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Groundbreaking ceremony held for $22.5m Clayton hotel project

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CLAYTON — Golden shovels hit the dirt Thursday afternoon at the site of the former Frink snowplow factory, where construction on a new four-story luxury hotel is underway.

Several state representatives and local dignitaries came to celebrate a new chapter in Clayton’s history at the groundbreaking ceremony for the St. Lawrence riverfront 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel, a roughly $22.5 million project on the edge of the village.

The Buffalo-based Krog Corp. and Hart Hotels are aiming to open a 105-room, full-service boutique hotel and conference center next summer.

David P. Hart, president and CEO of Hart Hotels, said the developers have been working with Clayton officials for at least three years to make the project a reality and are excited about the prospects of opening a “world-class” facility in Clayton.

This would be the company’s third “Harbor Hotel.” The others are in Portland, Maine, and Watkins Glen; the latter also was developed in partnership with Krog.

But long before the developers started talking with Clayton officials, the town government and Clayton Local Development Corp. had spent years preparing the once-industrial wasteland for redevelopment.

The two entities purchased the site where snowplows were manufactured for 70 years and removed as much as 20,000 tons of soil contaminated with petroleum from the 8.4-acre property with state grants and local funds.

It wasn’t until 2010 that the property was declared “clean” and ready for development by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“We could have sold the property four years ago for residential development, but that wasn’t what the community wanted,” said Paul E. Heckmann, chairman of the LDC’s Frink Redevelopment Committee.

He and six other volunteers — Jack Stopper, Christopher Matthews, Michael Brystol, Fred Jackson, Dennis Weller and John Kehoe — put in numerous hours as volunteers seeking developers and talking with Krog to develop a plan that matched the community’s vision.

Mr. Heckmann said Mayor Norma J. Zimmer, town Supervisor Justin A. Taylor and LDC Chairman Larry Aubertine attended many meetings between Krog and the redevelopment committee.

Clayton also secured a $2.25 million Empire State Development grant for the proposed hotel’s construction, more than what the developers paid for the land — $2.1 million.

Frink’s waterfront and riverwalk remain public domain, and the rest — 7.04 acres — is owned by Clayton Harbor Hotel LLC.

There were some bumps along the road — namely when the LDC, village and town boards unanimously agreed in September to end exclusive talks with Krog — but Clayton officials ultimately chose Krog and Hart Hotels to develop the prime waterfront property.

Their facility will have a restaurant and bar, a ballroom for up to 300 guests, a business center, a riverfront patio, an indoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi and a fitness center.

The 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel is expected to create 90 jobs and Hart Hotels, which will be in charge of management and operation of the facility, eventually hopes to achieve a “four-diamond” rating from AAA.

Mr. Heckmann said the hotel project is “just the beginning.”

Clayton plans to install a dock with 56 transient boat slips between Frink and Washington Island, and Krog plans to build a dozen town houses on the east side of Frink in the near future.

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