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Dec 23, 2007, 1:32 PM
Design of the times

Brilliant new buildings are slowly changing the staid skylines of the Capital Region

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Sunday, December 23, 2007

Already, before it has even opened, it's a distinctive feature on the Troy skyline: a blue glass box, high on a hill, with an odd protrusion jutting toward the city below.

Few are watching the construction of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center more closely than the Capital Region's architects, many of whom consider the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute building a refreshing break from the area's recent architectural history.

Spend time talking to architects here and you'll hear a frequent complaint:

The Capital Region, many say, has been architecturally conservative to an extreme, unwilling to embrace the modern or innovative designs that, in many cases, are being championed in other parts of the country.

But another theme also emerged during recent interviews with a dozen or so architects and builders: The region is beginning to change, many said, and bolder buildings are being constructed or planned.

"We're moving in a much more interesting direction,'' said Francis Pitts, a Troy-based architect and president of the regional branch of the American Institute of Architects.

Architects stress there's nothing inherently wrong with conservatively designed architecture. Traditional-looking buildings, they say, can be functional and beautiful and all the things that good architecture should be.

Many, too, note that innovative and inventive design does not assure quality.

"There's no guarantee that because you do something crazy and untested that it's going to be good,'' said Peter Seidner of the Clover Architecture Group in Guilderland. ``It's got to be functional.''

But architects also say variety is a necessary spice. Why, they ask, should every building be designed as if it's afraid to offend? Why can't the Capital Region have more thought-provoking and eye-catching buildings?

And why must so many buildings today try to look as though they were built 100 years ago? What's wrong, they ask, with metal, steel or large expanses of glass materials that are rarely seen on the exterior of Capital Region structures?

"This area can be very risk averse,'' said Scott Townsend, president of 3tArchitects in Albany.

Architects and builders cite several reasons why that has been the case. Many are economic.

They mention that state government has long been the Capital Region's dominant industry. It's a cautious sector, they say, that tends to build with tight, taxpayer-funded budgets that can discourage architectural imagination.

Some also note that the upstate New York economy has grown slowly in recent decades, relative to many parts of the country.

"Interesting architecture always seems to follow places that are really prospering,'' said William Massie, a former RPI architecture professor now teaching at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan.

Kevin Bette, president of the Latham-based development company First Columbia LLC, cited another reason: a lack of patrons for innovative architecture.

"When you see cutting-edge stuff, you usually have big corporate companies,'' he said. "And we don't have big corporate headquarters here.''

Architects concede their profession tends to suffer from a grass-is-greener syndrome, always believing other areas are building more innovatively. And it's widely acknowledged that older East Coast cities, with richer architectural histories, build fewer daring buildings than newer cities in, say, Texas or California.

And it's not as if this region is entirely lacking in modern architecture. There's the 1970s-era Empire State Plaza, for example, or the main University at Albany campus, opened in the 1960s and designed by Edward Durell Stone.

Problem is, both are generally unpopular with the public.

"I think it (Empire State Plaza) turned a lot of people off to new architecture,'' said Ryan Salvas, a graduate of the RPI architecture program. "I think there's a stigma about new architecture in Albany.''

Salvas graduated in 2006 and works now for SHoP Architects in Manhattan. It's the kind of highly innovative firm that traditionally hasn't existed in the Capital Region.

Bigger cities have always been a draw for architects, yet it's true that the conservatism of the Capital Region's architecture has led some younger members of the profession to leave the area.

But there are young architects determined to do inventive work here.

Balzer Hodge Tuck Architects, for example, is a three-architect Saratoga Springs firm winning praise for innovation. The firm's recent addition to the Susan Odell Taylor School for Children in Troy is cited as particularly noteworthy.

The small building mixes glass and translucent panels, allowing natural light to flood in during the day and causing the school to glow at night.

"Every architect has an ego,'' said Brett Balzer, one of the firm's principals. "And the three of us look at the architecture of this area and think we could do better. We're a young firm trying to push it.''

Architects, of course, build at the whims of clients. Balzer and others in the field concede that while they can push for architectural innovation, they ultimately need a willing patron.

But architects also say that even when they find clients willing to accept daring design, there's another daunting hurdle: local planning boards.

"You suggest something that's very contemporary and you're fighting an uphill battle,'' Seidner said. ``And, of course, the developer is interested in getting his project moving and not in fighting battles.''

Balzer's firm had a commission to design a modernist house of glass and bright-red cedar for a wooded site near Lake George. But the plan fizzled when local officials balked, Balzer said.

Likewise, developer Victor Gush, president of VLG Real Estate Developers in East Greenbush, said a condominium complex he is planning for Van Schaik Island in Cohoes once had a more brash design, but was toned down at the request of officials.

Despite the hurdles, architects insist the Capital Region is increasingly receptive to more interesting architecture.

As examples, many point to the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering campus along Fuller Road in Albany, where stark, white buildings are suggestive of the high-tech research taking place inside the University at Albany structures.

Then, there is the Opalka Gallery, a small building at The Sage Colleges in Albany, and the Cancer Research Center on the University at Albany's east campus in East Greenbush. Both buildings were designed by EYP, a large Albany firm.

Observers also cite the series of new buildings at Hudson Valley Community College, including the campus center and administrative building, both designed by the Troy firm Architecture Plus, where Pitts is a principal.

And, of course, there's RPI's mammoth Experimental Media building, known as EMPAC and designed by the firm headed by English architect Nicholas Grimshaw.

All of the above examples have something in common: They're associated with colleges and universities.

"We're seeing institutions looking to use architecture as a device to drive change, attract students and build excitement,'' said John Pocorobba, vice president of operations at EYP. "People are seeing the branding or public-relations opportunities of having a signature building.''

But architects, including Pocorobba, say they're also noticing more willingness for design innovation among non-collegiate clients. And there's hope the increasing dynamism of the region's economy, especially the emergence of a high-tech industry, will bring even more interesting architecture.

Bette, the developer, said he has noticed a growing appreciation for quality architecture in the Capital Region and believes the office buildings being built here today are of a higher quality than those built a decade ago.

"That's what keeps lasting value in property if you build it well and build it beautiful,'' he said.

Whether the general public will find the EMPAC building beautiful is an open question. But many architects said they considered the building, expected to open next year, a potential icon and a likely boost for more such architecture in the Capital Region.

"EMPAC could influence people's opinion of avant-garde buildings and architecture,'' Massie said. "I really do think EMPAC will have an impact, so to speak.''


Dec 25, 2007, 5:37 PM
Condo buyers are living larger

Developers building bigger units to satisfy older residents' space demands

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Tuesday, December 25, 2007

If your idea of a condominium is an apartment-sized home for folks who don't want to rent, think again.

Developers are selling condos in the Capital Region that are bigger than the average detached home -- and the sizes seem to be growing and growing.

Look no further than the Vly Pointe development along busy Route 7 in Niskayuna.

There, Adirondack Development Group of Rotterdam has been building a condo complex with two-story units as large as 2,500 square feet; a "ranch house" unit has 1,700 square feet of living space.

Each comes with a garage. Some even have unfinished basements.

Paul Hodorowski, vice president of residential development at Adirondack Development, said the Vly Pointe units are targeted at older homebuyers who want maintenance-free living but don't want to discard decades' worth of accumulated possessions.

Hodorowski calls the Vly Pointe units an innovation in the local condominium market: No one was building condominiums with all the features of a single-family home, save the big back yard, when work began last year on the 72-unit project.

"People thought we were nuts," he said.

Hodorowski concedes the units were slow to sell at first. Now, though, the condos, priced between $275,000 and $400,000, are selling nearly as fast as the company builds them, he said.

Other developers are building big, too.

Hayes Development in Menands, for example, last week received approval from the Colonie Planning Board to build condo units that range in size from 1,600 to 3,000 square feet on the site of the former Eamonn's Loudon House in Loudonville.

Likewise, VLG Real Estate Developers in North Greenbush revamped plans this year for its Captain's Lookout condo complex on Van Schaik Island in Cohoes, making the units larger.

Market research dictated the decision and led the company to conclude that its original plan was out of sync with what many potential buyers wanted.

The development's new plan, approved last week by the planning board in Cohoes, increases the average size of the homes in the 140-unit complex by about 25 percent, to 2,000 square feet.

"Before, it was more like apartment living," said VLG's Victor Gush. "This is more like living in your own home."

It shouldn't come as a surprise that condos are getting larger. After all, the average new single-family home in the United States has more than doubled in size since 1950, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

The average home built in 1950 was 983 square feet. By 2004, the average home size was 2,349 square feet.

The U.S. Census Bureau, meanwhile, says the average size of a home built in the Northeast in 2006 was 2,612 square feet.

And it may make sense for developers to cater to older homeowners for new condo sales, especially as the local and national housing markets cool.

The population is aging, with more and more Americans -- including the 76 million-member baby boom generation -- headed toward retirement. It's a demographic marketers in all industries are eager to target.

And Adirondack Development's Hodorowski pointed out many older homebuyers bought their homes decades ago, at relatively reasonable prices. As they paid off their mortgages, the value of their houses often skyrocketed, leaving them with home equity they now can apply toward condos with luxury features. Hodorowski said many of the buyers at Vly Pointe buy without a mortgage.

And he said older residents are an increasingly active part of today's housing market, while the number of young families looking to buy has decreased.

"Condos are an extremely strong market right now," he said.


Dec 26, 2007, 5:04 PM
Quick blurb:

Owner pleased at mall makeover (http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=650221&category=BUSINESS&newsdate=12/26/2007)
Official says Colonie Center sales expected to hit target of $350 a square foot in '08


I post this because I went there on Monday (last minute x-mas shopping..funfunfun) and I liked what I saw. The new design language is pleasant enough (although dominated by brown), but the most noteworthy thing about it is the sheer amount of chairs and benches.. there were so many places to sit down! It's the first time I've seen a mall go so far towards the concept of being a place to go and spend time at rather than a place where loitering is subtly discoraged and shopping overly encouraged.

Seriously, there's a crapload of benches now, and almost all of them were being used when I was there. Kudos to Feldman.

Jan 1, 2008, 6:07 PM
A building's promising encore

Capital Repertory Theatre agrees to sell downtown Albany structure to developers

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

ALBANY -- The building, as it now looks, would never grace a postcard. It's squat and concrete, and its tan paint provides only a splotchy coating.

But its future might be brighter: A Saratoga Springs development duo with a history of redeveloping downtrodden structures is poised to buy the downtown Albany building now owned by Capital Repertory Theatre.

J.W. Pfeil & Co. has the building at 23 Monroe St. under contract, in partnership with Rosenblum Development Corp. of Guilderland.

"It's a very solid, sturdy building," said Deane Pfeil, who, along with husband Jeff, is a principal at Pfeil & Co. "It has a lot of potential because it's basically a blank slate."

In recent years, Pfeil & Co. has turned a Lansingburgh factory into lofts and a downtown Troy department store into apartments. But when asked what was in store for the Albany building, Deane Pfeil wasn't sure.

Neither was Seth Rosenblum, vice president of Rosenblum Development, which builds office parks. But he hinted the building would be a good site for housing, although it "doesn't look like a luxury condo project now."

The structure, formerly the City Arts Building, is bordered by Chapel, Orange and Monroe streets. It's directly across Monroe Street from the Hampton Inn & Suites, near the bars and restaurants of North Pearl Street.

It's also a stone's throw from Capital Rep, the professional theater company on North Pearl Street that bought 23 Monroe in 2001 from Albany Local Development Co.

Capital Rep originally planned to convert the 107-year-old building into apartments for actors, with rehearsal and shop space, classrooms and more. But while the theater group has used the building for rehearsals, it concluded that renovating the building for apartments would be too expensive.

"It was a straight-up business decision," said John Privitera, president of the theater's board of trustees. "It was better for us to sell the building and have the cash for our future rather than maintain it and build it out like we had hoped to."

None of the involved parties would disclose the purchase price, citing a confidentiality agreement. Capital Rep had listed the building at $975,000.

Capital Rep officials, including managing director Elizabeth Doran, said they expect they'll need to find new rehearsal space. The theater company also has used the building for educational programs.

Both Pfeil and Rosenblum said the Arts Building is a departure from each company's prior projects.

Pfeil said it would be Pfeil & Co.'s first project in Albany, and conceded the building lacks the classical beauty of other buildings she and her husband have renovated.

Rosenblum, meanwhile, said his company has not previously built in downtown Albany, nor has it been involved in residential construction.

Previous Rosenblum projects include development of Great Oaks Office Park off Western Avenue in Guilderland and Corporate Plaza on Washington Avenue Extension in Albany.


Jan 2, 2008, 12:49 AM
NYC investor pulls plug on deal to purchase former printing plant in Albany

The Business Review (Albany) - by Michael DeMasi
December 28, 2007

A Manhattan investor has terminated its contract to buy the former William Boyd Printing Co. plant in downtown Albany, the third time a proposed sale of the property has evaporated.

SHS 64 Property Development Inc. notified William Boyd Printing Co. Inc. on Dec. 18 it won't go through with the $1.7 million purchase, according to a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Albany.

Boyd Printing filed for bankruptcy protection in September 2005, downscaled the business and moved to another location in the city.

SHS wasn't able to secure partial financing because it didn't receive documents in a timely fashion about an environmental clean-up that was done at the site on 39-49 Sheridan Ave., according to a motion filed by the real estate developer's attorney, Steven J. Waite in Albany.

