The Seneca Nation of Indians is considering plans for a $50 million outlet mall off Exit 58 along the New York State Thruway in Chautauqua County, a project that its supporters say would generate as many as 750 full- and part-time retail jobs.
Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter, Nation Council Chairman Richard E. Nephew and Chautauqua County Executive Gregory J. Edwards discussed the idea in a Thursday conference call with reporters.
Seneca leaders said a “national retailing expert” completed a feasibility study this summer indicating that there was a “viable economic opportunity” associated with developing a mall at that location.
The mall proposal comes against the backdrop of Seneca Nation elections Nov. 6. Porter is running for treasurer, and Nephew is running for president. Porter and Nephew said that if they are elected, they would make the mall project “a top priority” of the new administration.
The 108 acres were acquired by the Seneca Nation through its gambling corporation about 10 years ago. Porter said that the mall would be built on taxable land and that the land would not be incorporated into the nearby Cattaraugus Territory.
Porter described the feasibility study as the first phase of the project. The second phase, he said, would be securing financing and identifying a developer who could guide the project and secure commitments from retailers. The Tribal Council would also have to approve the project.
If the project does go forward, Porter said he was hopeful that construction could begin in two years.
Edwards said the mall would also benefit other businesses in the area by drawing more traffic off the Thruway. “This is something that’s been well-researched, well-designed, and is an exciting opportunity,” he said.
Seneca leaders say the mall would consist of about 400,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. The Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls consists of about 526,000 square feet.
Nephew said development of the 108 acres along the Thruway has been long anticipated. “Our people have asked year after year, ‘What are we going to do with this?’ ” Porter said.
The Seneca Nation declined to release a copy of the retailing feasibility study, or even disclose who prepared it, citing competitive concerns.
Separately, Seneca Gaming Corp. and the Seneca Nation have opened a $48 million hotel tower at the Seneca Allegany Casino & Hotel.
The tower’s first floor of rooms are available; the remaining floors will be completed in the weeks ahead, officials said. The tower will add 201 rooms at the resort.