Feb 10, 2007, 5:31 PM
Downtown Albany face-lift
Hotel and residential project would also include stores at plant site
By ERIC ANDERSON, Deputy business editor
First published: Saturday, February 10, 2007
ALBANY -- A 15-story hotel and multistory residential building, coupled with plans for several stores, could be just what downtown needs, city planners say.
The buildings would replace the William Boyd Printing plant on Sheridan Avenue, located a short distance from North Pearl Street. Close by are Capital Repertory Theatre, the Palace Theatre, the new Hampton Inn & Suites hotel, and several restaurants and taverns.
The plans surfaced this week as Boyd's Chapter 11 reorganization wends its way through federal bankruptcy court. Boyd filed for protection from creditors in September 2005. At the time, the 116-year-old company had 80 employees.
Behind the redevelopment plans is The Shapolsky Organization, a New York City-based real estate firm whose principal, Arthur Shapolsky, has offered $2 million for the 1.3-acre Boyd site.
A spokesman in Shapolsky's office referred calls about the project to another developer, Mario Procida of Procida Realty in the Bronx. Procida declined Friday to talk about the project.
Shapolsky's offer to buy the property has already received bankruptcy court approval. But the new plans will delay the closing date to September -- attorneys had hoped it would happen as soon as March -- and some creditors have expressed disappointment about that, said Robert Rock, the attorney representing Boyd.
"There never was a closing date," Rock said. "We had hoped and anticipated it would be coming in March. With the expanded project, it's stretching out the time frame."
The delay, Rock added, was understandable, because the developer needs to line up the necessary permits and financing.
He said the bankruptcy trustee in the case wants to convert it to a Chapter 7 liquidation, a move Rock thinks will ultimately leave creditors with fewer dollars.
"He's not going to have any more weapons in his arsenal to get the sale done more quickly," Rock said.
Because neither Shapolsky nor Procida would talk, it's not clear what form the residential units would take -- condominiums or apartments, for example -- and to whom they would be marketed.
"We think the market's there," said Joe Rabito, Albany's commissioner of development and planning. "The more residential, the better."
Feb 10, 2007, 5:32 PM
And here's the site. Great to see this area start to fill in and lose the shabbiness.
Feb 10, 2007, 6:47 PM
Will this come complete with it's own parking garage? :haha:
I've been telling someone to buy the buildings on Theatre Row for years. If I had any money, I'd be rich.
Feb 10, 2007, 7:03 PM
Great news. Maybe it will have some positive impact on Arbor Hill too.
Feb 11, 2007, 1:47 PM
This is good news for that neighborhood, but i'm curious what the city is going to do when the residents currently living in Arbor Hill are priced out. Where will they end up? Perhaps the firetrap affectionately known as the "student ghetto" by Quail and Madison?
It would be nice if developments like this one were coincided with quality affordable housing in the same area, to really give the neighborhood a diverse feel and give a break to the current residents. But I guess planners in Albany are just grateful to get any development they can there. It's not as bad as plopping down a massive concrete plaza in a diverse residential neighborhood as they did with Empire State Plaza. They are at least maintaining it as a neighborhood in this case. But I wonder if gentrification is an issue they are at least considering.
Feb 11, 2007, 3:24 PM
Don't think we have to worry about anyone being priced out...yet. There are still way too many vacancies for that neighborhood to turn itself around. I think we will see more new construction than anything else, as there is plenty of land to build on. That said, there have been a lot of ongoing rehabs in lower Arbor Hill area. To my knowledge they have been purely for investment purposes, and have not generated additional homeownership. Not sure if we can call that gentrification. The city just built a bunch infill for lower-income homeowners in Arbor Hill, so maybe that will address some concerns. The crime has already been migrating past Henry Johnson Boulevard into the West Hill area, along with some of the riff-raff. There are only a couple areas in Arbor Hill that still feel dangerous, IMO.
Feb 12, 2007, 4:16 PM
more good news for this corner of downtown!
Clifton Park investor bets big ($4M+) on downtown Albany
The Business Review (Albany) - February 9, 2007
by Michael DeMasi
Marc H. Paquin, the 40-year-old president of Cass Hill Development Cos. in Clifton Park, is bullish on downtown Albany.
Over the past two years, Paquin and his financial partners have quietly invested $4.48 million in three large buildings downtown.
And they're on the lookout for more.
"The city in the last 10 years has made a pretty significant resurgence and I don't think people are giving it its due," said Paquin, who points to the new bars, restaurants, hotels, plans for a convention center and other projects underway.
After working 15 years with Jim Morrell, owner of Albany Broadcasting Co. in Latham--including a long stretch as executive vice president--Paquin left three years ago when his wife, Melissa, gave birth to their second son, Ben.
He needed a change of pace and formed Cass Hill, tapping into a network of people who wanted to invest in commercial real estate but didn't share his background in the field (he named the company after the road where he grew up in Clarksville in rural Albany County).
Since then, Cass Hill has bought about 400,000 square feet of commercial space in upstate New York, including 250,000 square feet in Albany. Paquin declined to reveal the total value of assets under management.
Paquin likes flying below the radar in his dealings, but the firm's most recent acquisition and renovation plans are likely to turn heads.
A Cass Hill affiliate spent $1.33 million on a 30,345-square-foot office building at 25 Monroe St., which is located around the corner from the new Hampton Inn on Chapel Street.
