Tower Stays, All Else Changes... Given Gambling Gets People's OK
WAWARSING – A casino could rise on the grounds of the Nevele as early as Spring 2014, provided all obstacles are overcome — including state approval for gambling — the Nevele's new owner has said.
The public got its first look at site plans for the new Nevele resort at the Wawarsing Town Board meeting Thursday night, July 19. Nevele Investors LLC, a subsidiary of Claremont Investors LLC — which won a court-ordered right to buy the run-down property in February of this year — submitted to the town an Environmental Assessment Form and schematics for its proposed redevelopment.
Nevele Investors CEO Michael Treanor said a more thorough presentation will be available to the public in September or October of this year. A statewide referendum on non-Indian casino gaming is scheduled for November. If gaming is not approved, Treanor and Nevele Investors will not redevelop the property.
Treanor explained Thursday night that the revitalization of the 100 year old resort will occur in three phases. Construction could begin as early as Fall 2013 on a 60,000-square-foot temporary casino, in time for a Spring 2014 opening. It would be located on the northwest side of the property, at the corner of Nevele Road and Arrowhead Road. Unfortunately, that space would cover the first two holes of the existing golf course — an issue that will be addressed in future drafts of the project, Treanor said.
The temporary casino will show Albany that Nevele Investors mean business.
"We need to be able to show that we can bring revenue into the state as soon as possible," Treanor said. "We want to make it as difficult as humanly possible for the state government to say no to this project."
The temporary structure "is not a tent," he stressed. "But although the construction here is substantial, it's not intended to be permanent; it's intended to be temporary."
The casino — which includes self-parking, valet parking and bus parking — would operate for about two to three years before being dismantled. Plans unveiled at the Town Board meeting show an oval-shaped casino housing table games, two bars, a cabaret, a food court, club and lottery area.
In the meantime, construction would begin on the second phase of the project — a 150,000-square-foot permanent casino and hotel buildings. The permanent structure covers the "footprint" of the existing property, albeit with mostly new buildings, and should be in operation by Spring 2016, Treanor said.
"Ninety percent of what exists on the site will be demolished," Treanor told the board. "It is too deteriorated due to neglect."
Two buildings will be restored: The iconic tower and the outdoor ice-skating pavilion. The rest will be relegated to the annals of history.
A couple of low-rise hotel buildings will eventually hug the entrance to the Nevele as visitors turn right off of Arrowhead Road. A seven-story parking structure, its roof covered in grass, is opposite the buildings. People who are there only for the day can pass by restrooms, a cafe and gift shop, then go right into the casino. Hotel guests can check in at the hotel lobby adjacent to the existing nine-story tower.
"We've designed something that we think integrates very nicely into the existing footprint of the property," Treanor said. "It's mindful of the view down from Route 52. It kind of fits neatly where the Nevele sits now."
In addition to the casino, the property's plans show a spa and fitness center, restaurants including a buffet and a steak house, an adult area with pools, a family area with a small waterpark, a 40,000-square-foot concert hall, and recreation including horseback riding, hiking trails and tennis. Nevele Investors also owns two miles of rail trail that it hopes to incorporate with other parts of the trail to lead to downtown Ellenville, Treanor said.
The third phase of the project will add a third and fourth hotel building and a specialty restaurant in Spring 2019. The entire project will have 450 hotel rooms, the same as before.
The Fazio golf design firm, which reportedly had a hand in designing the original 6,500-yard course at the Nevele in the 1950s, will be asked to revamp it to conform to a current standard championship 7,200-yard course.
There are seven key themes that Nevele Investors is keeping in mind. Treanor said the facility should be family-friendly, "which differentiates us from other gaming facilities;" be first-class, attracting the New York metropolitan area target market; preserve the heritage of the property; incorporate modernized, competitive facilities; respect and include the community — not view the Nevele as an "island;" create jobs and stimulate economic activity; and most important, train, hire and buy locally.
The just-short-of-500-acre parcels making up the Nevele are in Wawarsing's Rural Use zone, which allows for a maximum of 25 percent of the total acreage to be developed. Nevele Investors' plans call for development of 166 acres. The developer is looking to rezone the property to a new designation, a Planned Resort Recreational District. Although a resort has operated onsite for more than 100 years, the rezoning would include a more comprehensive list of allowable activities, including gaming, Treanor said.
To help bring the Nevele back to life, the group has brought in some big guns. They include The Chazen Companies, environmental consultants; Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna LLP, attorneys; Tishman Construction Corporation; Shapiro Assoc., construction management; and Creighton Manning Engineering, traffic consultants.
The Town Board has named itself lead agency in examining the project's impact on the environment, and an environmental assessment form has been filed to begin the state Environmental Quality Review Act examination. The board hired its own attorneys — Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP — to steer it through the process. The firm is being paid through an escrow account funded by Nevele Investors. An engineering firm will also be hired through that fund to provide engineering counsel. The same process occurred with Walmart negotiations, Town Supervisor Scott Carlsen said.
Construction will be done in as "green" a way as possible, Treanor said, to avoid having a negative impact on the environment.
Nevele Investors plans to open a storefront "headquarters" in downtown Ellenville to create a center where the community can learn more about the project, Treanor said. Ideally, the "Lyndon B. Johnson suite" at the Nevele will be reassembled in that storefront, along with check-in desks, so the public can visit and register their support for the project, he added.
"It's very important that we tell Albany this: That we have to have it (the Nevele redevelopment)," Treanor said. "It's not like we'd like to have this; we have to have it."
Town Board members, and Ulster Legislator Craig Lopez, agreed.
"If there's anything we can do, we will offer any of our resources," Lopez said.
"We need to make sure there's nothing the Town Board or Planning Board does that would be a reason you don't succeed," Councilman Dan Johnson added.
Councilman John Gavaris asked how people can help spread the word. Treanor said a website is in the works.
Carlsen warned that a lot of people will keep a close eye on development.
"Don't block our view of the mountain," Carlsen said with a smile. "We want to see our mountain. And guess what? People who live up there don't want to look down and see anything strange. The roof of the garage has to be green, because they're going to be burying me in the mountains of Cragsmoor if it's not."