PLATTSBURGH — When the Base Realignment and Closure Commission decided in 1993 to close Plattsburgh Air Force Base, community leaders figured it would take at least 15 to 20 years to fully redevelop the property.
Reflecting on the 17 years that have passed, many feel development has been on the right track and will continue to move forward.
“There still is tremendous potential out here,” said Gil Duken, chairman of the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corp. Board of Directors.
“We have some very valuable properties still available that can be developed and put back on the tax rolls and that would be very helpful to the community.”
One prized parcel is a lot off Route 9 and New York Road where the former Air Base Hospital once sat. Duken estimates that property could be worth up to $4 million.
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey said she is confident that parcel and the few others that remain on the market will sell eventually.
“What has happened out here so far has been a tremendous boon to the community,” Duprey said.
“And there are still great opportunities.”
The county has been awaiting word on whether Laurentian Aerospace will ultimately complete a deal to establish a $175 million aircraft-retrofitting operation on the flight line of Plattsburgh International Airport.
The project, which was first brought forward in 2006, could employ hundreds of people, if it develops as proposed.
“If Laurentian happens, the parcels that are left out here will sell overnight,” Duprey said.
“If it is not Laurentian, then it will be somebody else.”
Bill McBride, the longtime Chevrolet car dealer who was the first chairman of the Plattsburgh Intermunicipal Development Corp, which was the predecessor to PARC, said he is amazed at what has transpired over the past 17 years at the base site.
“You know 17 years ago there was a lot of skepticism about this, but nobody ever turned me down when I asked them to do a job, and great things were done,” said McBride, who is now 82.
“There still is plenty of potential, but it is time for the younger generation to step up and make it happen.”
Joe McNichols came to PAFB as a lieutenant in 1972. He retired as a colonel when the base closed in 1995. He now watches the progress of his former military home from his house in Cliff Haven.
“When they close a base like this, it is like losing a family member to those of us in the military,” McNichols said.
“But what they’ve done here since then has really worked out nice for the community.”
Plattsburgh International Airport Manager Chris Krieg said he believes the airport and the flight line will continue to grow.
“We are constantly pursuing other opportunities, and there is a lot of interest in the airport, and we are looking well into the future,” Krieg said.
The airport has boomed since opening in 2007, as it has been extremely popular with Canadian travelers looking to fly south.
A major expansion of the terminal is planned to begin next spring.
“The goal is to ultimately make the airport self-sufficient, and if you look at the growth that has occurred out here since 2007, I think we can do that,” Krieg said.
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