding he planned to speak with a company representative.

Later on Monday, David R. Wendt, representing Simfall, told this media outlet he had agreed to pull the issue from Tuesday’s agenda so he could speak with Smith. But he reserved the right to request the demolition at a later ADRB meeting.

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“I have agreed, after my conversation with him, to have the application pulled from the agenda for (tonight),” Wendt said. “He and I are going to talk at some point, probably (Monday) or (Tuesday), because I’m only 45 minutes from Hamilton now. I drove all the way out here for the meeting.

“I don’t know what we’re going to talk about, but I would assume — and it’s completely an assumption on my part — we’re going to talk about whether there’s something we can do with the building.”

The building is on a historic inventory.

“I’m not withdrawing it with the understanding that it can’t be put on the agenda again,” Wendt said. “I couldn’t do that because if it falls into any more disrepair, if it can’t be fixed.”

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According to a city staff report to the architectural panel, “the property underwent an inspection for fire safety on Aug. 23, 2017. Notes from that inspection indicate that the condition of the building is unsafe for entry.”

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