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Vision Development Planning a 132-room
Hilton Garden Inn, Watertown, New York

By Robert Brauchle, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Nov. 25, 2009--In a move that likely will compete directly with another nearby project, developer Patrick M. Donegan said he will submit plans within a month to construct a 132-room hotel on land his company owns near Interstate 81 in the city of Watertown.

"It's going to be a great project," the Alexandria Bay developer said. "We're getting the land all nice and level right now for development."

Mr. Donegan, an owner of Vision Development, said he is finalizing plans to construct a Hilton Garden Inn, which includes a 4,000-square-foot conference center, near the Holiday Inn Express.

"It's going to have all the modern amenities, with TVs and flat panel displays," he said. "We want it to be top of the line so we can host large functions like weddings, business meetings, conferences, those types of events."

Vision Development owns about 40 acres along I-81 between Arsenal and Coffeen streets. Since 2005, the company has built a Holiday Inn Express, Ruby Tuesday, Ponderosa, Starbucks and two retail buildings on about 10 acres of the property, leaving three-quarters of the space still vacant.

The proposed Hilton Garden Inn would be within sight of two other hotels planned for the area.

Russell & Dawson Architecture & Engineering, East Hartford, Conn., already has received city approval to build a four-story, 118-room Towne Plaza Suites Hotel, an adjacent three-story, 106-room Fairfield Inn and a restaurant on a seven-acre plot along Gaffney Drive.

Both developers must wait for the city to evaluate, and potentially upgrade, the water and sewage infrastructure along Gaffney Drive before their projects can be completed.

"I have a good setup out there," Mr. Donegan said. "I have pads ready to be developed; I've just been trying to fight for sewer and water."

Mr. Donegan has lobbied the city over the last two years to either extend its sewage system or to take a privately owned system that borders his land. Without help from the city, he said, the remaining 30 acres of vacant land cannot be developed.

"I haven't heard anything new lately. I think they're still doing research on the sewer," Mr. Donegan said. "I get the impression that they're holding off, waiting for me to submit plans before they pull the trigger on any of their projects."

The city still is evaluating whether a pump station along Gaffney Drive will support the approximately 33,630 gallons of sewage Russell & Dawson expects its project to produce daily.

Gary E. Pilon, city water superintendent, said Tuesday that his crews are extending water lines along Commerce Park Drive and in Stateway Plaza. The $35,000 project will increase water pressure in the area, he said.

"We should have it wrapped up by early next week; it'll take a couple days next week, depending on the weather," Mr. Pilon said. "We're making a connection at the Plaza and we've already made the connection up the road at Gaffney."

Members of the Watertown City Council have said they will prioritize infrastructure projects along the western corridor. Depending on how charitable the city feels, it could spend millions of dollars in the next few years to buy a privately owned sewer, upgrade sewer lines along Gaffney Drive and buy land to construct Western Boulevard.

"In the springtime, we'll get the sewer portion done," City Manager Mary M. Corriveau said of the Gaffney Drive upgrade. "The design is just about complete and under review. Once that's done, we'll have the DPW take a look at it."

Mrs. Corriveau said the project's cost, or whether city or private contractors will perform the work, has yet to be determined.

The city also may choose to extend Western Boulevard.

In recent years, Stateway Plaza has become an ungoverned thoroughfare for drivers traveling from Arsenal Street to Gaffney Drive and vice versa. The city at one time considered the idea of constructing a road through the plaza connecting the two streets but dropped the idea after it was unable to secure state or federal funding for the roughly $7 million project.

"We are seriously concerned on how this proposed development is going to add to the traffic flow through Stateway Plaza," wrote Jeffrey A. Foster of Longley Jones Management Corp. in September to the City Council. "We are concerned because we already have incurred increasing insurance rates and higher maintenance costs over the years due to this traffic issue."

Longley Jones is the property manager for the plaza's Montreal-based owners. A message left at the company for Mr. Foster was not returned Tuesday.


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