May 2016: Business Briefcase

TRANSACTIONS

Valentine plans sale of stores to Sunoco

Valentine Stores Inc. announced last month that it has agreed to sell its entire portfolio of convenience stores, gas stations and restaurants to a subsidiary of Sunoco, one of the nation’s largest gas distribution companies. [Read more…]

F.X. Caprara Honda is now open on Bradley Street

Employees and customers take to the showroom at the new F.X. Caprara Honda dealership, which opened Monday on Bradley Street, just off Interstate 81. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

Employees and customers take to the showroom at the new F.X. Caprara Honda dealership, which opened Monday on Bradley Street, just off Interstate 81. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

They say nothing beats that new car smell, and the newly-opened F.X. Caprara Honda dealership on outer Bradley Street is ripe with it. [Read more…]

February 2016: Business Briefcase

MILESTONES

Watertown Chamber names award winners

The Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce recently announced recipients of 2015 Business of the Year awards. [Read more…]

New Pizza Hut approved by Canton Village Planning Board

CANTON — The village Planning Board on Tuesday night unanimously approved a site plan for a new Pizza Hut in the University Plaza on Route 11. The new site is about 200 yards from the existing Pizza Hut and will include a drive-through area. [Read more…]

Miami developer mulls building outlet mall, arena near Fort Drum

EVANS MILLS — A Miami developer is considering building a 600,000-square-foot outlet mall with a multi-purpose arena near Fort Drum’s main gate off Route 11 in LeRay, according to the town supervisor. [Read more…]

Route 11 closure irks Adams business owners affected by detoured traffic

Michael Behling stands on Route 11 in Adams Center, in front of construction at the Hart Brook culvert that is diverting traffic around the area. He is concerned that the closure will negatively affect his business. Amanda Morrison/ Watertown Daily Times

Business owners are worried they will lose customers during a culvert replacement project that is expected to keep a stretch of Route 11 closed until September.

Detour signs went up Monday morning advising northbound and southbound drivers to hop on Interstate 81 to avoid a quarter-mile section between Michaels Road and Spook Hill Road, where a culvert will be replaced at the Hart Brook bridge. The construction zone is between Adams Center and Adams; the detour steers traffic to routes 177 and 178 to and from I-81.

Drivers can still get to businesses beyond the detour signs until they reach the section being repaired, which is closed to all traffic. But merchants fear customers now won’t go out of their way to shop.

One business already affected is Behling’s Spookhill Farms store at 12139 Route 11, near the intersection of Michaels Road. The produce stand, an Adams Center fixture, is only a short drive beyond the southbound detour sign, where only local traffic may pass. But owner Michael W. Behling already noticed business slowing Monday.

“The road didn’t actually close until about a half hour ago,” he said Monday afternoon. “But this morning workers put the detour signs up, and it’s been dead.”

Most customers at the produce stand are local residents who make a habit of stopping by because it’s convenient, Mr. Behling said. But he predicted many Adams residents who commute to Watertown now will take I-81 on their way home from work. Driving to the produce stand would require those customers to backtrack, which he fears the after-work crowd won’t be willing to do.

“I think the local people in Adams will continue to come,” he said. “But if they’re coming in from Watertown, they’re probably just going to stay on I-81. Normally they would stop by to get some apples or sweet corn if they’re passing on Route 11, but it will now take a big effort. I think the after-work crowd is going to be the toughest.”

Unlike some other proprietors affected by the closure, though, Mr. Behling said he is willing to put up with the inconvenience of slower business so the project can get done. The Jefferson County legislator, who represents the town of Adams, said he has listened to business owners complain about construction work numerous times as an elected official.

“It’s just one of those things that happens,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but I guess it’s now my turn as a business owner.”

The cluster of businesses on the other side of the work zone, south of Michael Road, also will share the pain of lost traffic. Among them are Fuccillo’s Auto Mall, Tops Friendly Supermarkets, Subway, Ace Hardware and Stewart’s Shop.

McDermott’s Midtown Deli, directly across from Fuccillo’s at 10412 Route 11, captures much of its business from northbound traffic, owner Robin S. McDermott said. But she expects lunchtime traffic to slow down during August because of the project. She contended that DOT should have kept one lane open where the culvert is being replaced.

“There’s no doubt this will affect our bottom line here,” Ms. McDermott said. “The answer is anyone who’s coming north from Mannsville or Pulaski isn’t going to get off I-81, and the ones going south are going to do the same thing.”

She continued, “It usually takes eight minutes to make deliveries to customers on Route 11 in Watertown Center, but it’s now going to take me a half-hour.”

Jeffrey S. Pratt, general manager of the Ace Hardware store at 10799 Route 11, said using the I-81 detour is going to cost the store more time and money to deliver inventory.

“I don’t know how many people from Adams are working in Watertown that won’t come in,” but there will be some, he said.

Traffic at Stewart’s Shop, however, is expected to get a boost from the closure, manager Michelle R. Duffy said. She said many of the store’s customers who live in Adams will fill up their gas tanks there before they commute on I-81 to Watertown, because of the Route 11 closure.

“I’ve had a lot of my customers say they’re going to fill up here in the morning, so hopefully we’ll get more business out of this. It’s their first stop before they get on I-81.”

