VERONA — Verona officials have high hopes for more than 80 acres of land across from Turning Stone Resort Casino.
The Town of Verona is working with Mohawk Valley EDGE and others on the early phases for a proposed mixed-use development project along Willow Place, located off Route 365.
At this stage, project developers envision the transformative development of new tourism, commercial and retail opportunities to capitalize on what Turning Stone currently brings to the area.
Verona Town Supervisor Scott Musacchio said the Willow Place development will be a “great project,” estimating it is capable of creating a few hundred jobs if it all comes together.
“It’s a sales-tax windfall for the county in general,” he said. “It’ll be a good complement for the existing campus there with the Turning Stone.”
Mohawk Valley EDGE has been involved as a project facilitator for a little more than a year, said EDGE Project Manager Tim Fitzgerald.
“I think you look at that there are a couple million visitors to the Turning Stone each year for gambling, golfing and all the other amenities that the Turning Stone offers,” Fitzgerald said. “This area could really round out a tourist vacation experience, if there’s maybe something that provides more family-friendly entertainment options for kids or retail, being a nice supplemental aspect for a tourism destination.”
None of the targeted properties are owned by the Oneida Indian Nation. A request for comment from Oneida officials was not immediately returned.
Improving Willow Place
Fitzgerald said the agency worked with Verona to pursue funding for a separate, but key part of the project: improving Willow Place and installing a new road extension between Route 365 and Willow Place. The new 900-foot-long road extension would essentially create a four-way intersection where the Thruway exits onto Route 365.
Musacchio said Verona already has secured the land needed for the extension through a $1.2 million purchase from the New York State Thruway Authority. Project goals also include improvements to the area’s stormwater management infrastructure and Route 365 traffic signals as well as a driveway reconfiguration for the La Quinta Inn & Hotels.
Including that acquisition, the roadwork is estimated to cost about $4.5 million. The town was awarded an $890,000 grant from the state in December, while project developers currently are exploring ways to possibly fund the remainder of the cost, whether it is through grants, bonding or town funds.
‘Flexible’ with the details
With the mixed-use development, a request for development proposals has been issued to developers from the Northeast region, Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said the return date is somewhat open-ended at this point as developers may need more time to submit full proposals. Beyond that, Fitzgerald said the process will be ongoing since anyone interested will likely want to first see continued work with the Willow Place infrastructure and extension.
Much of the land targeted for the development is vacant, though there are some single-family residences as well as the 6.9 acres where the La Quinta is located.
Fitzgerald said the La Quinta property was included as there is suitable, additional land that could handle more development, such as small retail or a restaurant.
Property owners in general, Fitzgerald said, have been involved in the process thus far. Town assessment records indicate there are 11 tax parcels owned by six entities within the project area.
Fitzgerald said the project’s idea was first developed between the property owners and the town prior to EDGE’s involvement.
“They’ve all worked on the creation of this (request for proposals) to a greater or less extent,” he said. “We’ve kept them in the loop and shared draft versions of it. They’ve provided feedback along the way.”
That said, while about 80 acres have been identified for this endeavor, Fitzgerald said it might not all happen at once.
“They have really wanted to be flexible in this process,” Fitzgerald said of the property owners. “Whatever is the most palatable to developers, they are willing to negotiate. It could be lease, it could be purchase and it could be one large-scale development or it could be piecemeal, property by property — or maybe a section of the properties at once.”
Contact reporter Greg Mason at 315-792-5074 or follow on Twitter (@OD_Mason).