Cornell University students working on Canajoharie Beech-Nut plan

Village of Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery, center, pictured Feb. 7 giving a tour of downtown Canajoharie to Cornell University students. (Photo submitted)

CANAJOHARIE — Montgomery County officials and students in an urban design class from Cornell University are collaborating to start eliciting new ideas for the former Beech-Nut plant.

As a project, students will be creating proposals for the redevelopment of the site.

According to a news release, County Attorney Meghan Manion, an alumna of Cornell, reached out to the Department of City and Regional Planning to explore the possibility of using the Exit 29 site as a possible case study for students. Manion was put in contact with Mitch Glass, a visiting critic at Cornell University in the Department of City and Regional Planning and Landscape Architecture. Glass said the project aligned with topics he wanted to teach this semester.

County Executive Matt Ossenfort, village of Canajoharie officials, staff from the Business Development Center, Manion and Acito CC met with students in a kickoff meeting on Feb. 7. During the meeting, students asked questions about the site and the history of the community.

“It’s really great to work with all of you on this project and to get all of this energy and insight from Cornell students,” Manion said during the meeting.

County Executive Matthew L. Ossenfort speaks to Cornell University students before touring the village of Canajoharie Feb. 7. (Photo submitted)

Following the meeting, Glass and Jeffrey Chusid, associate professor and chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning brought the 18 students to tour the village and perimeter of the former Beech-Nut plant.

“Our team is excited and truly honored that Cornell took an interest in our project,” Ossenfort said. “We are looking forward to the students’ ideas and are hopeful they will give us some insight as we continue moving forward with the redevelopment process.”

The class will be working in teams of four or five and each team will have a different theme to explore in terms of revitalization for Canajoharie and the former Beech-Nut plant. Groups will submit a proposal for the site at the end of the semester.

“We really want to hear all of the ideas that are going on. This is the kind of workshop that is really deeply in the bones of our department,” Chusid said. “We love being out in the community, that’s what Cornell is around for and does in communities throughout the region. We are happy to be here, we are honored to be here and we love the chance to be of service and to learn about Canajoharie.”

Glass said past studies, conditions of the site and economic conditions of the region will all be embedded into the strategies the students are working on.

“It has to be real, it can’t just be pie in the sky because we would draw anything you could imagine, but at the end of the day it has to make sense and it has to be exciting and it has to be provocative to see both the Beech-Nut site and the village in new ways and sort of help that conversation forward,” Glass said.

Village of Canajoharie Deputy Mayor Jeffrey Baker, who was present during the kickoff meeting and tour, spoke to the students.

“Maybe your idea is the one that’s embedded in our children’s future, so good luck and thank you,” he said.

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