William Boyd Printing's attorney, Robert J. Rock, had earlier attempted to get the bankruptcy court to force SHS to proceed with a purchase agreement that was supposed to close Sept. 30 and was extended to Oct. 31.

But William Boyd has decided not to fight the termination of the sale because it's clear SHS isn't going to purchase the property, said Justin A. Heller, an Albany attorney who represents the committee of unsecured creditors in the bankruptcy case.

Heller said "as a practical matter," the committee would just as soon move on.

The real estate broker knows some other prospective buyers, Heller said.

"Our hope is that ... we can get it back under contract shortly and that buyer is going to be agreeable to an expedited schedule to get to a closing," he said.

Even though it agreed to the sale termination, William Boyd Printing is retaining its rights to the $25,000 security deposit that was paid by SHS.

And, if the building is ultimately sold for less than $1.7 million, William Boyd will seek the difference from SHS, Heller said.

Two previous deals that dissolved involved Latham Circle Mall owner Eugene Weiss and another New York City investor, Arthur Shapolsky.

Shapolsky had offered to buy the empty buildings, demolish them and construct a 150-room hotel, 65 apartments and parking garages on the 1.3-acre parcel.


Jan 6, 2008, 8:05 PM
Construction updates, courtesy of the TU's Capitaland report:

The Alexander at Washington Avenue

The latest: Four-story project by A.G. Spanos Cos., a California company that is one of the nation's largest apartment developers, broke ground in October. It's expected to open in 2009, with monthly rents ranging from $1,055 to $1,800. Project is the first by Spanos in the Northeast. The company says it is exploring other Capital Region projects.

Empire Generating Co. Power Plant

On the site of the former BASF dye factory site on Riverside Avenue in Rensselaer, a 635-megawatt power plant proposed by Energy Capital Partners, a New Jersey private equity firm.

The latest: Over the summer, Energy Capital Partners, a private-equity firm based in Short Hills, N.J., bought the rights to develop the project from Besicorp-Empire Development Co. LLC of Kingston. A groundbreaking for the plant occurred in November, and construction is expected to take two years.

click the link for more: http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=652016&category=BUSINESS&newsdate=1/6/2008

Jan 6, 2008, 8:07 PM
East campus: A vision fulfilled

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The University at Albany's East Campus, located off Columbia Turnpike in East Greenbush, has grown steadily since it was a vacant pharmaceutical complex in the early 1990s. Bought in 1995 for $5 million by the University at Albany Foundation (with a healthy infusion of state money), the 83-acre campus was envisioned as providing a boost to the university's life sciences and research initiatives. Lynn Videka, vice president for research at the university, said the campus has fulfilled this promise.

Since UAlbany's School of Public Health moved into an existing building on the site in 1996, some 20 university initiatives and private companies have also decided to call the East Campus home.

Among the varied tenants are the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Ultradian Diagnostics, which makes minimally invasive patient sensors and monitors, and Taconic Farms, a producer of mostly rodent laboratory animals that is in the midst of opening a new building on the East Campus.

And the most striking item at the site? The university's $45 million Cancer Research Center, which was completed in the fall of 2005.

The campus is roughly 83 to 95 acres, with about 20 acres of developable land left. "Further development is absolutely essential to reach our goals for bioscience and biotechnology," Videka said.

- Lauren Stanforth

Jan 8, 2008, 6:06 PM
High hopes for historic high-rise

Manhattan partners buy downtown Albany landmark with plans for turnaround
Dan Kemp, manager at the former Home Savings Bank building in Albany, stands in the lobby of the skyscraper built in 1927. (Paul Buckowski / Times Union)

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Tuesday, January 8, 2008

ALBANY -- Photographs line the walls and the soothing grace of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" wafts from a boombox.

Is this a downtown art gallery?

No. This is the new 11 N. Pearl St.

The downtrodden Albany landmark has new owners and a marketing plan designed to boost awareness of the building, formerly headquarters to Home Savings Bank. And, for now, that plan includes turning the soaring building's grand lobby into a lunchtime spot for viewing local art, as it was on Monday.

"It's about foot traffic," said Dan Kemp, the building's manager. "Pull them off the sidewalk."

The ultimate goal? Fill the largely vacant 19-story skyscraper with tenants, despite daunting competition from other office buildings. And in the process, rejuvenate a structure that many consider an architectural landmark notable for the terra cotta art that adorns its crown.

"It's one of the few examples of really fine art deco architecture in downtown," said Samantha Bosshart, director of preservation services at the nonprofit Historic Albany Foundation, an advocacy group.

Home Savings Bank built the building in 1927, just before the Great Depression brought the Jazz Age to a screeching halt. And although its presence on the Albany skyline has always been formidable, in recent years the building near the corner of Pearl and State streets has been too easy to forget.

By 2007, fewer than 20 people worked there, according to Kemp, as the building became little more than a storage space for communications equipment. And its front was marred by locked metal grates that made it look like the building was shuttered for good.

But last summer, George and Tony Huang bought the building for $8.25 million. The Manhattan-based pair, doing business as The Heights Real Estate Co., have big ambitions here.

Heights Real Estate is attempting to purchase 100 State St., another decaying downtown high-rise, also near the intersection with Pearl Street. Tony Huang on Monday said the company is not ready to publicly discuss the pending purchase.

"We've been keeping an eye out for developing markets," he said. "And (Albany) is definitely a good market to be in."

Heights Real Estate has invested about $100,000 in 11 N. Pearl, reversing years of damage and neglect. And the company is working to market its changes, an effort that includes a recent $8,000 purchase of 157 15-second television ads.

Already, there are signs of new life: Kemp said he has signed 10 tenants since the marketing effort began, although most occupy small amounts of space.

Kemp touts the structure's assets: its history and ambience; the fitness club that's under construction; its downtown location.

Still, the building is very much a work in progress. It remains 65 percent vacant.

But it does have big-time tenants: AT&T, Tech Valley Communications, Time Warner Telecom and Qwest Communications.

"The amount of telecommunications infrastructure assembled there is remarkable," said Kevin O'Connor, president of Internet provider Tech Valley Communications. "That building is critically important not only to the downtown, but to the greater region."

The equipment was installed under the prior owner, Pine Tree Group, which bought the building in 1999 and planned to turn it into a carrier hotel for telecommunications companies.

The infrastructure, which occupies eight floors of the building, is a boon, providing Heights Real Estate with long-term and stable tenants. The equipment would be difficult and expensive to move.

But it also limits options for redevelopment.

Many, including Pamela Tobin, executive director of Downtown Albany Business Improvement District, consider the building a prime candidate for conversion to apartments or condominiums.

Demand for downtown housing is strong, she said, and developers in other cities have found success converting aged skyscrapers to residential uses.

But Kemp said Heights Real Estate considers residences incompatible with the high-tech equipment. Plus, many of the communications tenants have nondisturbance clauses that make them difficult to evict.

So the push is on for additional office tenants -- and a retailer to occupy the former bank lobby temporarily being used as an attention-grabbing art gallery.

"We're talking to someone about a restaurant," Kemp said. "We could probably make it a bank, but that would be really boring."


Jan 9, 2008, 3:42 PM
Cancer center funding pays off

UAlbany East Campus facilities attract top scientists and pharmaceutical program

By ERIC ANDERSON, Deputy business editor
Wednesday, January 9, 2008

EAST GREENBUSH -- Major investments in the University at Albany's East Campus appear to be paying off, drawing a leading stem-cell researcher, two out-of-state senior cancer scientists and the pharmaceutical research institute of another local college, all within the past few months.

As a result, the $45 million Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics, which opened in October 2005, is now "largely filled," an East Campus campus official said, leading to talk of more expansion.

The campus is home to the New York Neural Stem Cell Institute, headed by Sally Temple, a researcher who in 1989 discovered the existence of stem cells in the embryonic brain. Temple, who couldn't be reached Tuesday afternoon for comment, relocated to the East Campus from Albany Medical Center, where she had worked since 1990.

The Pharmaceutical Research Institute of the Albany College of Pharmacy also has moved to the East Campus. Shaker A. Mousa, who joined the pharmacy school in 2002 after a 17-year career as a principal researcher at DuPont Pharmaceuticals Co., is chairman and executive vice president of the institute. It relocated in the fall and occupies 8,500 square feet of space.

Two senior cancer researchers from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., also are relocating to UAlbany's East Campus. Martin Tenniswood and JoEllen J. Welsh are expected to set up their laboratories this month, after moving their equipment and experiments here.

"We're a small, very well-equipped center," said Alex Brownstein, director of business development for the Center for Functional Genomics at the East Campus. "We were able to get two top-notch senior scientists who were very well funded."

Directing the cancer genomics center, which seeks to discover the genetic origins of cancer, is Paulette McCormick, who gets credit for the progress here.

"I applaud Paulette McCormick's efforts to create a vibrant group of senior cancer researchers in the Center of Excellence in Cancer Genomics," said Eugene Schuler, who heads Bioconnex, a networking organization of biotechnology companies in and around the Capital Region.

The 87-acre East Campus, developed from the former Sterling Winthrop complex off Columbia Turnpike in East Greenbush, also includes a laboratory mice production facility operated by Hudson-based Taconic, and some laboratories of drug research firm AMRI, formerly Albany Molecular Research Inc.

Adjacent to the campus is the manufacturing plant of Tarrytown-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. Several smaller life sciences companies and UAlbany's School of Public Health also occupy buildings on the campus.

One draw for researchers has been the "high-end instrumentation" included in the Center for Functional Genomics, Brownstein said. State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno obtained much of the money that built the cancer genomics center and paid for the laboratory equipment, he added.

The instruments are under one roof instead of being scattered across the campus, he said, making it easier for researchers to use them.

"All the Ivy League schools have outsourced work to us. The National Institutes of Health has outsourced work to us," Brownstein said.

It may also have attracted Temple.

"Sally realized there was a lot for her to take advantage of here," Brownstein said. "It's a beautiful building. She doesn't have to invest in any infrastructure."

While about 50 people work in the cancer genomics building, as many as 1,000 are employed on the East Campus, he estimated.

And with the growth, "we're looking at what to do next," Brownstein said. "The nanocollege has some nanobio interests. There's talk of 1 million square feet of buildout in various plans."


Jan 21, 2008, 4:50 PM
Deal advances plan for office tower

Developers reach agreement to buy out lease for auto repair shop

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

ALBANY -- The owners of an Albany auto-repair shop have agreed to move their business, allowing for construction of a $40 million office and apartment tower.

Richard and Sandra Hameroff had been in a protracted lease dispute with Queri Development Co. of Syracuse, which had told the couple it considered the lease expired at their Broadway Auto Clinic. Queri purchased the parcels for its project in 2006.

In August, a state Supreme Court justice ruled the clinic had a valid lease through 2011. And that decision, Richard Hameroff said Tuesday, led to the financial negotiations that have the shop moving to nearby Menands, about a mile and a half from its current location.

Hameroff declined to say how much Queri would pay to buy the shop out of the lease, but said the payment, under the agreement signed Thursday, would be close to the $772,000 he and his wife originally requested.

"We both compromised a little bit," Hameroff said. "It was a difficult negotiation, but we finally got there."

Mark Congel, a principal in Queri Development with Dan Queri, confirmed that an agreement had been reached, but declined to comment. Queri is a former executive with Destiny USA, the proposed mega-mall in Syracuse; Congel is son of Destiny USA developer Robert Congel.

The repair shop at 705 Broadway is just north of relatively new office towers, including 677 Broadway, home to Angelo's 677 Prime, a well-known steakhouse. It's also near Nicole's Bistro and the Albany Pump Station, in a redeveloping area that several builders have targeted for new residential development.

Queri and Congel have said they want to build an 11-story tower on the site that would include as many as 130 apartments. Albany officials have championed the project, dubbed The Amos at Quackenbush Square, saying it would add residential life to the city and extend the redevelopment of downtown's northeast corner.

Hameroff said he and his wife have agreed to leave the Broadway site by the end of August. They will move their business to a location just north of the Albany city line, to 3 Wolfert Ave. in Menands, where they will invest $2 million in a new repair shop with car wash and quick lube.

The facility will be about seven times larger than the clinic's current shop, Hameroff said. Construction is expected to begin in March.

"It's going to be the best place around," he said, adding that they hope to keep their downtown customer base by offering a shuttle bus to and from the new location.

Jan 21, 2008, 4:55 PM
State gives cities a big cash boost

More than $13M pledged to regional projects

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Office buildings will rise in Albany's struggling Park South neighborhood, a white elephant will be transformed in downtown Schenectady and Troy's waterfront will undergo an extreme makeover with help from a large infusion of state cash.

On Tuesday, state and local officials announced the distribution of more than $100 million in Restore NY grants to fund community improvement projects around the state. Locally, the funding includes than $8 million for Albany, Schenectady and Troy.

The program was established to foster economic development and neighborhood growth by giving municipalities financial aid to revitalize commercial and residential properties.

Other Capital Region communities getting money include Cohoes, to improve its Remsen Street commercial strip, and Rensselaer, to upgrade its waterfront.

Regional funding for projects totals more than $13 million and includes revitalization projects in Sharon Springs and Amsterdam.

