Case Study: Land Use Feasibility Study in Upstate New York

Case Study: Land Use Feasibility Study in Upstate New York
Objectives of the Market Research

3S Gateway, LLC partnered with Drive Research to conduct a market research feasibility study. This market research aimed to guide 3S Gateway, LLC on the best-use of the 155 acres of land owned across the Thruway from the new del Lago Resort and Casino in Waterloo, NY. The goal of the feasibility study was to help identify feasible options, establish which type(s) of propositions are most viable, and assist in the development of a strategic business case using data collected, recommended executions, and marketing suggestions.

The casino opened in February 2017 and expects to draw between 3.0 million and 3.4 million visitors per year. The casino will draw 1,800 new jobs to the area and will undoubtedly have an impact on the surrounding land and Route 318 corridor off the Waterloo Thruway exit.

Market Research Feasibility Components

To address the objectives at-hand, Drive Research recommended a 4-component market research study. The feasibility study combined both qualitative and quantitative research to provide 3S Gateway, LLC with a comprehensive overview of potential land-use options for the property. Drive Research employed a 4-step approach to new product development and feasibility study market research. For each phase, findings were generated and the development path and decisions were adjusted for the market research project.

The 4 components which make up the Phase-Gate for this project included:

  • 8 stakeholder in-depth interviews (IDIs)
  • A market analysis including demographic analysis and trends review
  • A competitive business assessment
  • 400+ completed online surveys to assess needs and demand

Kickoff Meeting

Before the market research began, Drive Research scheduled a kickoff meeting with the 3S Gateway, LLC team. An agenda was sent prior to the meeting which highlighted expectations, timeline, and next steps. At the conclusion of the kickoff meeting, Drive Research prepared a living project workplan which detailed deliverables, responsible parties, and dates of completion. This workplan was updated each week and shared throughout the project.

At the kickoff meeting, the teams discussed the market research process and timeline. It covered such objectives as what would 3S Gateway like to learn from the market research, what were the expectations of 3S Gateway for the market research, and how the market research report findings would be used. The market research process was moved onto an accelerated timeline to meet the needs of the 3S Gateway team.

Component 1: In-depth interviews (IDIs)

A total of 8 one-on-one phone IDIs were conducted with key stakeholders for the market research study. These included economic development personnel, visitor’s bureau directors, developers, and other influential constituents who offered knowledge, expertise, and insight into the potential success of the property. The list of potential targets was discussed and passed to 3S Gateway for approval before interviews began.

One of the main objectives was to finalize a set of potential fit(s) for the property including strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) for development. Each phone interview lasted approximately 20 minutes and was pre-scheduled by phone. Interviews were digitally recorded. Interviewees were offered a $100 honorarium as a thank you for their time which was be accepted or donated to a charity.

The idea generation interviews lasted 20 to 30 minutes with each economic stakeholder.

Component 2: Demographic and market analysis

This component of the market research utilized U.S. Census Bureau demographic information and other secondary data sources to understand population trends which will impact the proposed land-use options. It was determined the core primary market area (PMA) was a 100-mile radius around the 3S Gateway site. This includes much of Upstate New York, parts of Canada and Northern Pennsylvania. The secondary market area (SMA) was a 200-mile radius around the site. This was largely developed through the idea generation in-depth interviews based on traveler patterns.

Demographic data included populations, households, genders, ages, household incomes, and several other secondary paid data platforms and sources available to the market research feasibility company. This helped 3S Gateway determine the available supply of audience and understand the changing demographics of targeted market areas including residents and visitors. The trends analysis also reviewed traffic patterns, new development which could impact the site, and other pertinent data.

Component 3: Competitive assessment

This component of the market research generated an in-depth look at other like land-uses and facilities across Upstate New York. The competitive assessment used findings from the IDIs and market analysis to create a competitive set of up to 3 properties for review. These competitive casino properties including Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona NY, Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino in Salamanca NY, and Mount Airy Resort & Casino in Mt. Pocono, PA. As part of this competitive profile, an inventory was created for number of hotel rooms, entertainment, restaurants, and other key businesses within a specific-mile radius of the location. This helped 3S Gateway arrive a competitive market penetration figures for business options.

The competitive assessment reviewed growth and development of property surrounding these resorts (e.g., what type(s) businesses emerged due to the resorts, what is planned for future development, what type(s) of businesses left, etc.). An inventory of facilities and businesses were built for each of the 3 competitive properties. This component of the market research provided 3S Gateway with necessary competitive intelligence to understand and learn from other like-properties across the PMA and SMA.

Component 4: Market survey

The final piece of the market research study examined interest, appeal, and potential usage of the property. The online survey was customized to the needs of 3S Gateway and driven by the findings from the first 3 components of the feasibility study.

To address the objectives at-hand, Drive Research recommended a quantitative market research approach to this project. An online survey was utilized to receive feedback in the most cost-effective way. The survey was designed, tested, administered, managed, analyzed, and reported on by Drive Research. 3S Gateway was not identified as the sponsor of the market research.

This survey was administered through the usage of an online panel. Survey respondents represented a cross-section of the market area with half of the responses coming from households within a 100-mile radius of the site (PMA) and half of the households residing within a 101 to 200-mile radius of the site (SMA).

The survey lasted an average 5 to 7 minutes and included 22 questions. Fieldwork began on April 13th and lasted until April 20th. A total of 493 respondents participated in this survey.

Key Findings

The final market research report was compiled for 3S Gateway. The 200-page report included an executive summary of themes derived from all components of the market research including recommendations for land use planning. Drive Research debriefed with the 3S Gateway team at the conclusion of the market research through a scheduled meeting. The report with any final edits along with supporting files was emailed to the client at the conclusion of the project.

Although findings from the market research feasibility study were confidential with 3S Gateway, the results provided the client with a clear direction of potential businesses. These were categorized into Tier A, Tier B, and Tier C successes. The feasibility study combined findings from all 4 components of the market research to make broad yet descriptive recommendations for each business concept.

The recommendations also included suggestions for next steps with master planning. Complex land-use projects rely on a careful balance of good design, branding, project phasing, and a strategic infrastructure development approach in order to maximize market penetration and ROI.

Contact Drive Research

Drive Research is a market research feasibility company located in Upstate, NY. Interested in conducting a feasibility study for your land, type of business, or for an expansion of services?

Contact us at or by calling 315-303-2040.

Market Research Case Studies