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$60 million project set for site of former Castle across from Bona

A $60 million project featuring a hotel, apartments, stores, bowling alleys and space for sporting events is planned for the former Castle property in the Town of Allegany, the developer and St. Bonaventure University said Monday.

The project would construct five buildings, organized around a town square, on the high-profile site across Route 417 from the university.

"We believe this development will be a significant enhancement for the community, for the area and for St. Bonaventure students," said Brenda McGee Snow, the school's senior vice president for finance and administration.

A lot of work remains before construction can begin as scheduled in June, though officials said interest in the Bonaventure Square project is high.

Developer Ross Wilson and Associates must win approval from the Town of Allegany, persuade investors to finance the development and attract tenants to the buildings.

"There's still a lot of business conversations that have to take place," said Craig Marlatt, executive vice president for Ross Wilson.

The university announced in April that it was working with Ross Wilson to redevelop the parcel where the well-known Castle restaurant opened in 1946.

The restaurant closed in 1998 and briefly reopened in 1999 before closing for good along with the 160-room Castle Inn.

St. Bonaventure paid $1.8 million in 2002 and 2003 to buy and merge five pieces of land at the site to ensure that it had a say in future planning there, Snow said.

University officials gave Ross Wilson some redevelopment ideas, Marlatt said.

The plan unveiled Monday includes a recreation center with bowling alleys, a sports lounge and an arcade and gaming room; apartments targeted to graduate students and professionals; a hotel and conference center; a sports complex with space for intramural athletics and other competitions; and retail stores and restaurants.

At 400,000 square feet, the project is comparable in size to the Dulski Federal Building in Buffalo that was converted into the mixed-use Avant building.

"It's very pedestrian friendly," Marlatt said. "It's kind of a neighborhood within a neighborhood."

Marlatt and Snow said they could not identify prospective tenants until contracts are signed, but they said they have talked to companies that want to lease space.

"From that standpoint, it's very real, with serious interest from qualified partners," Snow said.

The developer also is talking to potential investors.

Marlatt said the site's location near the campus entrance makes the project attractive even in difficult economic times.

The project must be approved by the Town of Allegany Planning Board and the Town Board.

The developer and St. Bonaventure are seeking grants from Cattaraugus County and the state to support the project, and it's possible a portion could be funded through tax-exempt bonds issued by the county Industrial Development Agency.

The school is not putting any money into the project and has an agreement with Ross Wilson to sell the land, now appraised at $2 million, Snow said.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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