Developer plans 360-unit apartment complex in LeRay near Fort Drum

A Michigan developer with an affinity for military housing projects plans to build a 360-unit apartment complex on Route 11 in the town of LeRay, in Fort Drum’s backyard.

To be called LeRay Place Apartments, the development is proposed on a 51-acre parcel to be purchased from owner Robert P. Gillespie about a half-mile south of Route 342 on the west side of Route 11.

Management Resources Development, East Lansing, Mich., wants to build 350 two-bedroom and 10 one-bedroom rental apartments at the site.

Those units will be spread equally among 10 three-story apartment buildings, with 36 units apiece. Also featured is a 2,031-square-foot clubhouse featuring a pool, fitness room and office space.

The developer, who has eyed the location for about two years, has submitted preliminary plans to the LeRay Planning Board to set the project in motion. Though it is eager to break ground on the project in the fall, an obstacle could delay that timeline: the parcel is a wildlife habitat for the sedge wren and Henslow’s sparrow, both endangered grassland birds, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

That will mean the developer will have to conduct environmental studies in the spring before the Planning Board can approve its proposal.

A civil engineering firm based in Indiana, hired by the developer to design the project, expects to complete those studies in the next 60 days. Nathan R. Waggner, principal for Cash Waggner & Associates of Jasper, Ind., said he is optimistic the town will approve the project this summer for work to begin in the fall. The project will take about a year to complete.

“We first have to do the required studies for the birds and archaeology to make sure the site’s clear, but those projects are in the works,” he said.

Realistically, though, the project will be pushed back by a few months because of the required environmental studies, town planner Jessica L. Jenack said.

“They intend to get approvals by the fall, but timeline-wise, that’s going to be hard,” she said. “The project hasn’t even come before our Planning Board yet for review.”

The construction work would be awarded to a local contractor in a competitive bidding process after the town approves the project, Mr. Waggner said. The developer doesn’t plan to pursue a tax incentive for construction to make the project more affordable.

The two-bedoom apartments are expected to be occupied primarily by small military families and older military members. “The developer has a track record of working with military bases and providing housing for military personnel,” Mr. Waggner said. “They know the market here.”

The Michigan developer’s website,, shows it has completed housing projects at military bases in Alabama, Kentucky, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The company states on its website that it’s “proud to serve our military families. Our goal is to provide comfortable, spacious, well built homes.” Examples of homes are featured on the site.

A call to the developer Friday was not returned.

Though the project could be delayed by environmental studies, the property is otherwise in an ideal location from the town’s perspective. The parcel is already zoned properly for the project and connected to the town’s water and sewer districts.

“In the late ’80s, it was a subject for a bid by a developer for a (military) housing project that never got off the ground,” said Steven T. Harter, the LeRay supervisor’s administrative clerk.

-Ted Booker, Watertown Daily Times staff writer