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Clayton’s Frink site sold, finally

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CLAYTON — It has been a long time coming, but the former Frink America site finally has been sold.

After years of cleanup to get the former brownfield site sanctioned for redevelopment by the state, and subsequent years spent finding the right developer to build an “upscale” hotel, Clayton signed a $2.1 million land disposition agreement with the Buffalo-based Krog Corp. and Hart Hotels.

Clayton’s Local Development Corp. and the town government had co-owned the waterfront property since they acquired the 8.4-acre site of an abandoned snowplow factory from Jefferson County in 2005.

Krog, in partnership with Hart Hotels, plans to break ground on a $22.5 million hotel this spring and open it just before the 2014 tourist season.

Hart Hotels will operate the four-story Clayton Harbor Hotel once Krog completes the facility, which will include 105 rooms, a restaurant/lounge, a 275-seat ballroom, business and fitness centers and an indoor pool.

Krog is still working on its plan, recently adding a room to what had been a 104-room floor plan.

Additionally, the developers are planning an approximately $3.5 million project to build a dozen townhouses on the east side of the Frink site.

The residential portion will break ground sometime after the hotel does, but the developer hopes to wrap up both projects at the same time.

Krog has completed numerous mixed-use development projects in New York communities similar to Clayton, such as the $18.5 million Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel near Seneca Lake, built through a partnership with Hart Hotels.

Hart Hotels President and CEO David P. Hart described the Watkins Glen facility to Clayton planners as the “biggest small hotel you’ve ever been in” and said the Clayton Harbor Hotel will be a similar upscale facility.

The partners hope to gain a “four-diamond” rating from AAA for the roughly 62-foot-tall, 90,000-square-foot facility.

Mr. Hart acknowledged that there is a “level of skepticism” surrounding the project, that some people doubt the Clayton Harbor Hotel can overcome the region’s seasonality, which has slowly driven many resorts along the St. Lawrence River into disrepair.

However, Mr. Hart said, his company can prove the skeptics wrong.

At other facilities run by Hart Hotels, he said, the company was able to generate demand in the off season by creating events and festivals.

“The plan is to slowly but surely add reasons to come to the facility, come to Clayton in the times of the year when you wouldn’t normally,” he said. “We’ll market and promote the hell out of the area, the destination, and all the things to do here. And hopefully, we’ll create enough business out-of-season ... that we’ll be able to have a facility that is open year-round.”

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