The $3.3 million earmarked for Albany will be used to construct two buildings on New Scotland Avenue. Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings said the money will help fuel development.

"It's an area that needs more investment," Jennings said Tuesday. "What this enables us to do is attract private dollars in this area by making sites available."

The Albany project, which will create 120,000 square feet of space, calls for first-floor retail space and commercial space upstairs. The larger of the two buildings will be between Morris Street and Myrtle Avenue; the smaller will be between Morris Street and Dana Avenue.

Park South Neighborhood Association President Andrew Harvey called the project a key part of the overall plan to revitalize the neighborhood.

"It's a jump-start project that will hopefully act as a catalyst for additional capital investment in the community," Harvey said.

Schenectady officials cheered the announcement that that city will receive $2.5 million to renovate the under-used Center City Sports Complex, a nearly 30-year-old downtown office building and athletic facility Schenectady County Legislator Vince DiCerbo, D-Schenectady, described as a "millstone around everyone's neck."

The project will involved gutting the arena/office space inside Center City, between 415 and 419 State St., and replacing it with office and retail space, and apartments or condominiums on the center's fourth floor.

Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, said it hasn't been decided whether the arena part of the 170,000-square-foot building will be demolished. The Blackwatch soccer league uses the former ice rink during the winter.

Galesi Group will soon purchase the building, which was partially owned by the city, the city's Industrial Development Agency and the Lupe family. Galesi has said it will contribute $2 million toward the renovations.

Troy is slated to get $2.5 million, and Mayor Harry Tutunjian said he plans to use the money to level City Hall and develop the city's waterfront with a hotel, apartments, parking, retail and office space, and condominiums around the Hedley Building.

"This funding will leverage millions of dollars in private investment and create significant developments along the Hudson River," Tutunjian said in a written statement.

But his plan to sell the City Hall to Judge Development Corp. and relocate to the Verizon Building at 1776 Sixth Ave. has drawn scrutiny from the City Council.

Council President Clement Campana called the funding good news that could attract development interest in City Hall.

"It certainly will play into whatever decision the City Council committee comes up with," he said. "It certainly is an incentive for potential investors in our city who come up with proposals" for City Hall.

Rensselaer will get $1.4 million to demolish the former Rensselaer High School and make way for 40,000-square-feet of retail space and 50 housing units along the Hudson River.

Cohoes is getting $544,900 for improvements on Remsen Street.

The village of Sharon Springs will get $500,000 for the Spa/Bath International Resort and Pavilion Cottages to preserve the last remaining portion of the historic Pavilion Hotel Cottages, one of the mineral spring resorts that operated in the 1800s. The cottages will be converted into market-rate condominiums.

Amsterdam will get $2.5 million for the Mohasco Redevelopment Project, a reconstruction of an urban brownfield property.


Jan 21, 2008, 5:32 PM
Keeping history front and center
Development company schedules preliminary work for Wellington Row

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Thursday, January 17, 2008

ALBANY -- This spring, Columbia Development Cos. will begin stabilizing the historic facades of Wellington Row in downtown Albany, the president of the company said Wednesday.

The work is a prelude to a massive redevelopment project that, if given final approval by city officials, will keep mostly intact the fronts of the State Street buildings while erecting a 14-story office tower behind them.

"Those facades are in such bad shape that it's shocking to me that the Berkshire Hotel has not come down in the middle of State Street," Columbia President Joseph Nicolla said during a luncheon sponsored by the Albany Roundtable civic group. He was referring to the building at 140 State St., adjacent to the former DeWitt Clinton Hotel.

"The building is within feet of falling over," Nicolla said.

Wellington Row is a dilapidated but still stately row of buildings just east of the state Capitol. Columbia bought the buildings in 2006 for $925,000.

Under the company's plan, the facades would front a mix of apartments and stores. And Nicolla on Wednesday said his company has already begun talking to potential retail tenants for the spaces.

Columbia is one of the Capital Region's largest property developers, and Nicolla's talk touched on a range of company projects. He said it plans two new office buildings at Patroon Creek Corporate Center, located near the Harriman State Office Campus in Albany.

Jan 22, 2008, 4:23 PM
Wheels turning on rail trail deal

Supporters hope to reach terms soon for acquiring 9-mile stretch of line from Canadian Pacific


By CATHY WOODRUFF, Staff writer
Tuesday, January 22, 2008

ALBANY -- Though it's years behind schedule, a plan to convert a former rail line from Voorheesville to Albany into a recreational trail is on track with a new burst of steam from local supporters.

"This is a really compelling opportunity to create a recreational rail trail in the heart of the Capital District," said Seth McKee, land conservation director for Scenic Hudson, which is contributing half of the $700,000 price Albany County plans to pay the current owner, Canadian Pacific Railway.

The 9-mile stretch of the former Delaware and Hudson Railway Co. route is ideal for expanding the region's trail network west from the Hudson River in Albany's South End and into Bethlehem and New Scotland, said Martin Daley, project director of Albany-based Parks & Trails New York.

Piecing together such a long thoroughfare for biking, hiking and other alternatives to automobile travel would be "extremely difficult" if the abandoned railroad line weren't available, he said.

What's more, it comes already equipped with bridges, drainage infrastructure and a level and stable surface.

"That corridor is perfectly intact, and it's ready to go," said Daley.

The idea of creating the trail first came up in 1995, after CP Rail said it would abandon a 24-mile section of former D&H Railway known as the Old Albany Main Line. Later, Canadian Pacific decided to keep portions west of Voorheesville available for rail use.

In 2003, Albany County Executive Michael Breslin and county legislators revived discussions with CP Rail about buying the 9-mile portion that the railroad still planned to abandon through a formal federal approval process.

After close to a dozen extensions of a deadline for the sale talks, local supporters are pushing for a deal by April -- the latest deadline approved by the federal Surface Transportation Board.

Even the legal language used by the board recently has taken on an impatient tone.

Officials with CP Rail and Albany County insist that the slow progress is not tied to lack of enthusiasm for the deal.

"There's pretty much just one outstanding issue to resolve, and it really comes down to indemnification of the railway against future (legal liability) issues, if any," said Montreal-based CP Rail spokesman Michele Spenard. "Hopefully, we'll be able to resolve it fairly soon."

There are nearly 14,000 miles of rail trails in the United States, with another 11,000 miles in development, said Katie Test, a spokeswoman for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in Washington, D.C.

They include a 2-mile Hudson Valley Rail Trail in Ulster County, a 15-mile Harlem Valley Rail Trail in Columbia County and the 3-mile Town of Shawangunk Rail Trail in Ulster County.

In Bethlehem, the proposed rail trail abounds with potential for recreational use and as an alternative way to commute to the city and other developing commercial areas, said Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy Executive Director Jill S. Knapp.

"We see the rail trail as a way to develop a greenway for the town," Knapp said. "There are a lot of parcels of public land that could be linked by a trail system, and the rail trail is an integral part of that."

Albany County advocates say they're eager for the purchase to take place before other potential uses for the funding gain priority.

In addition to the $350,000 Scenic Hudson grant, the county is banking on a $350,000 acquisition grant from New York's Environmental Protection Fund.

Advocates hope to see the rail trail link to others in the region, including bike paths along the Hudson, which connect to trails to the south and along the Mohawk River.

"The opportunity is there for this to be part of a much larger network," Daley said.


Feb 1, 2008, 4:43 PM
This isn't so much news as it is just a piece of possible interest

Last call for liquor landmark

Photo by Michael P. Farrell / Times Union

Days numbered for kitschy former Simon's store that airport plans to demolish

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Friday, February 1, 2008

COLONIE -- It might not be a true architectural landmark, so it's unlikely the Capital Region's historic preservation community will rally to save it.

Yet for more than 40 years, the building housing Lou Simon's Wine & Liquors has brought a touch of Vegas-style cool to Route 7 in Latham, a hipster beacon to passing drivers.

But on Thursday, store owner Fred Simon walked out of the small building for the last time. And soon -- most likely within 45 days -- the building will be demolished by contractors hired by Albany International Airport, which took the liquor store by eminent domain.

The airport has a good excuse: Simon's sits near the end of an airport runway, so close the Federal Aviation Administration considers it a safety hazard. The FAA even ordered that the airport clear the land.

Fred Simon will not move the business, and on Thursday, as he cleared away his belongings from the store, he made it clear he wished he could keep it open. The store was profitable, the 65-year-old said, and he still feels young, vital and willing to work every day.

Lou Simon, Fred's father, opened the liquor store in 1946 in downtown Albany. The family moved the business to Route 7 in 1964.

Under the harsh glare of daylight, the building doesn't look like much. It's essentially a cinder-block box. But at night, the glass that dominates the front of the store glows. So does the distinctive sign, with the word "Simon's" spelled out in shapes that evoke liquor bottles.

Robert Simon, a New York City interior designer and brother to Fred, designed the sign.

The building might once have been considered kitschy schlock -- and no doubt some still regard it that way.

But in the 1970s, architects inspired by the writing and teaching of Philadelphia architect Robert Venturi began to find beauty in the little modern structures that lined many American roadways, or the bigger Art Deco buildings found in places like Miami Beach.

"All of a sudden, people started paying attention to this vernacular architecture," said Francis Pitt, a Troy-based architect and president of the regional branch of the American Institute of Architects.

The airport paid Simon $87,000 to abandon the property, and a court hearing could determine that he be paid more, airport spokesman Doug Myers said. The airport paid Simon roughly $400,000 eight years ago for the building's air rights.

Two small structures on Buhrmaster Road are also scheduled to go as part of the safety improvements, and airport officials are wrestling with just what to do with a historic farmhouse, formerly Watervliet Town Hall, that sits near Simon's.

Myers said airport officials are planning to move the historic house.

And what is to become of the sign that graces Simon's?

It now belongs to the airport. Myers said officials are fielding offers.

"Obviously, if there's some value in it, we wouldn't want to see it destroyed," he said.


Feb 18, 2008, 5:54 PM
17 developers show interest in Harriman plan

Two firms have already given a full response to the state's request for qualifications to remake campus

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Thursday, February 14, 2008

ALBANY -- Seventeen firms have indicated interest in building at the W. Averell Harriman State Office Campus, the stark uptown complex that officials want to remake as a job-creation hotbed.

Representatives from many of those firms met with Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings and other officials before a tour of the campus last Thursday, eyeing the site that Gov. Eliot Spitzer and others in state government say is ripe for private development.

The state released in December a 47-page request for qualifications from developers for the project. That move came shortly after a prior lack of interest by developers led Spitzer to announce a revised plan for the campus.

Responses to the request for qualifications are due Tuesday.

So far, two of the 17 firms that registered with the Harriman Research and Technology Development Corp. have submitted a full response to the state's request, said Michael Phillips, the agency's president.

Speaking Wednesday to the Albany Roundtable civic luncheon, Phillips said he expects "four or five major players" ultimately to be involved in the redevelopment.

The Harriman campus is an island of office buildings, parking lots and large expanses of grass adjacent to the University at Albany. Dissatisfaction with the campus led former Gov. George Pataki to propose its redevelopment in 2002.

But progress stalled, and a prior request for development proposals was withdrawn in April after it received just three viable responses.

In a brief interview after the luncheon, Phillips said the flexibility offered by the new plan is helping to boost interest.

The prior plan asked developers to take on redevelopment of the entire campus, he said, while the new plan allows them to concentrate on smaller development sites within the campus.

Also, Pataki's plan called for demolition of most campus buildings, while Spitzer's plan keeps intact the existing buildings and their of 7,400 state workers.

Jennings has frequently touted the site as one of the premier development locations in the Northeast. On Wednesday, he said he was pleased with the initial response from developers.

"It's encouraging to see the level of interest," he said. "It's long overdue that we redevelop that campus and get it reconnected to the neighborhood and the city."

Phillips touched on an array of topics at the luncheon.

On the ultimate employment picture at the campus: "If we succeed in our wildest dreams, we'll bring in another 1,000 to 1,500 people."

On how campus neighbors will benefit: "I don't think anybody's going to complain if their house value goes up $20,000 or $30,000," he said. "I would certainly like that."

On whether the state's Harriman plan is harming similar private efforts: "Am I out there competing with other tech parks? No. Am I out there trying to steal their business? No."

On whether Harriman state workers will ever be relocated: "Presently, I see the folks who work there as an asset," he said. "There are no plans to move anybody at this time."


Feb 18, 2008, 5:56 PM
well, it beats parking lots..

Indoor parking sells high-end projects
Apartments, condos in region increasingly offer an item that's in demand

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Friday, February 15, 2008

The hottest commodity in high-end apartments and condominiums in the Capital Region isn't granite kitchen counter tops or elegant living-room fireplaces.

It's indoor parking.

Some credit The Lofts at Harmony Mills, which opened in 2006, with launching the trend. The Cohoes apartment development stuffed a parking garage into the ground floor of the former factory -- and found the feature to be wildly popular with residents.

Many other projects since have followed suit -- including The Conservatory apartments in downtown Troy, the proposed Capital Grande condo development in Albany and The Lofts at Bryn Mawr condos near the Albany-Loudonville border.

Exceptions to the rule were the pricey condos planned in the former Mooradian's furniture building on River Street in Troy. Not coincidentally, observers say, the condo plan has been scrapped due to slow sales.

"A lot of people are not going to buy into new construction without having at least one indoor parking space," said Michael Crisafulli of Crisafulli Associates, whose Bryn Mawr condos offer three-car garages. "It's pretty crucial."

