A decades-old goal to extend water and sewer service east of the village of Cobleskill will come to fruition this summer, opening up a five-mile stretch of Route 7 for development.
The $10 million extension of the village’s infrastructure drew interest among the business community before it was even completed — Stewart’s Shops bought land and plans to build a new store and tap into the services and create jobs.
A committee from the town and village of Cobleskill is organizing its strategy to draw both residential and business interest in the corridor.
“Essentially what it’s doing is establishing water and sewer services along a corridor that, since the late ’60s, has been identified as an area for commercial and business development in the town of Cobleskill,” Schoharie County Planning Director Alicia Terry said.
The failure by the village and town to agree on sharing water cost the area a new Lowe’s Home Improvement Store that would have created 60 jobs and drawn consumers to the area.
There’s agreement now between the two, as well as various economic development agencies, and local governments and businesses pieced together enough money to support the project.
Schoharie County’s Board of Supervisors dedicated $2 million, and New York state added $4.1 million. Howe Caverns Inc., a critical partner in the project since the tourist attraction’s property played a key role in the construction, contributed $3 million. National Grid provided a $175,000 grant and the Appalachian Regional Commission a $150,000 grant.
The outpouring of economic development support reflects the viability of the area, which holds several advantages. For one, it’s located along two major regional roadways, routes 7 and 145, and close to an exit off Interstate 88, a major through-route to other areas.
Terry said this stretch of land carries another attraction for potential business occupants — an economic development project 13 years ago extended natural gas service west from Cobleskill into the hamlet of Howes Cave, where major employer Kintz Plastics operates.
The water project is “on budget and on time,” Cobleskill town Supervisor Leo McAllister said.
Construction contracts were awarded in early 2013. Seaway Earth & Pipe LLC of Hannibal won a $7.34 million general construction contract; Binghamton’s Vacri Construction secured a $429,000 electrical contract; and Statewide Aquastore Inc. of East Syracuse built a 275,000-gallon water tank on Howe Caverns’ property to take advantage of its elevation.
McAllister said a January meeting with engineers revealed the project should be finished by June.
The project’s completion will set in motion the construction of a new Stewart’s Shop expected to employ about 16 full- and part-time workers, according to Stewart’s spokeswoman Maria D’Amelia. Stewart’s bought roughly 5 acres of property in 2013, including an office building on the corner of routes 7 and 145.
“We had been eyeing the property for quite some time,” D’Amelia said.
Word that the water and sewer infrastructure project met final approval set Stewart’s plan in motion, she said.
The new, 3,000-square-foot store will feature a modern, bright look and offer gasoline, diesel and kerosene, pizza and a “beer cave” walk-in cooler that offers a greater selection than typical coolers.
Stewart’s is waiting on the project’s completion to begin construction, which will take about eight weeks and could start in October, D’Amelia said.
Cobleskill Partnership Inc., a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting economic vitality in the village, will play a leading role in marketing the new branch of development, McAllister said. The group brings together representatives from several institutions, including SUNY Cobleskill and Cobleskill Regional Hospital as well as local government, business and school leaders.
He said the availability of municipal sewer and water service drew interest from the mobile home community on Route 7, where he said expansion is now planned.
“This is absolutely ideal for their purposes because they wouldn’t be able to do that without the water and sewer,” he said.
Boosting the quality of life in Cobleskill requires not only more jobs, but also more people, and McAllister said there’s plots of land on the targeted stretch already seen as suitable for adding townhouses.
The south side of Route 7 east of the Cobleskill Golf and Country Club, he said, is “wonderful land” officials will highlight to developers.
“That’s going to be our push once this is done,” McAllister said.
“The only way we’re going to keep taxes down is by having people and businesses come in.”
Reach Gazette reporter Edward Munger Jr. at 843-2856 or firstname.lastname@example.org.