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Butch Resnick’s proposal would restore Apollo Plaza as an outlet center and add a truck stop.

Five suitors have visions for rebirthing Apollo Plaza

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — December 10, 2010 — The redevelopment of the land around the former Apollo Plaza in Monticello now has five suitors.
Sullivan County officials this week began poring through the proposals submitted by five different groups in response to a request made by the county earlier this year.
The county solicited the proposals after it gained title to the Apollo property in a court battle.
Legislators opted to keep the land due to its economically strategic location and potential, thereby creating a 400-acre swath that includes the former site of the cancelled Phase II landfill expansion, which connects the mall area to the now-closed landfill.
Three of the five proposals involve the old Apollo Mall itself, while two focus solely on adjacent properties. Consequently, the county could pick more than one proposal.
By the end of the winter, a lease arrangement could be in place for up to three parcels totalling about 170 of those 400 acres.
“This is not a bid,” explained Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon. “It is a request for proposals that has to be reviewed by a committee.” That committee is now being formed, said Aragon, and will likely include representatives from the county (including legislators Alan Sorensen and Ron Hiatt), the Village of Monticello, the Town of Thompson, and various economic development agencies.
Once members are confirmed by the County Legislature, the committee will look at each proposal and make a recommendation to legislators, who can accept or reject any of the proposals for any reason.
Though no timeline has been set, Aragon hopes there’ll be some committee activity in January. “This is a very important project that is critical to our economic future,” he remarked.
He would not divulge the details of the specific proposals but did release the names of the involved groups.
• Catalyst Group – Headed by Broadway developer Tommy Ting, this group of regional and international investors plans an entertainment, manufacturing and recreational project, according to Ting. Though he also plans to harvest methane gas from the nearby landfill, the centerpiece of Ting's proposal would be a redevelopment of the mall into what he foresees as an “international hall of fame.”
“I want Sullivan County not to be known just nationally but internationally,” Ting related to the Democrat this week. The $30 million first phase of the project would include a “high-quality, world-class hotel plus assisted living” facility, he added.
“It’s got to have the impact to be a catalyst,” Ting remarked.
Ting continues to work on bringing an entertainment complex to Broadway in downtown Monticello, as well, and said he's already invested more than $100 million in the Hudson Valley region.
• Carbon Harvest Energy – The Burlington, Vermont-based company was featured in the Democrat in August, having announced a plan to harvest methane gas from the closed county landfill.
That gas would be used to power both Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris and a powerplant and greenhouse next to the landfill in Monticello.
“We really resubmitted our existing proposal,” explained Carbon Harvest President Don McCormick in an interview this week.
The one change is a big one, however: the addition of a 25,000-square- foot food processing and distribution center next to the greenhouse and powerplant.
The Apollo Mall wouldn’t be touched, said McCormick, who would prefer to work with another developer – perhaps one of those who submitted an alternate proposal – to return compatible retail outlets to the mall.
All the new buildings in this $40 million venture would be behind the mall, he explained, including a greenhouse/aquaculture facility.
“It’s a great location,” said McCormick, noting how the food processing/distribution center would be right between area farmers and one of the largest markets in the world: New York City.
“Our interest is in developing more of a co-op with them [the farmers],” he added.
• Chancellor Livingston – The limited liability corporation’s developers Michael Kaplan and Henry Zabatta declined to offer details. Known for turning the old Monticello Airport into what eventually became the Monticello Motor Club, they had submitted a proposal this past summer of an integrated recreational/retail complex featuring a fantasy baseball camp, athletic fields and a hotel, plus auto-themed stores.
However, the new proposal, Zabatta said, is different from that earlier one.
• Resnick Supermarket Equipment Corporation – Glen Wild businessman Butch Resnick and company had been one of the most visible suitors of the Apollo property earlier this year in the first round of proposals.
Their plans included restoring the Apollo as an outlet center and adding a truck stop and tourist destination behind it, taking advantage of the coming reconfiguration of Route 17’s Exit 106 and the fact that by not demolishing the Apollo, the project can bypass lengthy regulatory reviews.
According to attorney Jacob Billig, who represents Resnick in this venture, that’s still the plan.
“The benefit of our approach… is that we can avoid a significant amount of regulatory issues by rehabilitating the existing structure,” Billig explained, “and that allows us to move forward very, very quickly.”
An indoor year-round farmers’ market is also in the mix, as are green energy initiatives such as solar panels on the Apollo’s roof. Federal funding may be tapped, as well.
Renovated in a “Catskills rustic” look, the mall would be the first phase of the project and cost about $4 million, estimated Billig. The truck stop and its similarly entertainment-themed hotel would be added after the Apollo is back on its feet.
Billig said the Apollo’s rehab would be attractive to tenants via low rents and would also allow the county or its leasing arm to, in essence, share in the profits.
With the Village of Monticello already in support, Billig said Resnick’s goal is “to underpromise and overperform,” rather than the all-too-common reverse.
“We tried to emphasize in our submission the fact that our development team has the capital to move forward very quickly on the Apollo project,” he noted, “and we have experience in rehabilitating existing malls that are in a dilapidated condition.”
• Ireland-based Re3 Group is one of the two proposals focused solely on land adjoining the Apollo site, and spokesperson Mike Schwartz said the company's intent is to build its first innovative waste conversion plant in the U.S.
“It's a brand new, 100 percent green method of converting garbage into cellulose fiber," he explained.… The company was formed in Ireland and is a proven entity.”
The process utilizes steam to convert all sorts of trash into fiber that can be used for energy purposes.
“It would be connected to the [county's] transfer station," said Schwartz, noting the proposal includes ideas about how the county may be able to partner with Re3 in the $32 million venture.
The facility would need about 10 acres, he said, and would be environmentally friendly.
“It eliminates the need for any landfills,” Schwartz explained. “It produces no toxic substances. It comes out 100 percent pure.”
More information on the company can be found at

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