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Stateway Plaza connector road could lure big-box retailer to Watertown

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Developer Patrick M. Donegan said Tuesday that he has interest from a potential “big” tenant for City Center Plaza, the series of hotels, restaurants and retail shops he owns off Arsenal Street.

All he needs is for the city of Watertown and the owners of nearby Stateway Plaza to agree to build a connector road leading to the nearly 18 undeveloped acres just north of the Hilton Garden Inn, Mr. Donegan said Tuesday.

In recent months, the city and Stateway Plaza owners have been involved in behind-the-scene negotiations to work out a deal to acquire some land at the strip mall that would be used for a connector road.

“I have a big fish interested in coming, but they will not do it until there’s a road,” Mr. Donegan said.

The Alexandria Bay developer said he believes he can attract the unidentified big-box national retailer to the site if the connector road is built from Arsenal Street through the Stateway Plaza parking lot to Gaffney Drive at the other end. Plans would call for a 100,000-square-foot store.

City Attorney James A. Burrows said he talked to the attorney for plaza owners Ben Wygodny and Martin Wenger, both of Montreal, about the situation “just a week or two ago.”

The city will have to negotiate a price to acquire some land in the parking lot for it to proceed.

“We are waiting to hear and they will be getting back to the city,” Mr. Burrows said, adding only that the two sides are discussing “compensation” for the needed land.

If it fails to negotiate a price, the city might be able to obtain the needed land through eminent domain.

Noting he has been trying “to act as an intermediary,” Mr. Donegan said he has talked to both sides in recent weeks in an attempt to push negotiations forward.

City officials have expressed a desire to build the road, to be called Western Boulevard, in a proposal that has been discussed for years.

In May 2012, Mr. Donegan urged the city to complete the connector road, insisting he could attract a big-box national retailer to his development near Interstate 81. That spring, the city met with the two plaza owners in hopes of convincing them that the new road also would help their strip mall. The Watertown City Council has informally agreed to pursue the new road.

“Everybody would benefit,” Mr. Donegan said, stressing nearby businesses, hotels and emergency vehicles would gain from the new road.

The biggest drawback for the city has been the cost. The most recent projection came in at $1.75 million. But that price could increase if the project is changed.

Jeffrey A. Foster, a real estate manager who oversees the plaza, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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