Activity robust in Oswego County as promising projects take shape
By Lou Sorendo
Oswego County enters 2019 buoyed by a number of significant projects that bode well for the area from an economic development standpoint.
Here are some of the top projects happening in the county:
A major development happening in the city of Fulton involves Martens Fresh and K&N’s Foods USA, LLC, which acquired the 280,000-square-foot former Birds Eye plant in the city of Fulton in 2013.
K&N’s manufactures a variety of frozen valued-added halal chicken products, under the brand license from K&N’s Foods Limited, Pakistan.
There are two large refrigeration spaces at K&N’s — one 30,000 square feet and another 130,000 square feet — that served as a refrigeration warehouse for General Foods and Birds Eye.
When K&N’s Foods USA purchased the building, it acquired both facilities.
L. Michael Treadwell, executive director of Operation Oswego County and CEO of the county of Oswego Industrial Development Agency, noted K&N’s shut down the larger facility because it did not require that much capacity.
OOC then advised K&N’s to sell it to reduce its overhead and rid itself of unnecessary space.
That’s when an interested party — Martens Fresh in Port Byron — stepped up to the plate. Martens Fresh is a fresh vegetable processing and packing company that is also involved in logistics and distribution.
“Everybody got together and we started negotiating with K&N’s and Martens Fresh as to how we could restructure our original agreement with K&N’s Foods and how we can wrap the new complex into another IDA-financing structure,” Treadwell said.
As a result, owner Timothy Marten has expanded his company to include ‘iFreeze,’ the new storage and distribution center at the K&N’s Foods site.
An agreement was closed last December.
“They will operate a refrigeration warehouse and handle products, some of which is their own, but they will primarily be handling products from other companies,” Treadwell said.
They will provide storage and transportation to customers, including one of its largest clients, Wegmans. The business had its own fleet of trucks for inbound and outbound freight.
“They eventually want to get more diversified with that facility, but phase one was getting the space,” Treadwell noted.
“This is not a new venture for them because they’ve been doing it on a much more limited scale in Port Bryon,” he added. “They think this is going to be a big project for them.”
While Martens Fresh is conservative about disclosing the amount of jobs to be created, Treadwell said the new enterprise is expected to create about 35 to 50 positions over the first five years.
“We think it is going to be probably double that if they are really successful in doing what they think they will be able to do,” he said.
Treadwell said a real benefit may come in the form of a synergistic relationship between Martens Fresh and K&N’s Foods USA.
“Martens Fresh may be able to enhance K&N’s ability to get their products into some of the large chains,” he said. “That would also help K&N’s Foods expand their production.”
It’s about a $4.5 million project.
Treadwell said all Martens Fresh needs to do is fine tune the refrigeration system, make some modifications to the building, and bring in equipment to handle products.
Treadwell said to expect limited production to begin in the first quarter of this year.
Page Material Management
Another major project happening involves the arrival of Page Material Management to Oswego County.
Page, headquartered in Weedsport, has secured major contracts with Novelis and its Oswego Works plant in Scriba.
Novelis is the world leader in rolled aluminum products and recycling, and the largest global producer of automotive and beverage can sheet.
“They were looking to identify a building in the county as close as possible to Novelis,” Treadwell said. “They will be handling a lot of aluminum for Novelis.”
Page Material Management closed on a deal last December to acquire the former Distribution Centers-Americas facility on county Route 1A in Oswego.
The company is expanding its operations in Oswego County primarily due to work it does in conjunction with Novelis and other customers.
The DCA building was available and fit Page’s building requirements with enough land to add additional space, Treadwell noted.
Page is also expanding and making improvements to its Weedsport location, a project that received funding through the CFA process last year.
Treadwell noted the company is purchasing a highly sophisticated piece of equipment made in Germany that identifies and separates various components of aluminum and provides specific alloys based on Novelis’ needs.
Page’s long-term plan calls for an additional 60,000 square feet to a building that is more than 100,000 square feet.
The $7.5 million project is expected to create about 20 jobs initially, some of which are considered manufacturing positions.
“Cayuga County has been good to us,” said Treadwell in reference to both Martens Fresh and Page Material Management coming to Oswego County.
“It is my understanding that there is going to be an increase in the level of Novelis’ used beverage cans function,” Treadwell said.
Much talk concerning Novelis has been centered on its production of aluminum sheet for the automotive industry, but Treadwell noted the used beverage can activity is going to experience a significant increase.
