Development plans to bring upscale housing by racetrack

Mar 22, 2024 at 11:49 am by Observer-Review

The Esses, a planned development on 172 acres off Meads Hill Road
BY Karen Gadiel
SCHUYLER COUNTY--More housing is a top priority for Schuyler County, an essential for attracting new jobs and businesses and retaining talent. According to online information, 41 percent of the houses in the county were built prior to 1960, and the most recent single-family housing development was erected 50 years ago in Montour Falls. A proposed development near the Watkins Glen International racetrack could change that.
Nationally, according to Axios, the United States is short 3.2 million dwellings for rental or sale, an acute problem in major metropolitan areas and one that affects suburban and rural areas as well. Regionally, the rise in short-term rentals has tightened the real estate market, including making high-value lakefront housing scarcer.
Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) Executive Director Judy McKinney Cherry cites studies showing a trend for 30-somethings to want to live near the places where they grew up. Many state that as time goes on, they will also wish to help their parents age in place. A lack of housing makes it harder for younger people to locate and buy homes. “If we don’t do this, other communities will,” she notes. “We need housing at all levels.”
Including, it seems, higher-end housing. The Water Works Luxury Condos on Salt Point Road, opened nearly 10 years ago to offer about a dozen boutique second homes, planned to start selling them at $200,000, which at the time might have seemed unusually high-end to some. They ended up initially selling for upwards of $300,000. Then, partly motivated by the pandemic and the ability to work remotely, many summer residents decided to stay year-round. Vacancies are rare and when one is up for sale, it might not stay on the market long. One unit recently resold for close to $600,000. This suggests if a greater number of larger, more expensive single-family homes were locally available, they could find buyers.
The newest entry into this market is The Esses, a planned development on 172 acres off Meads Hill Road, adjacent to Watkins Glen International, about 300 yards, as the crow flies, from the outer loop at the track. Purchaser and developer David Suess intends to eventually have 50-80 new homes built, including up to 24 townhouse/condominiums, as well as larger single-family homes. The eventual number of homes sited here will depend on many factors including town of Dix approval of the site plan, whether the development is given permission to tie into municipal water and sewer, and of course, the demand for housing. Suess, who lives in Connecticut, is said to be considering building his own home on the property.
Individual homes would be available in multiple sizes all including significant space for garage and vehicle/recreation parking. Pricing ranges from $1.2 million up to $6 million, according to the website A parking-only space (20 feet x 80 feet) is listed at $80,000 and there is a garage option (1,200 sq. ft.) for $600,000.
“Of course, market values [what people are willing to pay] will determine what’s built and what it will cost,” says Judy Cherry. This makes the current prospectus on the website something of an experiment to gauge interest. The building-out will be accomplished in stages, based on interest and buy-in. In other words, future homeowners will choose their section of the property and put a sizable downpayment on the home they want there before it’s built.
The land is currently pastureland, with wide expansive vistas.
Since purchasing the land, the developer has entered into a relationship with Watkins Glen International. The Esses is sponsoring the Michelin Pilot Challenge race on Saturday, June 22, during the IMSA race weekend.
And they’re counting on motorsports enthusiasts among those who will be interested in moving there. Jon Beckman of Works Design Group, a branding and marketing firm, optimistically suggests if only one percent of the approximately 14,000 performance car owners who come to the track each year for non-race sportscar events become interested in investing in nearby housing, the demand could be greater than the projected build-out.
In the immediate future, the site plan is being developed by engineers at Fisher Associates, to be presented for approval to the town of Dix. This part of the process is expected to be completed and presented within the next three to four months. The developers, who have been in consultation with the governor’s housing initiative, are also hoping to secure state and/or federal funds for the development, as happened with the Water Works project. It’s a multi-step process with many interlocking moving parts. The developers hope a combination of permissions and interest in the project will mean groundbreaking can begin for the first phase later this year.
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