The deal, brokered by Tom MacClarence and Eileen Lindburg of CB Richard Ellis Albany, closed Dec. 1.
"He's putting his money where his mouth is in terms of the upside of investing in downtown," Lindburg said. "Talk is cheap ... but Marc is seeing the opportunities and actually investing. And he's a new investor, not somebody who already owns downtown."
The Monroe Street building's principal new tenant will be Zone 5, a marketing and advertising firm that will move from a corporate office park in Albany into a renovated space that Paquin promises will be "tastefully edgy."
The goal is to take a plain-looking, two- and three-story masonry building that's slightly off the beaten path downtown and transform it into a modern, fun place for Zone 5's young, creative staff to work in.
Paquin hired 3T Architects of Albany to tackle the job.
3T's principal architect, Scott Townsend, has experience with cutting-edge design. In his previous job at Vollmer Associates LLP, Townsend worked with Design Network of Saratoga Springs on the interior for Vicarious Visions Inc., a video game software developer whose uber-cool headquarters in an old Menands warehouse has drawn rave reviews.
Zone 5 will occupy about one-third of the building on Monroe Street. Several existing tenants will remain in the newly redesigned space, including The Berkshire Ballet, Albany Arts Studio and a day care center, Albany County Opportunity Inc.
Paquin expects the renovations will be finished by mid-summer.
'Pieces of the puzzle'
He can already see the results at one of the two other properties Cass Hill purchased downtown, The Argus Building at 412 Broadway.
Consisting of four interconnected buildings constructed between 1878 and 1888, the Argus is home to the region's largest architectural firm, Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture & Engineering P.C. A Cass Hill affiliate bought the 36,852-square-foot building and an adjoining parking lot for $3 million in February 2006, according to the city assessor's office and a deed filed in the Albany County Clerk's Office.
Since buying the property from the founders of EYP, Cass Hill has spent several hundred thousand dollars restoring the original wood cornice on the fifth floor, rebuilding the 55-foot-high skylight above the lobby and doing other improvements. Paquin feels passionate about restoring and preserving pieces of history.
"Go to Clifton Park and find that building or this building or that," he said as he stood on Broadway on a recent afternoon and pointed in succession to the triangle-shaped KeyBank branch at Broadway and State Street, the spires of the Gothic-styled SUNY headquarters and the Argus Building.
Cass Hill's first purchase downtown was its most speculative. In November 2004, an affiliate of the firm bought a vacant 83,312-square-foot warehouse at 44 Broadway for $150,000, according to the city assessor and a deed filed in the Albany County Clerk's Office.
Located along the Hudson River near the U-Haul moving center, the former industrial building has concrete floors and "beautiful views of the city and water," Paquin said. He finished gutting the interior eight months ago and imagines it could someday be converted into loft offices with residential living on the top floor.
"We're working collaboratively with the city to put together pieces of the puzzle down there," he said. "I bought it speculating it's the only waterfront you can develop in the city."
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Feb 12, 2007, 10:59 PM
I think we're in for some fun times. I just hope we can bring back the true, vibrant, 24-hour mixed-use downtown. Without any plans in place, I am still skeptical of the potential outcome.
Feb 13, 2007, 3:34 PM
I think we're in for some fun times.
Albany office tower sells for $9.75M
The Business Review (Albany) - 2:54 PM EST Monday, February 12, 2007
by Michael DeMasi
A New York City investor has purchased a signature property in Albany, N.Y., the 15-story office tower at 90 State St. in the heart of downtown for $9.75 million, according to the Manhattan brokerage firm that handled the sale, Eastern Consolidated. (it's the art deco tower at the western corner of N. Pearl and State)
The 178,567-square-foot building, which is 86 percent occupied and houses a mix of private and government offices and retail stores, including OK Office Products and Jimmy John's Gourmet Subs, sold Jan. 25.
The buyer's name was not disclosed. The deed has not been filed in the Albany County Clerk's office, according to a clerk there.
One of the brokers who handled the sale, 24-year-old David Johnson, happens to be a native of Niskayuna.
Johnson, a director in Eastern Consolidated's Manhattan headquarters, said the buyer owns other properties in the region and is "bullish on acquiring assets in the Capital District."
Demand for Class A office buildings and apartment complexes in the Albany region has surged as commercial real estate prices escalate in New York City and investors look for alternatives that offer a better rate of return, Johnson said. The demand is driven in part by the desire to defer federal taxes by investing the money from the sale of commercial real estate into other, similar real estate, which is known as a 1031 exchange.
Johnson wasn't sure if the sale of the 90 State St. building was the result of a 1031 exchange, but other investors are drawn to the region for that very reason.
"It's very difficult to find a quality 1031 because the Manhattan pricing is incredible, so a lot of investors are looking elsewhere to complete their exchanges," he said. "The Capital District has begun to fall on the radar screen for a lot of 1031 activity for New York City investors."
Johnson, who graduated from Niskayuna High School in 2001, said his familiarity with the region gives him an advantage over other brokers in Manhattan.
He was assisted in the sale by Eastern's senior managing directors, Eric M. Anton, and Ronald A. Solarz. All three exclusively represented the seller, Andalex Group, a New York City real estate investment firm.
The buyer was represented by Paul Ramirez of Eastern Consolidated.
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