Changes proposed for lakefront development in Canandaigua

The shell of the Canandaigua Finger Lakes Resort stands next to Kershaw Beach, unfinished (Photo: John McClintock)

Canandaigua, N.Y. – A proposed development next to Kershaw Beach in Canandaigua could undergo major changes, if its developers get their way.

A consultant for developer David Genecco addressed members of the Canandaigua City Council’s planned unit development committee Thursday to discuss a new proposal for the project, known as the Canandaigua Finger Lakes Resort.

The biggest change to the project would be that the site would house apartments, and that it would not act as a hotel.

According to project consultant David Pelusio, the developers have not been able to find a bank or broker to invest in a hotel due to concerns about profitability.

Under the revised project, the target demographic would be empty-nesters who would leave the area in the winter, but return in the summer. Pelusio said the exterior would remain the same as originally planned, and the proposed conference center, restaurant and pool would still be constructed. Floors 2 through 5 would house between 80-100 apartments that would range in price from $1,850 to $3,350. Plans for an underground garage would be scrapped. He also said docks would be added.

“At this point, you need options here, in my opinion,” Pelusio said to the Council. “Without options, in anything you do in life, it’s a problem. You need to have options. If you get up against the wall and there’s no options, you usually aren’t successful.”

The project has stalled in recent years; today, the frame of a structure has stands unchanged – and undeveloped.

“This spot, this location has been a wish of the community probably for 25 or 30 years to be a hotel, to bring a vibrant signature hotel to Canandaigua,” said Councilman-at-Large and PUD chair David Whitcomb. “It’s part of our comprehensive plan, it’s something the community feels very strongly about, and when I initially heard him talk about the apartments, that was my first reaction, was, this runs counter to that vision.”

Last year, City of Canandaigua officials told 13WHAM construction for the $60 million project stalled because of unexpected problems in paying for it. At the time, officials said work was still being done behind the scenes.

“Fortunately, it’s not completely dead in the water,” Assistant City Manager John Goodwin told 13WHAM in May. “There’s still people working on it, and we’re going to have a hotel.”

The changes proposed Thursday were met with resistance from several of the committee members. Some questioned changing course from the hotel proposal, citing two other hotels that have opened in the time the project has been stagnant.

Thursday was Mr. Pelusio’s first time speaking before City Councilmembers about the resort project, a point of concern for Whitcomb.

“It is a little frustrating when, every time that someone comes to the Council on this project, it’s a different face,” said Whitcomb. “There hasn’t been a lot of consistency.”

Pelusio said Mr. Genecco was not in attendance due to fear of public backlash.

The project has had issues concerning financing in the past, and this, too, was brought up in Thursday’s meeting. At one point, Mr. Pelusio claimed the project had commenced without any financing.

Councilmember-at-Large Matt Martin: (T)he other part is the property is so astronomically – most of the cost is tied up in land. That’s another reason why this is – I don’t know how this ever got approved for financing to begin with.

Pelusio: Never did. It never did. It never had financing. Why they even started with financing is beyond me.

Canandaigua City Mayor Ellen Polimeni: Supposedly, they had North Star Financing.

Councilmember, unidentifiable: We never would have approved it without financing.

Polimeni: We wouldn’t have approved it had it not had financing.

Pelusio: I wasn’t here, so I can’t answer. I know they never closed on a loan. They started construction out of their pockets. I know that for a fact. Other than what happened prior, I don’t know.

It was a point Whitcomb said was false.

“That was not true,” Whitcomb said after the meeting. “When the project was initially approved by Council, there was financing lined up. That financing ended up falling through for financial reasons that were unforeseen at the time. The market crashed. I believe that bank actually went into bankruptcy. You can’t plan for that type of thing, obviously, but that was not a true assessment. I just don’t think he knew that, basically.”

When asked about Mr. Genecco not being present at Thursday’s meeting, Whitcomb expressed concern.

“I think this is a signature project, and I would imagine one of Mr. Genecco’s largest assets,” said Whitcomb. “To propose a change of this magnitude and not come to the meeting, it certainly doesn’t instill a sense of confidence that even he believes in the changes he’s proposing. It’s hard to believe in when he’s not here.”

In order for the project to continue as an apartment complex, the land would have to be rezoned as residential. It will also need to be approved by the Canandaigua planning commission.

Thursday’s meeting was solely informational, and no action was taken. However, Mr. Pelusio did express concern, saying if the project was not amended soon, there may not be financing available in the future – a point to which City Councilmembers countered by saying there may still be options in the future, to which Pelusio agreed.

13WHAM has reached out to David Genecco for comment, and will update this story as new information develops.

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