To be sure, the Capital Region is dotted with apartment and condo complexes with traditional outdoor parking lots. But developers say that if you're going to try to charge premium prices -- like the $250,000 to $500,000 that NADC, the Brooklyn-based owner of Mooradian's, was seeking -- then indoor parking is a necessity.

In a region with long winters, the joys of indoor parking are easy to understand. No ice-covered cars in the morning. No back-breaking shoveling of wet heavy snow.

Tracy Metzger, owner of the TL Metzger & Associates realty firm in Albany, said many tenants of upscale condos and apartments are downsizing from single-family homes in the suburbs, where garages are de rigueur.

When potential buyers haven't scraped away morning ice for decades, Metzger said, it's not a practice they're eager to begin.

Additionally, developers say many suburban buyers worry, perhaps unnecessarily, about increased potential for car theft when moving to an urban environment. Indoor parking reduces that fear.

But covered parking is a trend in suburban developments, too: When Adirondack Development Group built the Vly Pointe Condominiums along Route 7 in Niskayuna, for example, it took pains to ensure that each unit came with its own garage.

Uri Kaufman, the developer of Harmony Mills, where monthly rents range from $925 to $2,100, has described the decision to add indoor parking as a last-minute whim of sorts. But he says he's glad he made the addition, as the parking has been a key to the project's success.

Developers say indoor parking can be expensive to add, and often takes away sellable or rentable space.

But, said Deane Pfeil, co-owner of J.W. Pfeil & Co. Inc., whose Conservatory project in Troy has basement parking, "there's no way we could rent luxury apartments without parking. People (at the Conservatory) can just drive in, park and go right up the elevator."

Pfeil & Co. also built the Powers Park Lofts in the Lansingburgh section of Troy. That condo complex has parking adjacent to the building, but Pfeil said that was too far for some buyers and the company lost potential sales as a result.

"We live in the Northeast," she said. "It wouldn't be so important in Florida."

Feb 18, 2008, 6:00 PM
Schenectady sees the payoff

Downtown improvements are boosting the city's image, survey finds

By ERIC ANDERSON, Deputy business editor
Saturday, February 16, 2008

SCHENECTADY -- You can get a glass of wine at the movie theater or a rich, calorie-laden Italian pastry at a shop around the corner.

Restaurants, a wine bar and a historic vaudeville house featuring Broadway shows are intermingled with small shops selling books and pottery.

Weekdays, office workers crowd the sidewalks.

Downtown Schenectady has come a long way in just a few years, thanks to millions of dollars in investments that reversed a decades-long slide.

Now, the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, which has overseen much of the downtown development, says the investments are paying off.

A Siena Research Institute survey of Schenectady County residents found they are visiting downtown and have an improved opinion of it, compared to several years ago.

Results of the survey, commissioned by Metroplex, were released Friday. Among the findings:

Nearly 80 percent of county residents have visited downtown in the past year.

They attended arts events (75.8 percent), entertainment venues (67.7 percent), and went shopping (38.2 percent).

And 82 percent said their opinion of downtown had improved.

"The results of this survey show that county residents are pleased about our rebounding downtown," said Susan Savage, chairwoman of the Schenectady County Legislature. "Schenectady County has confidence and a reason to be optimistic for the first time in a generation about the direction we are headed."

Not everyone thinks the Metroplex money was well spent.

"On the outside, it certainly looks good," said Joseph Suhrada, who owns Uncle Sam's Candy in Schenectady's outskirts and is a county legislator from Rotterdam. "Metroplex was supposed to be for real job creation, not gin mills and dance clubs.

"The residents around the county have not visited the deteriorating neighborhoods of Mont Pleasant, Woodlawn and Bellevue," he added. "They have seen a lot of pretty buildings at a $50 million price tag."

Downtown doesn't yet have much of a residential population. But Mayor Brian U. Stratton expects more housing will be developed as visitors decide they want to live downtown.

"That's part of a long-range plan, that we have a housing component," Stratton said. "It follows what the national trend is, toward a more urban environment."


Feb 21, 2008, 3:55 PM
A suburban balancing act

Bethlehem officials create panels to keep the town attractive, yet grow tax base

By SCOTT WALDMAN, Staff writer
Thursday, February 21, 2008

BETHLEHEM -- The cornfields here sprout $300,000 homes and big-box stores have grown on rural routes.

The town has been fighting to stay a small town for years. Officials approved a building moratorium in 2005 to prepare for the onslaught of people who want a small-town feel and highly rated school system.

But a town budget of $37.6 million in 2008 and climbing means there is always a need to broaden the tax base. That doesn't happen without development.

In an effort to strike a balance, town officials have formed two new commissions: one to preserve its bucolic charm and the other to look for more revenue streams.

"I don't think any of these things are unique to us," Supervisor Jack Cunningham said. "It's how we handle it that's unique."

Bethlehem has seen tremendous growth in recent years, with an average of between 50 to 100 new homes being built every year for about the last decade. In that time, it has welcomed a Wal-Mart and other big-box stores.

Town officials have appointed a Citizen's Advisory Committee on Conservation to protect and preserve its shrinking farm and woodland areas. It also spent $25,000 to hire a Saratoga Springs firm to act as a "mentor" on the plan.

The 27 members of the newly created 20/20 Advisory Committee, comprised of businesspeople, accountants and community leaders, will help town officials plan for the financial challenges faced by a growing suburb with aging infrastructure.

Cunningham said the town's infrastructure needs include expensive projects such as the New Scotland water treatment plant, which is nearing the end of its planned life, and the possible expansion of town court.

The continuing climb of gasoline prices continues to affect public and private budgets. But Bethlehem has also seen a 300 percent increase in costs for chlorine, a 12 percent increase for blacktop and a 8.5 percent rise in health insurance. Town residents want to make life easier for pedestrians by putting in new sidewalks.

Theresa Egan, committee co-chair and former Democratic town supervisor, said Bethlehem faces the same issues as other municipalities overly dependent on shrinking funding sources such as sales and mortgage taxes. She said the committee will look to diversify its funding sources so it's not so vulnerable to economy woes.

The bipartisan 20/20 committee will meet monthly for the next year to prioritize the town's long-term needs. Ken Ringler, committee co-chair and a Republican town supervisor from 1990 to 1993, said the plan was a proactive approach to the future, rather than reactive.

"I do hope the quality of life the town has, and it's a great quality of life, will continue while ensuring the tax base the town has will stay there," Ringler said.


Feb 21, 2008, 3:57 PM
Golub project moves forward

Thursday, February 21, 2008

SCHENECTADY -- The planning commission gave site plan approval Wednesday night for Golub Corp.'s planned $22 million Price Chopper headquarters on Nott Street.

Most of the details had already been worked out between the city and Price Chopper, which will move its headquarters from its current location in Rotterdam. The planning commission approval allows the company to move forward with the project's design. All that remains are approvals for signs and other construction details.

The building will be six stories and house 720 employees. The front of the building will face Nott Street, with 840 parking spaces in the back. Maxon Road will be a private road around the building, with Peek Street bordering the back of the property.

Price Chopper representatives said they are talking with the YMCA of Schenectady to partner on day care and worker wellness programs. A new YMCA has been proposed adjacent to the new headquarters, but no building plans have been released yet.

Groundbreaking on the headquarters could come this fall, with completion in October 2009.

The commission also reviewed plans to redevelop what is called the pizza block in downtown, to be called Clinton Square, and the proposal to build Bethesda House's 15,000-square-foot residential facility for the homeless in the 800 block of State Street.


Feb 22, 2008, 4:08 PM
Manhattan real estate firm buys second Albany office building

The Business Review (Albany)
Friday, February 22, 2008

The Heights Real Estate Co. of Manhattan has bought another office tower in downtown Albany, N.Y., this one a 10-story building at 100 State St. that cost $3.5 million.

The deal closed today. The seller was Galesi Management Corp. in Rotterdam.

The property is located between the headquarters of the state Comptroller's Office and the former National Savings Bank building at 90 State St. A FedEx Kinko's store is on the ground level.

The Heights Real Estate Co. expects to spend $1.3 million renovating the office building's stone and terra cotta facade, said Dan Kemp, property manager. The owners also hope to open a free fitness center for tenants by the summer.

Of the building's 91,000-square-feet, 75 percent is occupied.

Said to be the city's first skyscraper, the building was designed by architect Marcus T. Reynolds in 1901 and opened in 1902, according to the buyer.

The Heights Real Estate Co. bought a 20-story office building around the corner, at 11 N. Pearl St., in May 2007 for $8.25 million. The company spent more than $150,000 renovating that building, including installing a fitness center for tenants.

The 125,000-square-foot building is 35 percent occupied.

"We are very excited about Albany's growing market," said Tony Huang, a principal at The Heights Real Estate Co. "New jobs and businesses are being created every day. They are going to need a place to get their work done and we hope it will be at either 11 North Pearl or 100 State. That's why we're extensively upgrading both buildings' amenities."

Both buildings are near the intersection of State and Pearl streets downtown. A third property at the corner, the 15-story former National Savings Bank building at 90 State St., sold for $8.25 million in January 2007. The buyers were Uri Kaufman of Long Island and a silent partner. They also own Harmony Mills Riverview Lofts, an apartment complex in Cohoes.


EDIT: one interesting point on this transaction from the TU article - 100 State was assessed at $5.5 million in 2007, meaning it just changed hands at two-thirds that value. I wonder why.

Feb 25, 2008, 3:23 PM
New frontier for growth

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Staff writer
Sunday, February 24, 2008

Geography has isolated Rensselaer County from decades of development in other parts of the Capital Region.

Its rugged hills make large-scale construction and the extension of sewer lines difficult and costly. And the Hudson River, a barrier more psychological than physical, has led many in the Capital Region to consider the nearby county a distant locale.

As a result, developers mostly looked away, building instead in Colonie, Guilderland, Clifton Park and elsewhere. From 1960 to 2000, Rensselaer County grew by just 10,000 people, to a population of 152,000.

Now, though, with shopping centers and housing developments stretching north to Wilton and the suburbs between Albany and Schenectady largely filled in, builders are taking a fresh look at Rensselaer County, remembering just how close it is to Capital Region employment and residential centers.

It is, after all, right across the river from Albany.

Residents say the county's development boom really began about a decade ago, with the opening of Exit 8 from Interstate 90. New Route 4 shopping destinations -- including the region's first Wal-Mart -- quickly followed.

Yet Rensselaer County development shows signs of intensifying even as the economy slows nationally. As several of the county's larger employers continue to expand developers are preparing to build a slew of new projects.

A Pennsylvania-based developer, for example, is planning two Route 4 shopping centers in North Greenbush that together would include a staggering 480,000 square feet of retail space -- about half the size of Colonie Center.

Just up the road, GE Healthcare is building a $165 million center at the Rensselaer Technology Park where 150 people will work.

In East Greenbush, the Nigro Cos., a local firm, is planning The Village at Tempel Farm, planned to include 400,000 square feet of retail space, including a Lowe's home improvement store and, possibly, a Kohl's department store; an 84-room Marriott; a 70,000-square-foot office building; three restaurants; and 324 apartments.

There are other projects in the works, including large housing developments in Brunswick; riverfront high-rises and a marina in the city of Rensselaer; a plan for new offices, hotels and more along the Troy waterfront; and a $150 million arts center on the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute campus.

"We've created a buzz," said Robert Pasinella, director of the county's Economic Development and Planning Department. "Developers are seeing that the river is not a barrier anymore."

A frequently heard prediction is that development will follow Interstate 90 toward rural areas. "Schodack is clearly the next step for growth," Pasinella said.

Some residents, though, are not welcoming the change. They fret about traffic, particularly along Route 4, and fear the character of the county is too quickly shifting, that commercial development is coming on too fast.

"If we wanted to live in Colonie and Guilderland, we would have. But we consciously chose not to," said North Greenbush resident Betsy Belle Eadie, who lives near the Route 4 shopping sites.

She added: "We know change is coming. But there is wise development, and then there's development that's greedy and is only being done to make developers wealthy."

Too much of what's planned, she believes, falls into the latter category.

Rensselaer County is a diverse place. It has two dense and sometimes gritty cities along the Hudson River: Troy and Rensselaer. But they quickly give way to farmland and bucolic rural scenery.

The bulk of the growth is planned in the suburban towns in the county's southern half -- East and North Greenbush, Schodack, Sand Lake. It's the area closest to downtown Albany.

East and North Greenbush, in fact, are some of the Capital Region's fastest-growing towns: Among municipalities with populations larger than 10,000, only Clifton Park, Wilton and Malta have grown faster since 2000, according to census bureau estimates.

"This area is definitely seeing much more development pressure," said North Greenbush resident Mary Jude Foley, whose hay farm sits near new upscale housing developments. "Just driving along the road, I see the changes," she said.

But as the suburbs grow, the county's largest population center shrinks: The city of Troy has lost 1,200 people from 2000 to 2006, the bureau says. The city of Rensselaer had relatively flat population growth.

Some in the county fear a Rensselaer County future of disproportionately poor urban cores flanked by increasingly faceless suburbs of ubiquitous subdivisions, strip malls and office parks.