-Ted Booker, Watertown Daily Times

Developer submits plan for USAA bank off Route 11

A developer has submitted a preliminary site plan to the town of LeRay Planning Board to build a USAA Financial Center in front of the Walmart Supercenter on Route 11.

U.S. Real Estate Limited Partnership, San Antonio, Texas, proposes to construct a 4,485-square-foot bank on a vacant parcel owned by Walmart.

The plan for the bank, which specializes in serving military bases, comes after the Planning Board recently approved a plan for a Northern Credit Union branch on the parcel to the immediate north of the site.

The developer’s application indicates it plans to move swiftly, breaking ground on the project in the fall. It won’t have to complete any environmental studies on the 1.36-acre parcel because the Planning Board previously approved an environmental assessment form on behalf of Walmart for the land.

The plan calls for an entrance to the bank on the southbound side of Route 11, two drive-thru automated teller machines and 40 parking spaces.

-Ted Booker, Watertown Daily Times

Gateway Island Park to showcase downtown Philadelphia to traffic on Route 11

Philadelphia village Mayor Matthew J. Montroy stands on Route 11 overlooking Island Park, which will be cleared of trees and the pedestrian bridge will incorporate a new deck, rendition above. Amanda Morrison/ Watertown Daily Times

A walking bridge crosses a small island on the Indian River to lead from the village downtown to the area of Kent Lane Park and Philadelphia Primary School alongside Route 11.

Residents use the bridge daily, yet drivers whizzing by on the highway overhead don’t notice it, because the island is thick with trees and brush. That soon will change, however, with a project designed to transform the site into a village landmark and show it off to encourage more businesses to open here.

“The trees are coming down so when you’re looking through on Route 11 to Main Street, you’ll be able to see all of the businesses here,” said Matthew J. Montroy, mayor since 2009. “We wanted to build something that’s pleasing to the eyes. The idea is to get people to come, and in turn, get businesses to come.”

After four years of planning, the village is putting final touches on a $459,083 project to build Gateway Island Park. Mid-way across the bridge will be a 568-square-foot, semicircular deck with benches.

Lighting will be installed and aluminum railings will replace a chain-link fence. Bronze signs will great people, who will be able to lock their bicycles at either end of the walkway.

The newly landscaped island itself will not be accessible for public safety reasons, although it will showcase a large statue and flagpole. Steps from the bridge onto the island as shown in architectural renderings will be for workers only.

The project hatched by village planners in 2009 was made possible by a $351,000 grant from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The village will be responsible for matching 25 percent, or $87,750, of that grant. The remaining $108,083 of the cost will come from the village revitalization fund, which contains about $1 million. That money was acquired over the years from the sale of the village’s hydroelectric plant on Gardner Road, which is now owned by Fortis U.S. EnergyCorp., Newfoundland.

Mr. Montroy said the blueprint for the project is being finalized by Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown. It is expected to get final approval soon from the state parks office, which would enable construction work to be put out to bid this fall. Workers are expected to break ground on the project in the spring.

The large statue to be exhibited on the island will be paid for as an additional cost by the village, Mr. Montroy said, because the revitalization committee hasn’t selected a statue and is still taking suggestions from residents. The statue could feature Frenchman Jacques Le Ray de Chaumont, a historical figure who in 1802 sold land to the Quakers that became the village of Philadelphia in 1804.

Gateway Island Park is just one of a litany of improvements outlined in the downtown revitalization plan completed by the village in 2011, Mr. Montroy said. Other projects include starting a walking trail along the Indian River, rehabilitating downtown buildings and facades, installing new lighting on Main Street and updating zoning laws to make them business-friendly. The latter goal has been worked on every month over the past year by members of the village zoning committee.

“We’re going through all of the zoning laws line by line, because we want to make it easy for a business to meet with our Planning Board and get a clear set of guidelines for projects,” Mr. Montroy said.

This fall, the village plans to demolish two old buildings at 59 and 61 Main St. that it owns across from its office at 56 Main St., Mr. Montroy said. Demolishing those buildings will clear space to build a two-story building there in 2014 that will become its new office. The current office, which will be vacated under the plan, then could be sold to a business interested in moving downtown.

Three businesses are on Main Street: Sylvia’s Antiques, Nature’s Warehouse and Upstate National Bank.

-Ted Booker, Watertown Daily Times

Drum connector lures military drivers, leaves businesses on routes 11, 342 in dust

Businesses on Route 11 south of Interstate 781 are experiencing lower sales after the road opened in December, diverting daily Fort Drum traffic. Justin Sorensen/ Watertown Daily Times

Restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations west of Fort Drum used to cash in on military and civilian traffic along the commuters’ route — workers buying breakfast in the morning, for example, and soldiers stopping for beer, cigarettes and lottery tickets after work.

But since December, when Interstate 781 opened, commuters can exit the post’s main gate directly onto the new Fort Drum connector, avoiding traffic lights to get home faster. The diversion of traffic to the new 4.8-mile highway linking the post to I-81 continues to increase, according to the state Department of Transportation. And as it does, businesses along routes 11 and 342 have been left in the dust. [Read more…]