Warnerville fitness center project receives boost

Physical therapist Stella McKenna hopes the Town Board’s support for Empire Zone status will help he

Physical therapist Stella McKenna hopes the Town Board’s support for Empire Zone status will help her build a $4.27 million regional fitness, sports and therapy center in Warnerville.

That will hinge on whether a way can be found to reallocate some portion of the 1,280 acres now in six separate zones, Schoharie County Empire Zone Coordinator Julie Pacatte Rowan said Monday.

“No action has been taken . . . we’re still in the review stage to accommodate her [project,]” Rowan said.

The Richmondville Town Board voted unanimously last week to support McKenna’s request. A letter of recommendation has been sent to county officials, Town Clerk Maggie Smith said Monday.

McKenna predicts her project could result in as many as 40 jobs in the Richmondville area.

Although local officials and Empire Zone administrators have been generally supportive, Rowan said land within each Empire Zone must be connected. Even though the nearby Manchester farm in the 239-acre Richmondville Empire Zone is not seeking zone incentives, Rowan said taking that land out of the existing zone could limit future development potential there.

Acreage in the county’s total 1,280 acres could be reallocated from one of the other five zones, but such changes are normally allowed once a year. Except for Sharon Springs, the zones are in the Interstate 88 corridor.

In the meantime, Rowan said, county officials are exploring boundary adjustments that might allow McKenna’s fitness center to fit in a zone.

The Richmondville Town Board last September requested a $2.5 million state Restore New York grant to assist McKenna’s plan to build the proposed Cobleskill Creek Total Health, Fitness and Recreation Complex.

Her application then projected 25 jobs at the center.

The project was not funded in the 2007-2008 round of grants from the Empire State Development Corporation program, but McKenna said Monday she intends to reapply as soon as ESD begins accepting this year’s Restore New York applications.

McKenna has operated the Maranatha Fit for Life Health and Fitness Center on Elm Street in Cobleskill for 14 years.

Even without state aid, McKenna said, she still intends to relocate to the Warnerville site she bought last October for $350,000. “But there’s no way I could do it to that extent,” she said.

“What I’m trying to create [in Richmondville] is a community center where Cobleskill and Richmondville and Schoharie County can come together.”

In addition to 60,000 square feet of facilities for at least 20 sports-related services and activities. McKenna said she plans to offer rental space to health and fitness professionals, a restaurant, a greenhouse and educational programs.

“This has so much potential” to benefit older people seeking activities, as well as children, she said.

She said she has already granted permission for the proposed Cobleskill-Richmondville bicycling and walking trail to cross her land to Route 7 near the Cobleskill-Richmondville High School.

In addition to a new building, McKenna plans to restore an unoccupied house and two 18th-century barns on the property.

Being in an Empire Zone increases the likelihood of success for Restore New York grants, said Jody Zakrevsky, the county’s economic developer.

The program aims to help developers “restore vacant or under-utilized property and put them to a better use,” Zakrevsky said.

In January, the program approved a $500,000 grant to help a private property owner restore a deteriorating cottage complex in Sharon Springs to make it saleable as private condominiums.

Historical properties, as well as being in economically depressed areas and job creation also enhance Restore New York applications, according to Zakrevsky.

Reviewing local zone boundaries will likely be discussed by the county Empire Zone Administrative Board at its May 20 meeting, Rowan said. Today’s monthly zone board meeting was canceled because of scheduling problems.

Categories: Schenectady County

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