Trading Places: FedEx to be easy replacement for Corporate Park facility

In what may prove to be a pretty neat swap, the tentative plan to have FedEx move into a warehouse formerly designated for an Eagle Beverage distribution center on lot 12 of the Jefferson County Corporate Park should go off without much difficulty, according to developers.

Watertown Planning Board co-chairman Thomas E. Boxberger said only minor changes were made to developer Michael E. Lundy’s Eagle Beverage plans, which were originally approved by the board on Oct. 15. The FedEx center will be smaller, at 64,000 square feet, than the proposed 72,000-square-foot Eagle Beverage facility. A lot line adjustment will be made to accommodate a larger parking lot and a fence will be added to secure the facility. The adjacent property is owned by Mr. Lundy, with whom the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency has signed a two-year development contract.

Because the revised site plan is being submitted by the same developer, approval is expected on the project before the next Planning Board meeting Feb. 4.

According to Mr. Lundy, Eagle Beverage, which had signed a letter of intent to develop the property in September, had decided instead to make major renovations to its facilities in Oswego County.

Christian L. Morgia, owner of Eagle Beverage, confirmed that the plans to build in Watertown had been scuttled, saying, “We’re not building in Watertown. That’s the truth.”

However, he did not confirm Mr. Lundy’s statement about the company’s plans to renovate its Oswego-based operations.

“We’re going somewhere but we don’t necessarily know where we’re going,” he said.

JCIDA CEO Donald C. Alexander is still confident that something with Eagle Beverage will work out in the future. He said there was talk of Eagle Beverage building a “smaller, but important, distribution center in the corporate park to serve environs to the east and northeast.”

Mr. Lundy forecast that project for 2014.

Mr. Morgia called any plans to expand operations in Oswego or build a smaller hub in Watertown “very, very preliminary.”

In an earlier Times story, Mr. Lundy said he believed that Eagle Beverage would sell the 30,000-square-foot distribution center it currently operates in Pamelia if it built any kind of facility in Watertown, but Mr. Morgia said the company had no plans to move from the Pamelia facility or to sell it anytime in the foreseeable future.

The Eagle Beverage project was the subject of a fair amount of controversy in September when Pamelia Supervisor Lawrence C. Longway called the plan “unwarranted,” objecting to the fact that his municipality, which was projected to lose the economic benefit of hosting the center, was not consulted by the JCIDA during discussion about the deal, which was expected to include tax breaks.

At the time, JCIDA Deputy CEO David J. Zembiec said that the deal was tentative and that no incentives had been discussed.

In November, the Jefferson County Board of Legislators passed a resolution authorizing the JCIDA to offer a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement to Eagle Beverage for the project.

Eagle Beverage’s decision to pull out of the development on outer Coffeen Street presented an opportunity to fast-track the project for FedEx, which is outgrowing the space it leases at 22530 Fisher Road in the County Industrial Park.

Mr. Alexander said the JCIDA has been in talks for at least six months about the construction of a new FedEx facility, though the deal has yet to be “signed, sealed and delivered.”

Scott A. Fiedler, a spokesperson for FedEx, said, “We continually review our network and enhance it as necessary to better serve our customers,” declining to comment on the specific project, citing company policy.

If the site plan is approved, FedEx is expected to move on the project following a 90-day due diligence period, Mr. Lundy said.

-Daniel Flatley, Watertown Daily Times staff writer