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Clayton group shares its vision for a $15 mil hotel on Frink

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CLAYTON — It’s a hard deal to pass up. Clayton Associates LP members reiterated Wednesday that they do not require grant money or a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement to build a high-end, $15 million hotel/condominium at the edge of the picturesque St. Lawrence River.

They met with local officials — who will on Nov. 30 pick a developer for the Frink site, a former brownfield property — earlier that day and presented detailed designs and renderings of a proposed four-story facility facing the water.

The group’s members, all of whom are local residents, said they have not only the talent, resources and enthusiasm but also a deep love for Clayton and a vested interest in the community to make sure their business model is a sustainable one.

In other words, they’re not aiming to compete with existing businesses but to add an amenity that was lacking in Clayton, putting it at a disadvantage to neighboring tourist-driven villages such as Alexandria Bay.

“We don’t want to replace businesses. We want to grow with them,” said James Bower, owner and operator of several award-winning hotels.

The 12 members of the Clayton group bring with them different skill sets.

Kevin Lewis, another partner in the project and president of Ithaca-based Tetra Tech Architects & Engineers, said his team has changed the project designs for the Thousand Islands Lodge & Marina about 10 times so it would “fit” with its surroundings.

A total of 89 units — 38 two-bedroom condo units and 51 hotel rooms and junior suites — a “first-class” restaurant, meeting and conference rooms, a spa, a fitness room and an outdoor heated swimming pool are included in the group’s latest plan.

The condominiums, when not in use, will be used as hotel suites to ensure that at least 75 rentable bedrooms are available to the public.

There will be underground parking, which allows for more green space around the hotel. And instead of putting it closer to the water, project architects had the proposed building elevated for a better view of the river and its islands.

Mr. Lewis, in a news release, said features found among historic Thousand Islands structures were incorporated into the hotel designs.

“The design approach we took was to look to our historic past and recall an era when the ‘Grand Hotel’ was a prominent central fixture of river life,” he said in the release. “Our design seeks to recall the scale, character and grandeur of those historic St. Lawrence River hotels.”

However, the architects plan to make further — most likely minor — tweaks to the designs based on community feedback.

Clayton Associates already had made a presentation to area business owners to solicit input.

If it is selected as Frink’s developer – instead of the Buffalo-based Krog Corp., which wants to build a $20 million, 104-room luxury hotel on the 8.4-acre site — the group plans to reach out to the community at large in December.

The designs would be finalized this winter and construction crews could break ground as soon as spring.

If all goes as planned, the grand opening of the Thousand Islands Lodge & Marina would be May 1, 2014.

Krog, and its business partner Hart Hotels, are shooting for a similar timeline.

Both Krog and Clayton Associates have acknowledged that the region’s seasonality is a challenge for any business to break even in the dead of winter.

But neither party is an amateur in the hotel business, which gives some weight to their claim that Clayton has more untapped opportunities than most give it credit for.

Similar to what Krog executives had said, members of Clayton Associates said a high-end hotel can reinvent the village into a more attractive Thousand Islands destination, with their facility being an essential part of a larger strategy to draw in more visitors.

A hotel would make possible more winter events and activities through the collaboration among local stores, organizations and municipalities, they said.

Clayton is home to several museums, venues for educational and cultural activities, a winery that is open year-round and many stores and restaurants — all in a historic setting with a scenic backdrop.

Additionally, both developers said they believe they can create more business all year round by attracting conferences to Clayton.

More information will be made available soon on the group’s website: www.destination-clayton.com

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