Other DRI-related projects include entrepreneur Atom Avery’s Litatro building project at the southeast corner of West First and Bridge streets in the city of Oswego.
He is redeveloping that corner — now occupied by Global Buffet — into a mixed-use facility and working with the IDA to get financial particulars lined up.
The five-story facility will feature a 7,500-square-foot first floor devoted to commercial interests, while 22 apartments will occupy the other floors.
Parking will be established under the building, Treadwell said.
There are also plans to construct a seasonal rooftop restaurant as well.
The $5 million project has been through the site plan review stage, but the addition of a fifth floor has modified plans.
The entire corner will be demolished with all new construction slated to take place.
“That’s not the most attractive corner in the world right now, and a lot of people have done good work on some of the other buildings downtown,” said Treadwell, noting Pauldine has done significant renovations on both sides of West First Street south of Bridge Street.
Treadwell said Avery’s new development complements the Children’s Museum of Oswego, which is featuring its refurbished look at the northeast corner of the intersection.
“It’s going to add some pizzazz to that intersection,” Treadwell noted.
According to Oswego Mayor William Barlow, the project was not one of the core DRI projects, but one that was developed during the application process.
“There was more interest in seeing that corner developed than any other project,” Treadwell said.
The commercial interests associated with the project are estimated to create about 25 full-time equivalent jobs.
The newest project on the drawing board is another mixed-used building called 22 Crossroads.
Entrepreneur Ed Alberts intends on constructing a four-story, 44,000-square-foot building at the corner of West Cayuga and Water streets in the city of Oswego.
He will be razing existing buildings to feature a facility that will house 32 apartments and about 8,300 square feet of commercial space. He plans to create parking underneath the business, Treadwell noted.
“He is really putting the teeth behind and it should be an interesting block,” said Treadwell in regards to the $6 million project.
The OOC head said there will be three multi-use projects being done within three blocks of each other on the city’s west side, and four when one counts East Lake Commons.
“If they are successful in getting them occupied, the city will be one of the few in the country to see a net increase in its population,” Treadwell said.
The city of Oswego conducted a study several years ago that indicated the demand for quality housing or market rate apartments was significant, Treadwell said.
“That’s why these projects are being advanced. It is because they feel there is sufficient demand,” he noted.
He said within the context of a changing and improved economy, the younger generation doesn’t necessarily want a yard and grass to cut.
“Apartments are a good option,” said Treadwell, noting professionals associated with the nuclear plants, manufacturing facilities, and SUNY Oswego may hesitate to make permanent plans being there is a strong likelihood that they may be transferred after several years.
“This will give them some viable, very livable quality options. It’s probably going to create a certain amount of competition in terms of rental rates,” he said.
Alberts had submitted an application to the IDA for financial assistance associated with the project.
“It seems like everything he puts his hands on turns out to be successful,” Treadwell added.
Alberts is the owner of Wired Telecom, winner of the fourth installment of the “Next Great Idea” Oswego County business plan competition in 2018.
One major project last year involved the Tailwater Lodge in Altmar, which more than doubled its lodging capacity while also adding a fitness center, an indoor pool and other leisure amenities for guests.
The $2.5 million project featured a new 24,000 square-foot, three-story addition adding 46 new rooms.
Treadwell praised Woodbine Group President Norman Swanson for taking a closed elementary school in Altmar and converting it into an upscale hotel and resort destination.
The Tailwater Lodge opened four years ago, but Swanson has already made two major expansions to the facility.
Treadwell said the goal is to feature more family related activities to draw in a different demographic other than hunters and fishermen eager to take on the Salmon River.
The Tailwater Lodge is also now part of the Hilton hotel chain’s newest collection brand, Tapestry Collection by Hilton.
“We believe [Swanson] has had a very good experience with the Tailwater Lodge and hopefully he will do some more investing and building in Oswego County,” Treadwell added.
Similar to Broadwell Hospitality Group’s Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center in the city of Oswego, the Tailwater Lodge is being used to host large-scale events.
When the hotel’s capacity was 40 rooms at its inception, many participants to activities at Tailwater were forced to seek out accommodations elsewhere.
“If tourism continues to grow like it has been growing, there may be a need for more rooms,” Treadwell said.
Lake Ontario Water Park
The city of Oswego was the first community to be awarded $10 million as part of the state-backed Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
Treadwell, who is a member of the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council, is part of the committee that reviews applications for DRI funding.
