A long-vacant lakefront restaurant in Silver Creek that was destroyed in a fire 18 months ago is poised to become a "glamping" and entertainment resort.
Adventure Sports Development, a recreational space developer based in Silver Creek, is teaming up with Tundo Construction & Design of Blasdell to acquire the remains of the Hideaway Bay restaurant from the Chautauqua County Land Bank in mid-September.
Led by Adventure Sports owner Kevin Cullen, the companies have the 3.6-acre property under contract for $225,000, with plans to close on the purchase by Sept. 14, according to the developers' application to the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency for tax breaks.
Located at 42 Lake Ave., in the village, the property previously housed a two-story wood structure that was vacant for over 20 years, but it was destroyed in a fire in early 2020 that was later determined to be arson committed by a juvenile.
The new owners intend to construct a 4,080-square-foot, two-story building, housing a high-end farm-to-table restaurant, bar and event space, plus 10 furnished glamping cabins of 360 square feet each.
It's designed as a four-season resort, with kayaking, paddleboarding, kiteboarding and guided sports excursions, Cullen said. Specifics and pricing are still being determined, but there will probably be a two-night minimum stay.
Long-term plans also include boat tours. "There’s some pretty spectacular cliffs on both sides of the property. It’s pretty amazing coastline really," said Cullen, 35, a Hamburg native and Bishop Timon High School graduate, who got a master's degree from University at Buffalo in urban and regional planning.
The partners are working through 42 Lake Erie LLC, whose ownership includes Cullen, his wife Christian Edie, and Gene and Matt Tundo. An affiliated business owned by Cullen and his wife, SUP Erie Adventures LLC, will manage the recreational programming.
"The purpose of this project is to create a world-class destination on the waterfront in the village of Silver Creek on a lot that has been vacant for over a decade," the development team wrote in their application. "This project will have tremendous positive impacts on the village and surrounding area."
SUP Erie already offers water sports like paddleboarding, kayaking and kiteboarding at Sunset Bay and Mickey Rats, and Cullen said he and his wife have spent the last four years teaching the sports in Maui, Hawaii, for part of the year. The couple – who have two young children – own a catamaran sailboat that they lived on in the Florida Keys last year.
His new venture stems from his graduate work at UB, funded by a Prentice Foundation fellowship and focused on using adventure sports tourism to foster ecosystems and economic development.
"Having studied this at UB, and how these types of programs are supposed to interact, and then seeing it happening, is just really rewarding," he said.
The $1.43 million project is seeking $428,835 in financing through the CCIDA and a $400,000 state block grant.
The developers also are seeking $121,000 in sales and mortgage tax breaks and a 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement that would reduce the property tax bill on the property. The CCIDA will hold a public hearing in person and on Zoom at 10 a.m. July 7.
If approved, the group hopes to start work immediately, finish by April 2022 and open for business a month later.
The potential redevelopment would mark a successful turnaround for a property that has languished for decades and defied years of efforts to revive.
The site had been acquired by the land bank in 2016. But its location close to the lake made it environmentally sensitive, so the agency worked with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to get demolition permits and allow redevelopment of what was there.
The agency put the property out for bid a couple of time.
"We did not get anything that we felt was going to be the best use of the site and the best outcome for the community," said Gina Paradis, executive director of the land bank. "So we kind of held back, and when the fire happened, that changed the characteristics of the site and what it would accommodate as well."
Instead of making it easier, by destroying the dilapidated structure, the fire complicated the situation and restricted what could be done. That's because the DEC would have allowed reuse of more of the property when the building was still standing. An entirely new project is subject to the Coastal Erosion Zone, which runs through the middle of the land, to protect the lakefront.
That capped how much construction Cullen and his group could do, and pushed the project toward the back of the property.
Cullen is now working with the DEC to do environmental reclamation along the shoreline, as part of his development, Paradis said.
"Kevin was just great about being flexible and nimble with his project and the scope and the design of it," she said. "He’s very, very environmentally responsible and interested in being a good environmental steward on the lakefront."