"Instead of development in areas that are now open space, why not have a regional, unified policy that would direct growth back into the cities?" asked Brunswick resident Joseph Durkin, a lawyer and 13-year resident of Rensselaer County.

Durkin is a member of Brunswick Smart Growth, which has sued to halt several large housing developments planned there. The group estimates that, collectively, the housing would add about 2,000 residents to the town of nearly 12,000.

But there are signs of revival in the county's cities: There are plans for residential towers along the water in Rensselaer, and the new life in downtown Troy could be aided by a developer's plans for a Hedley Park District of new offices, hotel space and residences.

Among the Capital Region's four core counties, only Rensselaer County lacks an enclosed shopping mall. It also has the lowest annual amount of retail sales.

It could be argued, then, that the commercial development planned for the county means it is simply pulling even with the rest of the region.

Is Route 4 becoming Balltown Road in Niskayuna or Wolf Road in Colonie, two roads with high concentrations of commercial development? William Madsen, vice chairman of the planning board in North Greenbush, said the fear of becoming another Wolf Road is often mentioned by development-wary residents.

But Madsen added that with gas costing more than $3 per gallon, many county residents no longer want to drive across Albany County to shop. They want to be able to buy a pair of pants near home, he said.

Rensselaer County residents note that while they often crossed the river to shop, others in the Capital Region have been less willing to do the same.

"People thought this side of the river was just the end of the world," said Jim Greenfield, the town historian for North Greenbush.

Developers say people seem more willing to cross the bridge. Still, most of the Rensselaer County retail developments aim to attract shoppers who live nearby; most of the planned stores are chains that are widely available elsewhere.

John Nigro, the developer behind the Tempel Farm plan, is warning that developers are likely to curtail retail building in Rensselaer County if the pace of residential growth doesn't pick up.

Many observers believe that employment growth at places like the Rensselaer Technology Park and the University at Albany's east campus will bring more housing development and continued growth overall.

"Historically, people had the perception that we were 1,000 miles away, even though we were just over the river," said Foley, the North Greenbush farmer, who is also a Planning Board member.

But now, she said, "anybody that has a large piece of property has had somebody come knock on their door."


Feb 25, 2008, 3:28 PM
Developers, sure of plan, take a long look at potential site

The Business Review (Albany) - by Michael DeMasi
Friday, February 22, 2008

Jeff Pfeil is confident there would be demand for apartments or condominiums inside an old warehouse in downtown Albany.

But he and his partners have to finish structural and environmental studies before buying the four-story building at 17 Chapel St.

"The market is there for the type of product we're going to do," said Pfeil, president of J.W. Pfeil & Co. Inc. in Saratoga Springs. "We're talking about approximately 20 units."

The 36,000-square-foot building is owned by Capital Repertory Co. and located between Chapel, Orange and Monroe streets.

Capital Rep, whose theater is a block away on North Pearl Street, uses part of the building for storage and student instruction.

Capital Rep bought the property in 2001 with the intention of converting the top floor into apartments for actors, but found it more cost effective to lease existing apartments downtown, said John Privitera, president of the theater's board of directors.

Pfeil & Co. and another investor, The Rosenblum Cos. in Guilderland, have a contract to buy the building but aren't revealing the price. It's listed with CB Richard Ellis/Albany for $975,000.

The Pfeils have a lot of experience retrofitting old buildings.

Their most recent projects include converting a textile factory in Lansingburgh to an 18-unit condominium called Powers Park Lofts and converting the former Stanley's department store in downtown Troy into 19 luxury apartments called The Conservatory.

The Capital Rep warehouse would be their first project in downtown Albany and the first with Rosenblum Cos. Jeff and his wife, Deane, have known the Rosenblums for many years.

"We have our eyes open for properties all the time," Pfeil said. "When that one came to our attention we took a look at it and thought it had potential."

Built in 1928, the warehouse has had various uses, including as a parking garage and car dealership.

"It's just a great, solid, old building," he said. "It's a cast-in-place concrete edifice that certainly can be adapted to any number of other uses."

The apartments or condominiums would include interior parking, Pfiel said.

Seth Rosenblum, vice president of Rosenblum Cos., said the location is ideal for housing because it's near nightlife on North Pearl Street, professional offices and the yet-to-open Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant.

A block away, the former William Boyd Printing Co. plant is another potential redevelopment site. The property will be put up for auction Feb. 29 following three unsuccessful attempts to sell it to private developers.

"Hopefully somebody will buy it," Rosenblum said. "I think if six months from now someone comes forward to do condos or apartments there ... that will be a good thing."

Rosenblum Cos. owns and manages 350,000 square feet of suburban office space at Corporate Plaza on Washington Avenue Extension and Great Oaks Office Park in Guilderland.


Feb 27, 2008, 6:09 PM
Region bucking housing trend

Local home prices rose at end of last year despite national slump

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A closely watched housing index says home prices in the Capital Region rose during the last quarter of 2007, even as they fell nationally.

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said Tuesday that prices of existing single-family homes here rose 1.22 percent during the year's final three months and 4.31 percent overall last year.

The numbers are a vindication of sorts for local real estate agents, who have insisted that the region's market is healthy relative to slumping areas in California, Florida and elsewhere.

"I'm sure there are a lot of communities that are different from the national numbers," said Marie Bettini, president of the Greater Capital Association of Realtors Inc., a Colonie-based trade group. "There are a lot of markets that are OK."

For months now, the Capital Region housing market has presented a paradox: According to numbers from GCAR, median sale prices have been flat or rising -- even as the number of homes sold were in steep decline.

On Monday, that trend continued: GCAR said January's closed home sales were down 20 percent from the same month last year, but the median sales price remained flat.

Because numbers like that seem to run counter to the laws of supply and demand, they've generated puzzlement -- and even skepticism.

Some cynics have wondered whether Realtors are cooking the books, or if buyers are using deflated prices to buy larger homes, thereby keeping prices stable.

But economists consider the OFHEO House Price Index to be among the most accurate of housing-price gauges because the agency bases its measurements on repeat sales of the same properties or refinancing on the same properties.

It is therefore considered more of an apples-to-apples comparison of prices than other measurements.

OFHEO says the country's housing prices actually fell 1.3 percent during the fourth quarter.

Some metropolitan areas, particularly in California and Florida, are seeing big drops. Merced, Calif., for example, saw home values fall nearly 20 percent last year.

And even some communities close to the Capital Region are seeing declines. In the Poughkeepsie area, for example, prices fell 1.76 percent last year.

Of the nation's 291 metropolitan areas, OFHEO says the Capital Region had the 59th highest rate of price appreciation last year. Wenatchee, Wash., where prices jumped nearly 14 percent, was No. 1.

OFHEO says housing prices in the Capital Region rose 64.06 percent from 2002 to 2007.


Feb 29, 2008, 4:25 PM
Albany Med's $360M vision

Expansion plan comes as the demand for services surges

Architect: TRO Jung Brannen

By CATHLEEN F. CROWLEY, Staff writer
Friday, February 29, 2008

ALBANY -- Crowded to the point of turning away patients, Albany Medical Center unveiled a plan Thursday to accommodate its growing demand for years to come.

Albany Med announced a $360 million expansion, the largest in its history and most expensive in northeastern New York, even as the 2006 Berger Commission report has led to the downsizing of hospitals statewide.

"Our critical care units often operate at capacity," said James Barba, president of the medical center. "Last year we had to deny 300 requests for transfers to the Albany Medical Hospital, and I learned just yesterday that last January 2008, we had to deny transfers to our hospital."

The actions of the Berger Commission have increased the demand for at the remaining hospitals, Barba said. The state panel recommended closing nine hospitals and reconfiguring 48.

Leaders of the landlocked campus want to construct a six-story building on their only available piece of land in front of the Emergency Department. The building will overlook New Scotland and Myrtle Avenues.

Barba said the hospital will raise $50 million of the construction costs through donations and borrow $310 million.

The project is motivated by unprecedented growth at the hospital.

The number of admissions has jumped from 24,300 in 2001 to more than 31,000 in 2007, a 27 percent increase. Many of those patients have been transferred from smaller hospitals and nursing homes.

The hospital re-opened 82 beds and added 300 jobs in the past five years but can't keep up with demand, Barba said. This expansion would add 116 beds for a total of 747, with most of the new ones in intensive care.

Albany Med is a level one trauma center that serves 25 counties and treats more trauma patients annually than any other hospital in the state.

Barba estimated that the patient load would increase 3 percent in each of the upcoming years. He attributed the increasing demand to the growing population in the Capital Region, the rising number of baby boomers seeking health services and the Berger Commission.

"Plans for major expansion during an era when some hospitals are contracting may seem counterintuitive, but it is both necessary and correct," Barba said.

One of the goals of the Berger Commission was to eliminate financially weak hospitals so that the remaining hospitals would see an increase in patients and financial stability.

A few miles down New Scotland Avenue, St. Peter's Hospital is in the middle of a $275 million expansion project.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno and Mayor Jerry Jennings praised the expansion. Bruno said good health care is a top priority for companies, such as Advanced Micro Devices Inc., that are looking to move into the area. Jennings said the project adds to the renaissance of the neighborhood, which already has a new hotel and restaurant.

Hospital officials said the expansion will add 500 jobs at the hospital.

The hospital has filed a request for the expansion with the state Health Department but has not applied for building approvals from the city. Hospital officials hope to break ground in 2009 and open the building in May 2012.

Because of elevation changes on the property, the building actually will be four stories shorter than the hospital's eight-story D Tower, where most of the inpatient beds are located. The building design would allow four more floors to be added in the future, though there are no plans to go higher than six stories at the moment.

The brick and concrete building will have a roof-top garden and a pedestrian bridge that connects to a new parking garage across the street on Veterans Affairs property. The proposed seven-story garage would house between 1,500 and 2,000 cars.

"Our expansion project, which will take several years to complete, is absolutely vital to the institution's ability to meet the needs of area residents seeking the most advanced medical and surgical care available," Barba said.

By the numbers:
$360M -- Cost of project
$50 M Being raised in donations
116 New beds, bringing total to 747
30 New adult intensive care beds, totaling 80
10 New neonatal intensive care beds, totaling 60
60 New medical/surgery beds, totaling 360
20 New operation rooms, bringing total to 42
500 New jobs 201
2 Year of completion

Breakdown of new six-story building:
Entry level: atrium, drop-off area for emergency department
Basement: waiting area and operating rooms
First floor: Operating rooms and recovery rooms
Second floor: Intensive care beds
Third floor: Medical surgical beds
Fourth floor: Neonatal intensive care unit


Feb 29, 2008, 4:32 PM
And an aerial showing approximate locations of the building, garage and connector bridge.


Mar 1, 2008, 4:20 AM
Could they come up with a more sterile building?

Mar 3, 2008, 5:28 PM
Tech Valley momentum
State panel gives final OK for $300 million investment at UAlbany's NanoTech complex

(photo by Steve Jacobs / Times Union)

By LARRY RULISON, Business writer
Saturday, March 1, 2008

ALBANY -- In a major milestone in the development of New York state's Tech Valley, a state oversight board gave final approval Friday to $300 million in spending for the International Sematech project at the University at Albany.

International Sematech is an offshoot of Sematech Inc., the major computer chip manufacturing consortium that helped Austin, Texas, evolve from an eclectic college town into a high-tech mecca in the 1980s.

F. Michael Tucker, CEO of the Center for Economic Growth, an Albany-based economic development organization, said approval of the project is "critically important in continuing the momentum" of Tech Valley, a large economic development zone that stretches from the Canadian border to Westchester County.

"When you make an investment, you can expect dividends, and this project will pay numerous dividends in the form of jobs, new commerce and new investment," Tucker told the Times Union.

The Capital Region and UAlbany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering have positioned themselves at the epicenter of the growth of Tech Valley along with IBM Corp.'s operations in Dutchess County. IBM has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the college's Albany NanoTech complex on Fuller Road.

Sematech has had a presence there since 2003, growing to 250 workers.

But last year, Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the Legislature came together to stage a dramatic coup in the semiconductor industry by luring Sematech's headquarters and research and development operations to UAlbany.

The state agreed to kick in $300 million, while Sematech and its partner companies will supply an additional $300 million.

The new organization, which is expected to keep a smaller presence back in Texas, will be known as International Sematech and will grow to 700 people at the NanoCollege over the next several years. It will have its headquarters in a new $150 million, 250,000-square-foot building being built at the school. Both the governor and the Legislature approved funding for the project last summer. So did the board of the Empire State Development Corp., the state's economic development arm that will handle disbursement of the funds.

After a public hearing held earlier this month, the only approval needed was from the five-person Public Authorities Control Board, which OKs funding by state authorities. The board's members are named by the governor and leaders in the Legislature.

In a cramped conference room on the first floor of the Capitol Friday, proxies for the five members of the board quickly and unanimously approved the funding. The money will officially be given to the Research Foundation of the State University of New York, which will pass it onto the NanoCollege.

Within hours of the vote, Sematech's CEO, Michael Polcari, and Alain Kaloyeros, the chief administrative officer of the NanoCollege, issued a statement to the Times Union thanking Spitzer, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno.

"Together, International Sematech and the UAlbany NanoCollege are poised to lead the world in nanoelectronics education, innovation and commercialization, and of equal importance, create new opportunities to attract high-tech jobs, companies and investment across New York State," the statement said.

The $300 million destined for the NanoCollege won't be deposited into a bank account overnight.

