Merlin Entertainments Proposes Major Road Project to Help Secure Legoland Approval
John Jordan | February 2017
GOSHEN—Merlin Entertainments, the developer of the proposed $500-million LEGOLAND New York project here, has taken a bold step to mitigate one of the major issues tied to the project’s approval. The firm announced on Monday plans to relocate and reconfigure Exit 125 of Route 17 to help alleviate traffic on local roads.
The multi-million dollar infrastructure plan calls for a reconfigured Exit 125 that would include a new bridge over Route 17 to provide direct access to the theme park property. Merlin, in an announcement released today, stated that the new reconfigured exit would alleviate traffic impacts on local roads by removing Legoland traffic from South Street and Harriman Drive. The reconfigured Exit 125 would also provide improved access to Glen Arden and Orange-Ulster BOCES, which are also located on Harriman Drive.
Plans for the relocated Exit 125 are still being finalized and would have to meet the approval of the New York State Department of Transportation. Merlin stated that it is working with NYSDOT to refine the traffic improvement plan so that it would conform with NYSDOT and Federal Highway Administration standards, including federal interstate standards in connection with the future conversion of Route 17 into Interstate 86.
Real Estate In-Depth has learned that the plan calls for Exit 125 to be relocated further east on Route 17 in both the east and westbound directions. Merlin Entertainments did not release a projected cost for the exit reconfiguration and new bridge. However, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, who praised Merlin’s new proposal, said the cost could approach $25 million. He added that while New York State may pay for some of the cost, the lion’s share of the project cost would be borne by Merlin, he told Real Estate In-Depth in a phone interview.
A flyover that would provide direct access solely to the Legoland property had been proffered by a number of local officials, including County Executive Neuhaus. However, a flyover does not meet federal interstate requirements.
“I am pleased that Merlin Entertainments is advancing an updated plan that addresses legitimate concerns relating to traffic on our local roads,” said Orange County Executive Neuhaus. “LEGOLAND New York will become a major tourism destination and this latest move also demonstrates their commitment to being a good neighbor.”
“LEGOLAND has always said that it wants to be a good neighbor in the Goshen community and that it wants to communicate openly and transparently,” stated Phil Royle, head of community & project relations for LEGOLAND New York. “We are still working through details but we want to let the community know that we heard their concern about traffic. We think we are close to a solution that will successfully address concerns. We want a theme park that works for the community at-large and we value the community’s input. LEGOLAND would like to thank the NYSDOT and FHWA for their interest in finding a cooperative solution.”
The project is currently before the Town of Goshen in the environmental approval process. Merlin is now preparing its Final Environmental Impact Statement.
Merlin Entertainments hopes to secure approvals and open the theme park in early 2019. Merlin has previously stated it hoped to secure approvals for the project in the first quarter of 2017. Merlin is seeking a zone change from the Town of Goshen on 153 acres of 523 acres it controls that abuts Route 17 between exits 124 and 125.
The developer will initially invest $350 million in the development and a total of more than $500 million over the first five years of the theme park and resort’s operation. In December 2016, LEGOLAND New York was awarded $3 million in funding commitments from New York State’s Consolidated Funding Application program. Previously the project secured $3.1 million in committed CFA funding in 2014 and another $1 million in 2015. It should be noted that the $7.1 million in CFA funding commitments for the project thus far have yet to be funded and forwarded to Merlin since the project has not secured approvals as yet from the Town of Goshen.
The proposal for the LEGOLAND New York resort includes a theme park with more than 50 rides, shows and attractions and a 250-room LEGOLAND Hotel. The theme park will be geared toward families with children aged two to 12.