New life for IBM Country Club? Developer plans 75-unit apartment complex in Town of Union

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The former IBM Country Club may have new life.

The Broome County Local Development Corporation on Wednesday approved the sale of 4301 Watson Boulevard in the Town of Union to a Rochester development team that plans to build a 75-unit apartment complex on the long-abandoned site.

Conifer Realty, in partnership with LeChase Construction, agreed to purchase the 9-10-acre parcel for $300,000. Once a community fixture in IBM's heyday, the property has deteriorated while sitting vacant for more than a decade, with parts of the site condemned by the Town of Union.

Rather than try to resurrect the country club, the developers plan to demolish the existing structures and build anew.

“We know there’s some emotional connection to what’s currently there, but looking forward to what our community needs are, an affordable housing project with a strong developer like this group at Conifer-LeChase just makes a lot of sense,” said Stacey Duncan, executive director of The Agency, the county's economic development arm. “We know we have a need for workforce housing here, especially new, modern and up-to-date housing options for affordable housing.”

The former IBM Country Club in the Town of Union has been dormant for more than 20 years and has fallen into disrepair. Broome County said on Thursday, July 29, it is still looking for someone to develop the property.
The former IBM Country Club in the Town of Union has been dormant for more than 20 years and has fallen into disrepair. Broome County said on Thursday, July 29, it is still looking for someone to develop the property.

Duncan said the development will be targeted to residents making between 30-90% of the area’s median household income, $52,226. The current proposal calls for 18 one-bedroom units, 38-40 two-bedroom units, and 17-19 three-bedroom units. Ten percent of the apartments will be reserved for residents with mobility impairments, with a smaller percentage adapted for residents with hearing or visual impairments.

The property is currently zoned general commercial, with a portion of the land sitting in the flood plain.

“That will bring some challenges to design. They’ll utilize areas for floodwater mitigation and stormwater retention,” said Duncan. “The overall design is elevated. It’s not a raised stilt development but they recognize they need to keep the building footprint outside of that (floodplain), and they feel comfortable they can do that.”

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The preliminary design calls for a three-story apartment complex, though Duncan said the developers are interested in engaging the community in what residents would like to see on the site. Some under-utilized acreage around the southwest corner of the property, near the intersection of Watson Boulevard and Barton Avenue, may be transitioned into a greenspace area for the community.

“They really want to integrate into the landscape there, which we think is a good idea,” said Duncan.

The Conifer-LeChase team will apply for tax credits through New York’s Office of Homes and Community Renewal. The project is also being supported by $2 million from Broome County, which allocated the money from its American Rescue Plan dollars. That money is expected to fund site development, such as demolition efforts.

Duncan said the state’s decision on financing during the next round of funding could take until the fall, but preliminary site work may begin in the interim.

The former IBM Country Club in the Town of Union has been dormant for more than 20 years and has fallen into disrepair. Broome County said on Thursday, July 29, it is still looking for someone to develop the property.
The former IBM Country Club in the Town of Union has been dormant for more than 20 years and has fallen into disrepair. Broome County said on Thursday, July 29, it is still looking for someone to develop the property.

The Agency took a $5,000 option of first refusal on the site in 2019, hoping to redevelop the location through a public/private partnership. It issued a Request for Proposals in July 2021 and in November, the Broome County Industrial Development Agency formally acquired the Watson Boulevard property.

The county indicated in July that it preferred housing proposals for the site. Broome County’s Comprehensive Plan and The Agency’s Housing Study both pointed to a need to increase residential or mixed-use residential complexes to address growing demand for rental housing.

The Conifer-LeChase proposal was the lone response generated by the RFP to focus directly on housing. Other proposals featured ideas for recreational uses, but the Agency felt they required additional public funding that would be challenging to obtain.

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The former IBM Country Club in the Town of Union has been dormant for more than 20 years and has fallen into disrepair. Broome County said on Thursday, July 29, it is still looking for someone to develop the property.
The former IBM Country Club in the Town of Union has been dormant for more than 20 years and has fallen into disrepair. Broome County said on Thursday, July 29, it is still looking for someone to develop the property.

A workforce housing complex also fit the Agency’s vision for the area.

“It’s an important commerce corridor. The opportunity to rebuild that area, that neighborhood is going to be important. This project fits well into that,” said Duncan. “You have the recent completion and opening of the Fairmont Park project which has low-income senior housing. We have the opportunity here to really rebuild the neighborhood, integrate into the existing footprint and landscape there and serve that commerce corridor.

“I think it’s going to be a signature project for the town and hopefully provides some nice housing options for families and individuals.”

Chris Potter can be reached at cpotter@gannett.com or on Twitter @ChrisPotter413. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

This article originally appeared on Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin: Old IBM Country Club in Union to become apartment complex

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