The state will raise the money by selling bonds to the investment community, and then the money will be disbursed through five carefully planned installments of $60 million that will only be made as the program reaches certain milestones and employment targets over five years.

Construction continues at the NanoCollege on the new building, where International Sematech will have its headquarters, although the $300 million is not going toward that building. Overall, the college employs 2,000 people, with 2,500 expected by 2009.

Much of the $300 million will go toward machinery and equipment and renovations at the college to support programs at International Sematech that will help the industry make cutting-edge advances in computer chip manufacturing.


Mar 3, 2008, 5:30 PM
more suburban-style offices for Washington Ave!

Bank opening new base in Albany

First Niagara will employ 200 at $8.5 million regional office, with all commercial bankers under one roof

By LARRY RULISON, Business writer
Saturday, March 1, 2008

ALBANY -- First Niagara Bank is going to establish a new regional headquarters in Albany that will include 200 employees in a new 35,000-square-foot building off Patroon Creek Boulevard.

Most of the employees who will move into the new space -- known as a Market Center -- will be executive staff, commercial bankers and insurance agents. They will be moving from smaller offices around the region, including offices that the Lockport-based bank leases in Corporate Woods in Colonie.

Thomas Amell, First Niagara's eastern region president, said the bank has similar market centers in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.

The new Albany center will have prominent signage and will put all of the company's commercial bankers under one roof -- with room for expansion. "It's really a huge step forward for us," Amell said. "It solidifies our commitment to the Capital District."

The move does not affect First Niagara's 36 branches in the region. Staff there who deal with retail customers will remain working out of the branches.

First Niagara has $2 billion in deposits in the Capital Region, making it the fourth-largest bank in the area, according to the latest figures from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. KeyBank is the largest with $4.2 billion in deposits.

The new $8.5 million, two-story Patroon Creek building, which will be owned by Columbia Development Cos. of Albany, will also include a small banking branch expected to be used mostly by commercial clients and employees.

The construction firm for the project, expected to break ground in April and be completed in October, will be BBL Construction Services of Albany.

Columbia has been an active developer in the Patroon Creek area, which is just north of the University at Albany and the Harriman State Office Campus.

The company is a part owner of the 180,000-square-foot building that is headquarters to CDPHP, the health plan company. The company also owns another 161,000-square-foot building there and is planning another 60,000-square-foot building.

Richard Rosen, vice president of Columbia, said the company was planning to build the new building at Patroon Creek and then found First Niagara to occupy it. The bank will be the only tenant.

"It's a perfect fit," he said.


Mar 3, 2008, 5:42 PM
And a couple images of 555 from Columbia Development's website. Jaw-dropping, I know.



Mar 3, 2008, 6:10 PM
An article talking about the growth at Saint Rose and Union over the past decade. Funny they don't mention RPI, since they've been going on a tear with new construction lately.

Cities benefitting from private colleges investing in downtowns

Colleges bring cranes and residents to urban neighborhoods

The Business Review (Albany) - by Robin K. Cooper
Friday, February 29, 2008

College trustee Carl Touhey also gave $2 million to Saint Rose. The Princeton University graduate is managing partner of The Latham Four Partnership, a property management company.

A third $2 million gift came from the family of fellow trustee Norman Massry.

Massry, whose family runs Tri City Rentals and Massry Realty Partners of Albany, is the school's longest-standing trustee.

"This is transforming the way we fundraise," said Karin Carr, the school's vice president of institutional advancement.

"Gifts have come from a number of sources," Carr said. "They understand the impact the Massry center will have. They know it will enrich the community by bringing in top-level performers."

The college also has worked with the city to develop an employee assistance housing program, encouraging more employees to live near campus.

In the past two years, five employees have taken advantage of the $5,000 housing assistance grant program.

And more than one-third, 205, of the college's 598 employees live in Albany.

Saint Rose also has bought and renovated 50 rundown buildings in the upper Madison Avenue neighborhood in recent years. Today, those old homes are used as student housing and college offices.

Improvements are part of an ongoing effort. Saint Rose earmarks up to $4 million of its annual $90 million budget to fund capital improvements.

Those efforts have generated a new energy among staff, trustees and donors.

"There is an excitement that has attracted attention from those who otherwise weren't connected to Saint Rose," said Nolan, a Loudonville resident and graduate of nearby UAlbany.

The formula Saint Rose is using to improve the campus and urban neighborhood is similar to the one used a few years ago by Union College.

A city on the rebound

Until the last few years, blight and abandoned buildings had been a major turnoff for prospective Union College students.

"When [applicants] were asked why they chose not to come to Union, they wrote one word--Schenectady," said Frank Messa, a 1973 Union graduate and chairman of the school's board of trustees.

That's changed due to Union's investments and efforts of the county and city economic development arm--the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority--to bring in more businesses.

Messa, a retired Ayco Co. financial planning executive, isn't ashamed to take would-be investors and alums through downtown Schenectady anymore.

Instead, the school shows off the city through trolley tours and downtown social events.

Renovations at Proctors theater, the opening of new restaurants and construction of the new Hampton Inn Hotel have helped the city rebound.

"A strong, vibrant city benefits both the college and the community," Messa said.

The rebirth in Schenectady began a decade ago when the college launched the Union-Schenectady Initiative, investing more than $10 million in project that included converting the former Ramada Inn into the College Park Hall dorm.

The college helped revive its urban surroundings by restoring nearly three dozen homes and offering free tuition to those who bought them.

"That has led other developers and businesses to come to the area and invest money," Messa said.

Union trustee Neil Golub, president of the Golub Corp., which operates the Price Chopper supermarket chain, plans to build a new $22 million, 240,000-square-foot headquarters on Nott Street across from a college dorm. It will bring 850 employees to the area.

"People like to back a winning team," said Michael O'Hara, Union's director of college relations.

Campus improvements at Union have totaled more than $38 million over the last several years.

Renovations to the Union ice rink made it possible for the school to host hockey leagues and public skating. The school also bought and restored an abandoned bar that now serves as the Kenney Community Center where public school students participate in a study program.

Union's efforts have paid off.

The school's 2,100 students and 800 employees have an annual economic impact of $273 million on Schenectady County, according to a 2007 estimate by the Capital District Regional Planning Commission.

Union also was named one of the nation's top 25 "Best Neighbors" among urban colleges in 2006. It was the only college in New York on the list compiled by Evan Dobelle, president of the New England Board of Higher Education.


Mar 3, 2008, 6:20 PM
And some images of the Massry Center for the Arts:


site plan:

looking north:

looking west, from Madison Ave:

Mar 3, 2008, 8:06 PM
I may be repeating a previous post from some time ago, but I've noticed more and more the huge banner on Broadway concerning the Capital Grand, and now there is a rendering in an ad in the Times Union. The condo's website has a good picture and other details, I put it in the category of "believe it when I see it" but I am taking this one seriously.


Mar 3, 2008, 10:58 PM
Yeah, sales have begun so that's a good sign. And even if it doesn't come to fruition, it shows that at least somebody has faith in the downtown Albany market, even during these shaky economic times.

The rendering on the website, it's surprisingly substantial:


Hmm, I never noticed Albany being so lush with foliage...

Mar 9, 2008, 7:00 PM
Hmm, I never noticed Albany being so lush with foliage...


I think that this project has a good shot at making it.

It's kind of a weird site plan (it does not front on Broadway) but I suppose they want to preserve the views of downtown to the south. Might have been nicer if they started from scratch but I'm not going to bicker when it comes to such a transformational project. That giant lawn should be taxed accordingly, however.

The Queri project looks even better.

Mar 10, 2008, 10:43 PM
Galesi plans professional office building near Union College

The Business Review (Albany) - by Michael DeMasi
Friday, March 7, 2008

Location -- this area is heating up quite nicely:

An old school on Nott Street in Schenectady would be demolished and replaced with professional offices under plans being pursued by the Galesi Group.

"It's a great location for medical offices, with its proximity to Ellis Hospital, Sunnyview Rehabilitation Center and St. Clare's," said David Buicko, chief operating officer of Galesi Group in Rotterdam.

Architects and engineers haven't yet determined how large a building could be constructed on the 1.3-acre site and still provide adequate parking, Buicko said.

The Schenectady County Department of Social Services is located in the former school at 497 Nott St.

The building is across from Union College and next to where the Golub Corp. will build a six-story, 240,000-square-foot headquarters under a separate deal with Galesi Group.

County officials have floated several ideas over the years to move DSS out of the cramped and outdated building, but none came to fruition.

The county found a solution with Galesi Group, the largest commercial real estate developer in the Capital Region as of 2006, according to The Business Review's 2007 Book of Lists.

The Galesi Group bought the former Schenectady International headquarters at 797 Broadway and is renovating a building there for DSS staff.

The county signed a lease with Galesi Group for about 47,000 square feet that begins January 2009, said County Manager Kathy Rooney.

The lease rate starts at $13.23 per square foot and increases every few years over the 20-year term. About 210 people will work there.

The Galesi Group will eventually redevelop a second, 80,000-square-foot building at the former Schenectady International headquarters.

A hill behind the buildings that was in danger of collapsing several years ago will be stabilized with funding from Galesi Group and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"It's a great location," Buicko said. "It's one of the entrances to Schenectady."

In order to move ahead with the purchase of the DSS building on Nott Street, the Schenectady County Legislature must approve a resolution repealing the transfer of the property to Union College.

County lawmakers approved the transfer to the college eight years ago. At the time, Union was interested in opening a business incubator there.

Since then, Union has opened its U-Start incubator in other buildings on Nott Terrace.

"We talked with Union College and they fully support development of this site for commercial use," said Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority.

The county has scheduled a March 11 public hearing on repeal of the transfer.

Provided the repeal is approved, the county will then sell the building to the Schenectady County Industrial Development Agency for $200,000.

The IDA, in turn, will sell the building to the Galesi Group for $200,000, Gillen said.

Metroplex administers the IDA.



Mar 17, 2008, 5:56 PM
Blight claims buildings, pieces of Albany's past

Preservationists find funds scarce to save neglected structures as city continues work to remove eyesores

By TIM O'BRIEN, Staff writer
Monday, March 17, 2008

ALBANY -- Where a historic knitting factory once stood, the ground is level and covered with fill.

The former factory and three adjacent buildings on South Pearl Street, not far from Alexander Street, fell victim to the wrecking ball last month. The demolition site is only a block and a half from where six buildings -- five of them vacant -- were torn down last year when a leak from a vacant structure flooded an occupied home.

"It's another poster child for how long these buildings have been neglected," said Susan Holland, executive director of the Historic Albany Foundation.

Holland says she often is frustrated when she responds to scenes where city engineers and firefighters are determining whether a historic building is too far gone to be saved. Still, she is optimistic that preserving the Victorian architecture is a priority again.

After the previous Alexander Street demolitions, Mayor Jerry Jennings announced what he called his "Block by Block" initiative as part of an effort to battle blight.

Owners of vacant buildings are being brought into a separate codes court, and the city is targeting the 50 blocks with the most vacant structures in need of improvement.

The critical piece, Holland said, is funding to enable the city to restore buildings that can still be saved.

"We definitely need money," she said. "We look at them and they look at us and say, 'Where are you going to get the money to put on the table?"

Michael Yevoli, the city's commissioner of planning and development, said the buildings that were most recently torn down were 20 years past saving.

"They were deemed an imminent threat to public safety," he said. "The goal had been to try to do something to preserve the fabric of that streetscape, but it was so far gone."

Also gone is a piece of the city's past.

The knitting factory was originally built in 1886. John Wolcott, a local historian, said the mid-19th century first opened as Eintracht Hall, a German music hall. Its name was later changed to Andes Hall.

Other buildings on the site were also significant, he said. Two of them are believed to have housed founders of the city's first black church, he said.

The Albany African Association was founded in 1811 and built a school on the site in 1815-16. Two years later, the building was turned into the Albany African Church.

The building that one housed the church is long gone, Wolcott said. But the church's founders, Benjamin Lattimore and Francis March, lived on the property where the demolitions occurred.

Wolcott said he gave a report to the Common Council four years ago lobbying for preservation of those buildings, which he says had not been vacant for as long as the former knitting factory.

"They just let them go," he said. "The city ought to start taking responsibility for fixing these places up."

But the buildings' owner, Olga Jobe of New York City, said she agreed with the decision to take the buildings down.

Her firm, Jobe Development Corp., acquired the buildings in summer 2005 and had hoped to convert them into affordable housing. But those plans never panned out.

"These buildings really were unsafe. I'm just glad no one got hurt," Jobe said.

Unlike many absentee landlords, Jobe made an effort to salvage the buildings, Holland said.

Now that they have been demolished, Jobe said, the firm hopes to build affordable housing on the site. She is not sure whether the firm will do the work or sell it to someone else.

"We're open to both," she said.


Mar 20, 2008, 4:57 PM
u guyz wow liek omg!!

Biggest U.S. Wal-Mart Supercenter opening in May--in Albany, N.Y.

The Business Review
Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Albany, N.Y., area will soon have a new distinction: Home to the country's largest Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The Wal-Mart Supercenter at Crossgates Commons in Albany will have a grand opening in May.

The 259,650-square-foot store is one of a handful owned by the retail giant that has two floors.

