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Dan Hust | Democrat

Butch Resnick, left, and his attorney, Jacob Billig, talk about the future of the Apollo Plaza in Monticello, which they’re eyeing as a restored outlet mall, with a truck stop and hotel behind it.

Dreaming of a resurrected Apollo Plaza

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — May 28, 2010 — If Butch Resnick has his way, the Apollo Plaza will return to its roots as an outlet center.
And become the front door to a truck stop and hotel when the reconfigured Exit 106 on Route 17 opens.
“We need to generate taxes here,” the Glen Wild businessman explained at a press conference Wednesday. “And sales tax is the best way to generate taxes.”
So he’s proposing to first spend $3-$5 million rehabbing the defunct Apollo mall, starting with a $4 million, 30,000-square-foot supermarket at the western end (ironically in a space once occupied by a supermarket).
“We’re looking to save the structure,” he confirmed, speaking on behalf of the Resnick Group, a development team consisting of Resnick and Kent and Kenny Tavera, who are his partners in operating four Fine Fare supermarkets in New Jersey and the Bronx.
A fifth is under construction in Irvington, NJ, said Resnick, and he’s hoping to make the Apollo his sixth.
It’s a dream he’s been working towards for the past decade, but its reality is not yet assured.
The county now owns the 26-acre Apollo property, plus the 83 acres behind it. That’s where the county once planned to site the Phase II expansion of the neighboring landfill, and Resnick is eyeing it as the perfect spot for what he calls a “massive truck stop” and accompanying hotel.
But the county has also identified the combined 109 acres as the ideal place for a retail/industrial/recreational mix. In fact, it’s currently developing a Request for Proposals, and Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon said the Apollo has at least one other suitor looking to turn it into a tourist destination.
“Michael Kaplan and Henry Zabatta have submitted ideas for a variety of projects at the site,” Aragon confirmed, explaining that they are proposing a theater and sports fields, among other facilities, that would occupy not just the Apollo and the Phase II site but the other 300 acres of the now-closed landfill.
The Legislature must sign off on a sale or lease of the properties, possibly by the end of the summer, said Aragon.
Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis and Legislator Alan Sorensen, in whose district the properties sit, met with Resnick this week.
“I think it’s an exciting proposal,” remarked Rouis, who said the Legislature is eager to “fast-track developing the site.”
“The idea has a lot of merit,” agreed Sorensen. “It’s definitely a possibility.”
Sorensen has expressed hopes for a light-industry park behind the Apollo, but he felt the truck stop may “creatively” dovetail with that idea.
Rouis said legislators will discuss it, though he wouldn’t commit to a timeline.
“Whatever development goes there has to be a sales-tax generator,” he explained.
Resnick’s attorney, Jacob Billig, promised it would be.
“The county has had a significant decrease in its commercial tax base,” he remarked. “This is an opportunity to rebuild that commercial tax base.”
Resnick has already engaged Billig, architect Joe Hurwitz and engineer Vincent Peitrzak, and a preliminary timber-frame design has emerged – similar, they said, to the new Jeff Bank at The Corner in White Lake. The mall would also have solar panels on its 3-acre flat roof.
“The ‘bones’ of the building are very good,” assessed Hurwitz, who designed familiar local landmarks like the Frontier Insurance building in Rock Hill and the CVI Building in Ferndale. “It’s mostly rehab and repair and cosmetic.”
Resnick has already been soliciting retailers to operate outlets at the Apollo, and Billig said he’s got several lined up, though names were not divulged. The intent is to make the location a year-round shopping destination.
“That’s the way the Apollo was before, and we think there’s no reason it can’t be that way again,” Billig remarked.
The truck stop and hotel, to be accessed off Rose Valley Road, would come a few years later, said Resnick, as clearing the site and constructing facilities would be a longer permitting and review process than rehabbing existing buildings.
Resnick added that preliminary discussions with the Village of Monticello, which provides municipal services to the property, have been positive.
“We support it 100 percent,” confirmed Deputy Village Manager John LiGreci. “Anything that can be done to the Apollo would be an improvement to what’s going on there now, and we would be as user-friendly as we can be.”
Though Resnick has had spotty success with other local ventures (i.e., his housing development and industrial park near Glen Wild and Mountaindale have stalled due to the recession, while separate supermarket equipment and coffee companies have continued doing business), he is eager to get started.
“We can start immediately with our own funds,” he said. “I see the potential here, and if I commit, I commit. I know I can get this done.”
Pointing out that construction of one of his Fine Fare supermarkets takes just 120 days, he hopes local officials will work with him as quickly as possible.
“Time is money,” he remarked. “You can’t waste time.”

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