Could the former Odenbach Shipyard in Greece be the site of a new casino?
Brokers representing West Coast buyers interested in the 66-acre site think so.
Christopher Westfall of Pyramid Brokerage Company said his firm is in talks with not only retailers and restaurateurs about locating at the site, but also with unnamed casino operators. The developers also released a preliminary conception of what a retail complex at the site might look like, and a working name: the Parkway Commons and Waterside development site.
"We think a casino would be fantastic there," said Westfall. "We heard Henrietta shot down theirs, and we don't know yet if Greece would be in favor, but that really could be a great location for a destination such as that."
Westfall also would not say which other potential tenants his clients have been courting for their new development.
A possible casino has been a hot topic in Henrietta, where the Town Board last month passed a resolution opposing the establishment of a casino there, just a few weeks after the Seneca Gaming Corp., on behalf of the Seneca Nation, bought 32 acres of land off Clay Road as a potential development site.
Story: Historic Greece site may be sold
Greece Supervisor Bill Reilich said it was too early for him to gauge how serious the developers were about a casino.
"I think anyone with 20 or 50 acres of land anywhere around the Rochester area is going to be saying, 'Hey, this would be a great spot for a casino,' " he said. "But I'm really not giving it a whole lot of attention until I see something more formal."
And, he said, he's unsure whether he could support it. "In my experience with these locations, from what I've witnessed in Niagara Falls or Atlantic City, the design of these is to hold people within the four walls, where they eat there and shop there and gamble there and stay in their hotel. Then you walk 50 feet outside the walls of the casino and see there's no economic gain, no spillover to the neighboring parcels and all of the benefit has gone to the entity constructing the casino."
But if an application comes in, Reilich said, "we would deal with it. But until then, I can't take it seriously unless I have a request in front of me."
The concept plan for Parkway Commons shows a mix of office space, sport and recreation-based retail and restaurants with outdoor seating. The plan shows mooring spots for small watercraft and incorporates the channel Odenbach Shipyard used to launch its ships into Round Pond and then into Lake Ontario.
Westfall said developers hope to take advantage of the Odenbach site's location on Round Pond, access to Lake Ontario and its proximity to walking and bike trails along the Lake Ontario State Parkway.
"It would be great to incorporate those paths and have a detour into our facility," he said. "You could be walking or biking and come into our site for the restaurants and have a nice dinner on a deck overlooking the water."
Still, there are hurdles to overcome before the property, once a World War II shipyard, then a Cold War bomber and missile factory, then a scrap recycling center, actually changes hands. It is listed as a state Superfund site, and cleanup to remove a toxic mess of industrial solvents and other pollutants from groundwater and soil is ongoing.
Westfall said his clients were working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to hash out a remediation plan.
"We are seeing what needs to be done to make the site usable," he said. "If they're looking for us to bring this up to drinking water standards because they want a day care there, I don't know if that's reasonable, but if they give us a plan that makes sense, this project has legs."
Demolition of an existing building on the site could begin in coming weeks, he said.
If the sale is finalized and Pyramid were able to secure a casino operator interested in Greece, there would still be significant hurdles to clear before anything could happen: The Seneca Nation has exclusive rights to provide Class III casino gaming in New York from state Route 14 in Ontario County west to the Pennsylvania state line. And, the Senecas' compact with the state would have to be amended to allow a fourth Seneca casino complex in western New York.
And, while state voters last year approved the opening of up to seven state-approved casinos, initial plans call for approving four in upstate New York, and none in the Rochester area.