On the tourism and hospitality front, high expectations exist for the Lake Ontario Water Park project. Broadwell Hospitality Group is constructing the indoor water park that will be connected to the Quality Inn & Suites Riverfront off East First Street in the city of Oswego.
The project has secured funding through the county IDA and the city’s DRI.
The site is being prepared for construction, which should begin as soon as weather permits.
Treadwell said construction on the project should “go relatively fast” with completion expected to occur before the end of 2019.
The $4.9 million project, which features a 16,000-square-foot facility, will generate 15 jobs.
Treadwell said prior to pursuing financing, Broadwell Hospitality retained the services of Camoin Associates to do an economic impact study of the water park.
Camoin is the same agency that created the county’s economic advancement plan recently.
The agency gauged the impact not only from the standpoint of generating more traffic for the Broadwell Hospitality’s Quality Inn and adjacent Best Western Plus hotel, but also what it would do for the community in terms of drawing in more people and associated spending.
While the numbers in the report are confidential, Treadwell said it was “an interesting report” that was reviewed by the IDA in light of its assistance being provided to the project, and its spinoff impact in both the city and county is significant.
Treadwell said the yearlong water park will be a unique addition to Oswego’s attractions and will help drive traffic to the area.
Like the water park, Harborview Square is one of the core projects of the city of Oswego’s DRI.
Housing Visions, a neighborhood revitalization organization based in Syracuse, has done site work and broke ground recently on the $26.2 million project that will feature 75 apartment units, 18 freestanding townhouse-type units and 10,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space.
“I think one of the stronger elements of the project is that it was a brownfield site. They redeveloped a piece of property that had been sitting there since Copperweld’s Flexo Wire division moved out to Scriba in the 1970s,” he said. “It’s always difficult to redevelop brownfield sites, but this one is going to be done.”
Brownfield land is previously developed land with known or suspected pollution, including soil contamination due to hazardous waste.
The site had been used in the past by the city’s Department of Public Works.
“In terms of bringing economic value to the downtown area, now you’re going to have a lot of people associated with those units living downtown,” Treadwell said. “It’s going to drive business to all of the other retail and restaurant establishments in the community.”
Housing Visions put its signature on the Oswego area several years ago with its renovation of Hamilton Homes on the city’s east side.
The project, which received funding from multiple state entities, should be completed in 2020.
Treadwell said it fits into the city’s comprehensive waterfront development plan given its proximity to both Lake Ontario and the Oswego River.
“It creates economic activity in what used to be basically an empty, barren environmentally sensitive site,” Treadwell said.
East Lake Commons, LLC
East Lake Commons, LLC, an affiliate of the Syracuse-based Sutton Real Estate Company, is planning to construct an 88,000-square-foot mixed-use facility at the corner of East First and Cayuga streets in the city of Oswego.
The development was one of a dozen projects receiving funding through the 2016 state Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
At $2.2 million, the six-story, mixed-use development received the largest allocation of DRI funding.
Sutton Real Estate Companies submitted plans to demolish the Midtown Plaza shopping center in downtown Oswego to construct a new mixed-use property to be called East Lake Commons. The new building will include mixed-income apartment units, plus retail, commercial and office space, along with parking for residents and visitors.
The project was buoyed by a recent $800,000 grant from Empire State Development.
“Everything is going to be new on that entire block,” said Treadwell in regards to the lot bordered by East First and Second streets and East Bridge and Cayuga streets.
“There is going to be a lot of green space in that development,” he added.
The six-story building will house 72 apartments while the first floor will be for commercial use.
Apartments will be a mix of market rate and affordable housing.
“That project still needs to finalize its investment package, but is making significant headway,” said Treadwell, noting many of the tenants at the former Midtown Plaza have either moved or are in the process of relocating.
Oswego County Opportunities offers several programs from its offices in the Midtown Plaza and is in the process of relocating, while Green Planet has moved to West Seneca Street.
The project also needs final IDA clearance before construction begins.
Similar to the Harbor View project on the west side, East Lake Commons will fill a block that has been underutilized and “not very attractive,” Treadwell said.
He said all buildings connected to the project will be featured along the roadway, while parking will be established to the east of the facility.
A good portion of the space that the present building sits on at the plaza will be green space.
“This type of project will enhance further development in adjacent blocks,” said Treadwell, noting serious construction on the project is probably about a year away.