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New Canton plaza owner signs lease for new tenant; working on three others

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CANTON — The new owner of University Plaza on Route 11 said he has a signed lease agreement with one new tenant and is negotiating with three other retailers interested in renting space that has been occupied by a popular flea market.

Dollar Tree, a discount retailer, has signed a 10-year lease to rent 8,600 square feet in the 40,000-square-foot plaza, according to David C. Muraco, president of Empire Property Management, DeWitt.

“We have a signed deal,” Mr. Muraco said Thursday. “We’ll do some of the outside work ahead of time and then work on the inside.”

Mr. Muraco is looking for tenants to fill space that will be available after Christmas, when vendors at Canton Classy Collectibles, formerly called the Canton Flea Market, have been directed to move out of the building.

“The mission was to let them stay through Christmas to sell as much as they can,” Mr. Muraco said, referring to about 30 market vendors.

There may be some space available for flea market vendors in March or April if any of the lease deals fall through, he said.

The Freihofer discount bread store that’s now housed in the Midtown Plaza, Miner Street, also may move across town to the University Plaza, where it would rent 2,400 square feet of space, Mr. Muraco said.

“We have a tentative agreement right now,” he said.

Negotiations also have been ongoing for several months between Mr. Muraco and Jeffrey L. Proulx, a Canton business owner who operates six Save-A-Lot grocery stores in Potsdam, Ogdensburg, Gouverneur, Tupper Lake, Hornell and Bath.

The fourth potential tenant is a clothing retailer whom Mr. Muraco did not want to identify.

Mr. Proulx said the Canton site is among several he’s considering for a new store, and he’s in the process of comparing the different options.

Opening a store in Canton may be feasible, he said, if some financial incentives are offered to the plaza’s owner and individual retailers. Those could include a low-interest loan through the St. Lawrence Industrial Development Agency or through the town or village.

“We are doing our due diligence and exploring what the different incentive packages are that are out there,” Mr. Proulx said. “There needs to be incentives to attract retailers.”

Giving an example, he said that when he opened a store in Hornell, the mayor of that city helped him secure a no-interest $250,000 loan that was used to get the store running.

Canton officials, he said, should be “courting” Mr. Muraco because he’s invested a great deal of money in the north country.

Canton Economic Development Director Linda M. McQuinn said Canton has two separate low-interest revolving loans available to help small businesses open or expand.

One includes about $29,000 left over when the Canton Local Development Corp. disbanded earlier this year. The other has $15,000 to $16,000 and is operated through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business Enterprise program.

Mr. Muraco purchased the plaza in July for $2.1 million. Since then he’s installed a new roof, repaved the parking lot and improved drainage on the 24-acre property.

“I’m putting a lot of time and money into this. I really want to bring this plaza back,” Mr. Muraco said.

Mr. Muraco also owns the shopping plaza on Route 11 in Gouverneur, that houses Peebles, Tractor Supply and Dollar Tree stores.

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