A specially-built escalator transports shopping carts, depositing them on the floor just seconds after customers step off an adjacent, traditional escalator, said Philip Serghini, a company spokesman.

Part of the store was once a Sam's Club that closed in May 2006. Since a Wal-Mart was adjacent to the Sam's Club, the company decided to combine the two spaces into one large Supercenter that has more spacious aisles. Wal-Mart Supercenters include food and groceries not found in the company's typical discount stores.

The company has more than 2,300 Supercenters. They average 187,000-square-feet and stock 142,000 items.

The Crossgates Commons store has been open since late February but interior renovations and stocking of merchandise isn't finished in part of the store.

Wal-Mart has scheduled a grand opening for May 17.

The store will have about 425 employees, roughly 40 more than had worked at the former Sam's Club and Wal-Mart combined.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, had $374.5 billion in sales for the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31, 2008. The Bentonville, Ark., company has more than 4,000 stores and other facilities in the U.S.

The chain's biggest stores are in China, Serghini said.



The merits of having the biggest Wal-mart aside, it's good that they're reusing an existing building and not eating up another 25 acres of farmland for it.

Mar 27, 2008, 2:38 PM
Solution possible to DeWitt Clinton dispute

Tenant's lawyer talks with owner of Albany landmark about businesses leaving premises for another site

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Thursday, March 27, 2008

ALBANY -- The owners of the DeWitt Clinton building and the structure's last remaining tenant are negotiating a financial settlement that would allow two businesses to move to another downtown Albany location.

See Why Gerard LLC, owned by Brooklyn investor Chaim Ausch, says it wants to turn the landmark building at the corner of State and Eagle streets into a high-end hotel. But the company claims it cannot begin the redevelopment if businesses owned by Tom Nicci -- the State Room banquet hall and the Comedy Works club -- continue to occupy the building.

In November, See Why Gerard even filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an attempt to force Nicci's businesses from the building. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Littlefield Jr. has ordered the dispute to mediation.

Attorneys for both sides say negotiations to move the businesses to another downtown location -- they declined to say where -- were under way before the judge's March 10 order.

"What we're trying to do is work something out that's mutually beneficial," said Stephen Waite, the attorney for Nicci. "That involves dollars -- compensating my client."

Richard Weiskopf, the attorney for See Why Gerard, essentially agreed with Waite's comments, saying the parties were trying to determine a fair value for moving Nicci's businesses and retrofitting the new location.

Waite stressed the businesses would not relocate until at least 2009. Weddings and other events planned at the banquet hall this year would not be interrupted, he said.

"The key (to the negotiations) is that there's no damage to my client's business or my client's customer base," he said.

Nicci signed a 15-year lease in 2003, before See Why Gerard purchased the property for $5.3 million. At the time, it mostly was a 400-unit apartment building that catered to low-income residents. Those tenants have been evicted.

The DeWitt Clinton has an enviable location: The 11-story, block-long building is directly across from the state Capitol.

But the building, constructed in the 1920s, is in poor condition. So are a string of historic buildings to the east, known as Wellington Row.

Yet Albany developer Columbia Development Cos. has announced plans to redevelop Wellington Row with stores, apartments and a 14-story office tower, and city officials hope the DeWitt Clinton hotel plan will complement a remade Wellington Row.

The DeWitt Clinton lease dispute is similar to one that occurred on the north side of downtown Albany, on Broadway north of Quackenbush Square.

There, Queri Development Co. of Syracuse intends to build a $40 million apartment and office tower. Its plans were delayed by a long lease dispute with the Broadway Auto Clinic.

In August, a state Supreme Court justice ruled the clinic, owned by Richard and Sandra Hameroff of East Greenbush, had a valid lease through 2011.

That led to a negotiated settlement that will have Queri paying roughly $750,000 for the relocation this summer of the auto shop to Menands.


Apr 4, 2008, 4:19 PM
$350M ethanol plant planned for Port of Albany

The Business Review (Albany) - by Pam Allen
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Albany Port District Commission on Monday approved a proposal to build a $350 million ethanol plant on 20 acres of riverfront property.

Albany Renewable Energy LLC will pay $20,000 a year per acre to lease the 20-acre site for at least 20 years, commission Chairman Robert Cross said. The project is expected to generate between 300 and 400 jobs during construction and employ between 50 and 60 full-time employees with average salaries of $60,000.

The plant is scheduled to create 600,000 tons of cargo and bring 350 barges a year in and out of the Port of Albany, Cross said. Currently no barges travel through the port.

"We're very excited. this is the largest development project in the history of the port," Cross said.

Bio Pro Resources of North Carolina will build the facility. Officials plan for a completion date of late 2009 or early 2010.

Albany Renewable Energy was chosen from four bidders. Financing for the plant has not been finalized yet.

Apr 4, 2008, 4:22 PM
Revival of downtowns continues to spur condo development and sales

The Business Review (Albany) - by Michael DeMasi
Friday, March 28, 2008

The urban condominium market is blossoming in the Capital Region.

Last year, 161 condominiums sold or were put under contract in Albany, Troy, Saratoga Springs, Cohoes and Glens Falls, according to a report by T.L. Metzger & Associates LLC in Albany.

Officials in those cities green-lighted an additional 483 condominiums, but the state Attorney General's office has not yet approved the offering plans. As a result, those units can't be marketed and deposits can't be accepted for them.

While Saratoga Springs is commanding the highest prices--an average of $326.07 per square foot--Cohoes has more units in the pipeline, 384, than any other community.

The report is the second issued by T.L. Metzger in eight months, and the first to look at a complete year's worth of information gleaned from the Capital Region Multiple Listing Service, developers, other brokers and the news media.

According to the report that was released last August, 591 condominiums sold in Albany, Troy, Saratoga and Schenectady between 1993 and June 2007.

That means nearly one-fourth as many urban condominiums sold in the region last year as there were in the previous 15 years combined.

Condominium construction isn't limited to local cities. Thousands of condos and townhouses have been built over the past 35 years in suburban towns such as Colonie, East Greenbush, Clifton Park, Rotterdam, Niskayuna and Guilderland.

The region's first condominiums were built in East Greenbush in 1972, according to Joseph Conlon, principal of Diamond Realty Management in Latham, which manages more than 5,000 condominum and homeowner associations.

Conlon estimates there are 9,000 to 12,000 units that are part of condominium or homeowner associations in the region, about half of which are condominiums.

Homeowner associations exist in some single-family detached housing subdivisions.

Demand for condominiums in local cities is relatively new.

In Cohoes, for instance, no condos were sold during the 15-year period covered by the last Metzger report and Glens Falls wasn't included.

In 2007, 28 condos were sold or deposits were received in Cohoes and 32 were sold or deposits were received in Glens Falls.

The units appeal to young professionals and retirees who like the idea of living in an urban environment without the headaches of shoveling snow and parking on the street.

Of the six cities included in the most recent report, Schenectady had the smallest inventory, with 31 condominiums.

There are no units on the drawing board, but that could change as commercial development accelerates downtown, according to Tracy Metzger, president of T.L. Metzger & Associates.

The roughly 500 jobs expected to be created at GE Energy by 2011 and the relocation of the Golub Corp. headquarters from Rotterdam to Nott Street near downtown Schenectady could also fuel demand for condos in the city, according to Metzger.

The Capital Grand, a 125-unit proposed condominium in downtown Albany, has received about 36 deposits since the property went on the market in January, said Sean Sezlik, a sales representative. Prices range from $179,900 to $516,000.

Norstar Development USA has expressed confidence the nine-story tower will be built if it that pace of deposits continues.

In Troy, however, the owner of the former Mooradians Furniture building on River Street has shelved plans to convert the six-story, red-brick building into 48 loft condos.

The owner, NADC in Brooklyn, has cited high property taxes, lack of indoor parking and the fallout from the national subprime mortgage crisis as the reasons why it had trouble finding buyers.


Apr 8, 2008, 2:45 PM
la la la here we go again

Teams line up for Harriman site

Three local developers plus partners selected to draw up proposals for office campus near UAlbany

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

ALBANY -- Three development teams -- and deep-pocketed national companies -- will vie to build at the W. Averell Harriman State Office Campus.

The teams were chosen Monday by the board of Harriman Research and Technology Corp., which is overseeing the long-stalled redevelopment of the state-owned property near the University at Albany.

Each of the teams is led by a well-known local developer: Columbia Development Cos. Of Albany, The Galesi Group of Rotterdam and The Howard Group of Colonie.

And each of the local developers says it is working with at least one big-name national company -- suggesting wide interest in redeveloping the Harriman campus.

Columbia Development, for example, is partnering with Toll Brothers Inc., the nation's largest home builder; M+W Zander, the German engineering company involved in the construction of the Albany NanoTech complex and the redevelopment of the Watervliet Arsenal; and Ocean Hospitalities, a New Hampshire company that owns or operates 120 hotels.

Galesi Group, meanwhile, is partnering with New York City-based general contractor Turner Construction Co. and Cushman & Wakefield Inc., which calls itself the world's largest commercial real estate services firm.

Howard Group has, among other partners, Choice Hotels, one of the world's largest hotel franchisers; Winn Development, a large Boston developer; and Street-Works LLC, a White Plains company that says it focuses on "the creation of mixed-use projects around great public places throughout the United States."

(kz note: Winn has no capital right now. Their $800m project in Boston was just stopped a week ago because they couldn't secure any tax credits or financing. Also note how muxh work they've gotten done on redeveloping the Park South neighborhood).

The three teams are among the five developers that responded to the state's request for qualifications, which was released in December and asked that the developers prove they have the experience and financial backing needed for a major construction project.

The teams will receive requests for proposals in early May and will have until Aug. 11 to return the application.

Michael Phillips, president of Harriman Research and Technology Corp., estimated his group will select the final development plans by mid-October.

The Harriman campus is now a stark expanse of office buildings, parking lots and lawn adjacent to UAlbany.

Dissatisfaction with the sterile campus -- and the belief that its location near highways and the university made it valuable -- led former Gov. George Pataki in 2002 to propose a redevelopment plan that included relocating the 7,500 state employees who work there.

But that plan stalled, in part because it asked that one developer take responsibility for all the redevelopment at the 330-acre site.

Late last year, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer released a revised plan that keeps state workers in place and asks developers to tackle only a portion of redevelopment.

Judging by the company names unveiled Monday, that plan has generated a better response.

"That's what we were looking for -- the big guys and gals," said John Egan, commissioner of the state Office of General Services and a Harriman board member.

The selected development teams have not yet detailed their specific plans for the campus, and efforts to contact the heads of Columbia Development, Galesi Group and Howard Group were unsuccessful.

But the composition of the teams hints at what they may propose.

The presence of Toll Brothers, for example, suggests a proposal with a significant residential component. The involvement of Cushman & Wakeman's Global Life Sciences Project could mean the inclusion of medical or pharmaceutical development.

It's possible that all three teams will be awarded the rights to build at Harriman, and will build simultaneously on different parts of the campus.

Phillips, Harriman Research president, said that if more than one firm asks to build at the same location, the developer with the more concrete proposal -- and signed tenants -- will be given preference.

Churchill can be reached at 454-5442 or by e-mail at cchurchill@timesunion.com.


Apr 10, 2008, 1:12 AM
Why do I feel like this is going to be something we're going to contemplate redeveloping again 40-50 years from now?

Howard Group has, among other partners, Choice Hotels, one of the world's largest hotel franchisers; Winn Development, a large Boston developer; and Street-Works LLC, a White Plains company that says it focuses on "the creation of mixed-use projects around great public places throughout the United States."

Hope? Maybe?

Apr 17, 2008, 2:54 PM
^ I have no faith they'll get it right. Anyway, here's some good news:

Developer revises Broadway tower plan

Queri wants to add third building to site, drops proposed gas station

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Thursday, April 17, 2008

ALBANY -- The Syracuse developers hoping to build a downtown tower have revised their plan, increasing the project's size.

Queri Development Co. originally proposed an 11-story apartment and retail building, and a five-story office and retail building on the site along Broadway, just north of downtown Albany and Quackenbush Square.

Now on the 1.8-acre site, the company wants to build a 12-story apartment and retail building; a four-story office and retail building; and a seven-story, 125-room hotel.

Queri, doing business locally as Albany Soma LLC, also wants to boost the maximum number of apartments on the site from 130 to 175. A gas station is no longer included in the plans.

The Albany Planning Board will consider the revisions at a meeting April 24. The board already approved the original site plan, which Queri estimated would cost $40 million to build.

Mark Congel and Dan Queri are the principals in Queri Development. Queri is a former executive with Destiny USA, the proposed mega-mall in Syracuse; Congel is the son of Destiny USA developer Robert Congel.

The pair, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, first proposed the project in 2005, but a prolonged lease dispute with Broadway Auto Clinic hampered development plans.

Queri sought to evict the shop, but a state Supreme Court justice in August ruled the clinic had a valid lease through 2011.

The developers and the auto shop in January announced that Queri would buy out the lease for an undisclosed sum, allowing the repair business to move this summer to Menands.

It is unclear when Queri hopes to break ground on the project.


Apr 24, 2008, 4:49 PM
Apartment-builder fills vacancy

Capital District Properties plans on constructing up to 2,700 units in next 7 years

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Thursday, April 24, 2008

WILTON -- The Capital Region has one of the nation's tightest rental markets. Capital District Properties LLC is doing its best to change that.

