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Council: Determine cost of connector road through Stateway Plaza

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Patrick M. Donegan had a convincing argument for the Watertown City Council on Monday night: Build it and they will come.

Mr. Donegan, the Alexandria Bay developer who owns City Center Plaza on Arsenal Street, told council members if the city builds a connector road through Stateway Plaza, he guaranteed he could bring a big-box national retailer to the northern end of the development site within about a year.

In response, council members informally agreed they are again ready to explore the long-planned road, once proposed as Western Boulevard. They instructed Kenneth A. Mix, the city’s planning and urban development coordinator, to get out some shelved plans and come up with a cost estimate on its construction.

In making his case, he told council members revenues from sales and property taxes alone would pay for the road in about five years.

“I don’t have a problem spending money if you’re going to get a return on your investment,” said Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr.

In recent years, Mr. Donegan has talked to a number of retailers who have told him they are not interested in coming to the 24-acre site without direct access from the connector road.

He would not identify possible tenants or what type of retailer might be interested in the site.

The major stumbling bock, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said, was convincing the owners of Stateway Plaza to sell a part of their parking lot for the road project.

Mr. Donegan said he could approach Stateway Plaza Shopping Center, Montreal, to see if they are willing to make a deal. Mr. Donegan told council members the Canadian partners might work with him because he gave them Planet Fitness and Moe’s Southwest Grill as leads for their plaza.

“I have, if you want to call it, somewhat of a relationship with them,” Mr. Donegan said, adding they could be tough to negotiate with for the land’s price.

If not, the city could use eminent domain to take over the land, but that could be controversial, the mayor said.

Discussed for years, the road has been put on the back burner by city officials because of its possible $6 million cost. Mr. Donegan said he believes that figure “is way off” because the town of Watertown built County Route 202 for about $2 million.

To prepare the 24-acre site, Mr. Donegan recently had a contractor install a second water retention pond for $250,000, making it “shovel ready.” It would serve the plaza if the big-box store were ever built.

Mr. Donegan said he is willing to help with grant applications for the project, suggesting the Development Authority of the North Country might be interested in getting involved.

He also pointed out that in a just a few years he has been able to develop a lucrative site from empty land. The big-box store would join Buffalo Wild Wings, Ruby Tuesday, Starbucks, AT&T and Ponderosa already there. A 132-room Hilton Garden Inn opened there last year and a Holiday Inn Express is the other anchor. His latest tenant, Chipotle Mexican Grill, is slated to open at the end of the month in the same 5,000-square-foot building as the Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurant.

“This is where it’s happening in the city,” he said. “This is Disneyland. This is happening here now. It’s not fantasy land.”

So far, Mr. Donegan has about $29 million invested in City Center Plaza. It has created about 350 jobs.

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