Developer proposes new complex in Alexandria in place of recreation center

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ALEXANDRIA — Developer David C. Muraco envisions helping to build a regional destination with new stores, hotels, educational and recreational facilities in place of the former Bonnie Castle Recreation Center.

Mr. Muraco, the president of Empire Property Management, DeWitt, said he wants to tear down the entire complex and either sell or donate parcels of land in the center of the complex to municipalities, school districts and universities interested in developing new facilities at what he calls the Thousand Islands Regional Sports Complex and Campus. He also plans to sell parcels to retailers, restaurant and hotel companies.

Mr. Muraco purchased for $900,000 the former recreational center in October from Marc. J. Fernandez, who previously owned the center with his wife, Catherine M., and father-in-law, Donald E. Cole, all of Emliz Properties LLC, DeWitt. His hope for the proposed five- to 10-year project, some of which he said he would be willing to co-develop alongside interested parties, is to provide more year-round activities for north country residents and attract more tourists crossing over the Thousand Islands Bridge.

“I think it could turn the area around,” Mr. Muraco said. “We’re looking at all avenues.”

The property still has remnants of the former recreation center including the 40,000-square-foot ice arena, a 5,000-square-foot restaurant and stables, all of which Mr. Muraco plans to tear down this year for the proposed campus.

Brzostek’s Auction Services Inc. will host an auction in late June for 50 to 60 pieces of unused equipment on the property. Mr. Muraco also said he plans work with salvage companies to remove any structural assets they might want to keep except the stables, which he plans to donate.

Mr. Muraco said the existing facilities were beyond use and would most likely not meet new building codes, adding that the ice rink was “just not big enough.”

He plans this year to demolish and salvage everything on the property prior to any development.

“We’d start all over,” he said.

While Mr. Muraco will tear down the old ice arena, he said he hopes a municipality or school district would be interested in building and managing a new one.

A diagram showing potential spaces for the new complex provided by Mr. Muraco depicts a multi-use indoor athletic facility that includes two ice rinks and an indoor turf. He said he would be willing to donate the land to a municipality or school district for a new arena. The plan also depicts spaces he said he would be willing to sell or donate for athletic fields.

“I’ll do whatever they need,” he said. “I’d just like to see this happen.”

The diagram depicting the complex shows three available spaces for retailers and one for a restaurant along Route 12, two parcels for hotels facing Interstate 81 and additional space for another restaurant business or local distillery or winery in the proposed athletic facility.

Mr. Muraco said he has already had conversations with a few interested hotel operators and is almost under contract with one retailer, which he expects will seek site plan approval in 60 to 90 days.

Mr. Muraco also planned a parcel for either Jefferson Community College or the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Education Services to build a facility to offer culinary, agriculture or hotel management courses, adding that he would be willing to build 90 apartment units for students.

The plan also included a parcel that River Hospital could use to build an additional 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot building like an urgent care facility, Mr. Muraco said.

“It’s available,” he said. “I just wanted to demonstrate what I could do for them out there.”

Some ideas from Mr. Muraco’s proposed plan were borne from a meeting hosted by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority between Mr Muraco, Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, the Thousand Islands Harbor Hotel and several town and school district officials.

Ms. Jenne said she contacted Mr. Muraco in December after he purchased the property to share ideas for increasing economic, educational and recreational opportunities in the region she received from town and school district officials, ideas she discussed with them for about a year before he purchased the center.

She said she will continue communicating with officials and search for potential funding sources that will allow them to be involved with the project.

“If we have a multiple uses at this type of facility, we might be able to reduce the debt burden,” she said. “There is an opportunity here. Stakeholders with all different perspectives are coming together to look at the feasibility of creating a regional attraction that will also benefit the community.”

Brent H. Sweet, the deputy supervisor for the town of Alexandria, said the complex would create more year-round jobs and provide more places for children to play.

“I’m sure we’re interested in any proposal he has,” he said.

In addition to purchasing the former center, Mr. Muraco built, managed and subsequently sold the Thompson Park Apartments on Spring Avenue in Watertown; owns a building in the county Industrial Park; and property on Wellesley Island.

He also owns University Plaza in Canton, which will soon house a new Verizon Wireless store in the former Pizza Hut, and a Fairfield Inn by Marriott.

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