The deep-pocketed Latham company, just five years old and launched to fill what its investors saw as a widening gap in the region's housing market, hopes to build as many as 2,700 high-end apartments over the next seven years.

A third of those apartments are under construction or in stages of municipal approval, in planned developments such as The Moorings of Halfmoon or Hudson Hills in Brunswick.

The company's initial project is The Paddocks of Saratoga, a $65 million complex along Old Gick Road in Wilton, just north of the Route 50 retail strip. Construction is less than a third finished, with an ultimate build-out of 420 apartments spread over 68 acres.

Units are already renting. They are not cheap: A one-bedroom goes for $1,100 a month, utilities not included. Two bedrooms cost as much as $1,800 monthly.

Still, Toby Milde and William Hoblock, managing partners of Capital District Properties, on Wednesday said consumer interest in The Paddocks is strong. So strong, in fact, that the development has been able to roll out a 12-unit building every two weeks or so and still maintain thirst for additional apartments.

Construction began in early 2007, with market demand setting the timetable for its completion. If built as planned, The Paddocks will be one of the larger apartment complexes in the area.

It might also be one of the more attractive.

The project, as designed by Guilderland architect Dominick Ranieri, has a pseudotraditional style. It has sidewalks, front porches and gables galore. It eschews the large parking lots seen in other complexes, favoring garages, smaller lots and even parallel parking.

"It's definitely one of the better-designed projects in the area," said Jesse Holland, president of Sunrise Management and Consulting, a Latham firm that monitors the region's apartment market.

Holland said The Paddocks includes apartment features common in other markets -- like indoor parking, granite countertops and a top-notch fitness room and clubhouse -- but still rare here.

This market is changing, though, due in part to a vacancy rate that, at 4.9 percent in 2007, was the nation's fifth tightest, according to the Census Bureau.

That's drawing bigger developer money to the area -- none bigger than A.G. Spanos Cos., which is the nation's largest apartment builder and is now building a 300-unit complex on Washington Avenue in Albany. The $45 million project is the California company's first in the Northeast.

The arrival of Spanos, along with the census data, "confirms what we're doing," Milde said. "We're looking pretty smart right now."

Capital District Properties is backed by The Greenwich Group, a Manhattan real estate investment firm, and other investors, suggesting the group will have the financial wherewithal to carry out its ambitious plan for 2,700 apartments.

Milde and Hoblock, the managing partners, said the group is eyeing sites in all parts of the Capital Region. Most notably, it is considering a development of at least 300 units on 80 acres along Boght Road in Cohoes.

"This area is really in need of high-end rental communities," Hoblock said. "And that need is going to continue."

Projects by Capital District Properties LLC

The Paddocks of Saratoga

Where: Old Gick Road, Wilton
Size: 420 apartments Status: Under construction

The Moorings of Halfmoon

Where: Route 9 and Stone Quarry Road, Halfmoon
Size: 200 apartments Status: Groundbreaking planned in the fall

Hudson Hills

Where: Route 7 and Betts Road, Brunswick
Size: 250 apartments
Status: Groundbreaking planned for summer 2009

Three Silos

Where: East High Street, Malta
Size: 60 single-family homes
Status: Groundbreaking planned this summer


Apr 24, 2008, 4:57 PM
What's doing on your roads

Major Route 5 project is among work planned for thoroughfares in region

By CATHY WOODRUFF, Staff writer
Monday, April 21, 2008

The Capital Region's major highway projects in recent years have followed a nationwide trend as much of the U.S. interstate system marks or nears a half-century of service.

Interstate 90, the Northway, Interstate 787 and parts of the Thruway mainline, which includes parts of both I-90 and I-87 here, all have undergone significant repairs -- with more to come.

This year, several feeder roads that connect to the interstates and provide alternate routes for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists -- including Route 5 and Route 85 in Albany County -- get their turn.

"The fact that the interstate system is 50 years old, that has implications for the roads that feed the interstate system," noted state Department of Transportation regional spokesman Peter Van Keuren.

The plan for this year also features one entirely new road, a rare find now, with maintenance and repairs to old roads and bridges consuming the bulk of state and local highway funds.

When it's finished in 2009, the $22.4 million Round Lake Bypass will carry traffic leaving the Northway at Exit 11 around the small village and on to Route 9 near its intersection with Route 67 eastbound.

Contractors will build roundabout intersections at both ends of the bypass, a bridge over the Ballston Creek and a pedestrian bridge to carry walkers and cyclists over the bypass.

But Route 5, the central artery through the commercial heart of Colonie and a direct link between the downtowns of Albany and Schenectady, could be considered the centerpiece of this year's regional construction program.

Route 5 -- known as Central Avenue in Albany County and State Street in Schenectady County -- is the granddaddy of the region's main roads and has been much griped about for its bumpy, potholed pavement and poor accommodations for pedestrians.

Two simultaneous projects by the state and the city of Albany will tackle both issues along a 5.5-mile stretch from the intersection with Route 155 (New Karner Road) in Colonie to at least King Avenue in Albany. If time and money are sufficient, Albany hopes to extend the work farther east to Quail Street this year.

The state expects to spend $6.4 million on its portion of the job between Route 155 and the city line, and the city portion is expected to cost about $13 million -- plus $2 million more for the extension to Quail. The city's part of the work also continues an adjoining paving and improvement project on Everett Road.

In addition to new pavement, crews on Route 5 will install more than 60 fresh, colored crosswalks with countdown timers to help pedestrians gauge how much time they have to reach the other side. "High-visibility" markings, including a red-brick imprint pattern and reflective white borders, will mark the crosswalks.

On Central Avenue near Colonie Center and Northway Mall, DOT plans to install a two-tiered island, with each tier edged by a 6-inch-high curb, to protect and highlight a midway refuge area for pedestrians crossing Central Avenue.

Designers hope the wide, raised median also will discourage pedestrians from crossing in locations away from the crosswalk.

The Colonie Center area improvements eventually will tie in with a new station planned for the Capital District Transportation Authority's planned Bus Rapid Transit line along Route 5.

Meanwhile, traffic lanes will be narrowed slightly to widen the space for bicycles from 13 feet to 14 feet along the edge of the street.

Designers hope the improved crosswalks will encourage more pedestrians to use them.

The road is busy, with 30,500 to 40,000 vehicles on a typical day, depending on the location, and Central Avenue has seen several pedestrian injuries and deaths in the last decade.

Authorities and residents say contributing factors include reluctance by pedestrians to walk several minutes out of their way to reach a crosswalk, insufficient lighting and poor markings and visibility where crosswalks are in place.

The accident rate on the Colonie section of Route 5 slated for repairs this year, at 5.82 accidents per million vehicle miles, is above what normally would be expected for a similar four-lane arterial, which is 5.05, said Scott Nowalk, DOT's project manager on the job.

He said much of the paving work will be done at night to minimize traffic disruptions.

Pedestrian improvements also are key to the city's Everett Road project adjoining Central Avenue, where crossing safely has long been a challenge, said City Engineer Deirdre Rudolph and Acting General Services Commissioner Nick D'Antonio.

Rudolph noted that the design includes standardizing the size and reducing the number of driveway entrances along Route 5, which also should improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

Two sections of Route 85, now called the Slingerlands Bypass in parts of Bethlehem, are on this year's regional roadwork summer schedule, as well.

A $3.1 million project will replace the bridges carrying Route 85 over Berkshire Boulevard in Albany.

A $15.2 million portion of the Slingerlands Bypass between Cherry AVenue (Route 140) and Blessing Road is slated for completion in July. The bypass opened last fall, and this year's work will focus on reconstruction of "Old" Route 85, which now includes portions of Maher Road and New Scotland Road.

Other notable projects around the region this summer include:

A $5.7 million rehabilitation of the bridge carrying Route 67 over the Hudson River between Mechanicville and Schaghticoke.

The bridge's four concrete piers will be repaired and strengthened, and 18 bridge bearings will be replaced. A new concrete deck and railing will be installed.

Continued replacement of old rocker bearings on portions of the South Mall Expressway, the elevated highway that connects Dunn Memorial Bridge and I-787 with Empire State Plaza.

Reconstruction of Route 143 in Coeymans.

Resurfacing of Route 9 between Glens Falls and Round Pond Road in Queensbury.

Replacement of overhead signs on the Dunn Memorial Bridge and I-787 in Albany.


Apr 25, 2008, 3:57 PM
Offices proposed for Park South

Columbia Development plans 5- story structure near Albany Med


All current/recent developments (this project highlighted), showing how fast the area is changing:
Link to above map with notes: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=115411842234697362461.00044bb43921069b2bbe5&ll=42.652939,-73.774588&spn=0.003937,0.01045&t=k&z=17

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Friday, April 25, 2008

ALBANY -- A big Albany developer is proposing construction of an office building in the Park South neighborhood, near Albany Medical Center.

The five-story structure by Columbia Development Cos. would go up on the southeast corner of New Scotland and Myrtle avenues, and the medical center likely would use part of the building to house its administrative offices.

Michael Yevoli, the city's planning commissioner, said he considers the Columbia office project "significant in that it could continue the development of the medical center corridor" and build momentum for other Park South projects.

The proposed development, if approved by the Planning Board, would occur in an area experiencing a wave of investment -- following years of disinvestment that left parts of the neighborhood tattered.

In 2005, Winn Development, a Boston company, was chosen by the city to carry out a $65 million, six-year plan to demolish 237 apartments and homes and build new ones in a nine-block area near Albany Med. The firm is rehabbing 18 row houses on nearby Knox Street.

Last June, Columbia Development and BBL Construction Services LLC completed construction of a $20 million Hilton Garden Inn on New Scotland Avenue, across the street from the hospital. The building includes a Starbucks and other eateries on its ground level.

In January, the Albany Local Development Corp. received $3.3 million in state funding for a large development it is proposing for the northeast corner of Myrtle and New Scotland avenues. The two-building project would also be built by Columbia Development and would add 120,000 square feet of retail and office space to the neighborhood.

And in February, the medical center announced a $360 million expansion that includes a new six-story building and the addition of 116 beds.

Gregory McGarry, spokesman for Albany Med, said the rapidly growing hospital is likely to need additional administrative space, despite that expansion. He said the hospital has been talking to Columbia about leasing space in the proposed building, but has not formally agreed to do so.

Joe Nicolla, president of Columbia Development, could not be reached for comment Thursday. It is unclear how much the company plans to spend on the development, or when it intends to launch construction.

A one-story building would be demolished under Columbia's plan.

On Wednesday, Columbia won approval from the Albany Board of Zoning Appeals, necessary because the building does not meet the required 20-foot minimum setback, exceeds the maximum allowable lot coverage of 60 percent and does not provide the required 308 parking spaces.

(In other words... it'll have urban characteristics!)


Apr 28, 2008, 8:13 PM
A Tale of Four Communities--New Urbanism lands in Capital Region

The Business Review (Albany) - by Michael DeMasi
Friday, April 25th 2008

On one hand, the developers of four New Urbanism-styled communities in the region may be helped by the ever-rising cost of gasoline.

That could encourage people to buy a new home close enough to walk to retail and professional offices.

On the other hand, the slowdown in the residential real estate market and sluggish retail sales mean developers may have to work harder--and wait longer--to find investors.

Either way, the developers pursuing New Urbanist projects locally still have a way to go before they're ready to turn a shovel in the ground. They're seeking municipal permits, meeting with architects and assessing the overall market.

These communities are modeled after traditional downtowns, with homes, stores and businesses within walking distance. Although the designs vary, they typically have smaller homes with front porches, mixed-use multi-story buildings, sidewalks and some sort of central gathering place.

The lifestyle appeals to people turned off by what they perceive to be the isolation of suburbia and the dependence on cars to go anywhere farther than their mailbox.

Nevertheless, New Urbanist communities have been criticized for lacking economic and racial diversity. Residents aren't necessarily freed from their cars, either, because they generally have to leave the developments to go to work and do much of their daily shopping.

New Urbanist developments across the country haven't been immune to the slowdown in the residential real estate market. Those closest to mass transit and big employment centers are faring better than others, said David Goldberg, spokesman for Smart Growth America, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C. that advocates for, among other things, walkable communities.

When it comes to New Urbanist communities locally, the Capital Region hasn't been tested. But the four projects proposed--in three counties--suggest that there's some interest here.


Here's a look at the local projects:

The Village of New Loudon

Developer: New Loudon Road Associates LLC
Architects: Cooper Carry
Location: Next to Hoffman's Playland on Route 9, Latham
Size: 37 acres
Scope: About 280 residential units, 140,000 to 160,000 square feet of retail, upper-floor offices, 65-room boutique hotel
Status: Conceptual plans drawn up; preliminary meeting held with town planners


One of the biggest challenges with New Urbanism developments in the Northeast is balancing the needs of pedestrians versus motorists, said Tony Fazzone, managing member of New Loudon Road Associates.

People are accustomed to driving to a store and parking nearby­--a convenience they especially want in winter. But a sea of parking lots is not what residents have in mind when they think of a community modeled after downtowns of old.

"You want to create a walkable village but the fact of the matter is, most people want to drive their cars to it," said Fazzone, an attorney in Schenectady.

Fazzone is working through those sorts of issues with Cooper Carry, a New York City architectural firm he hired to design The Village of New Loudon. The firm's portfolio includes Bethesda Row, a six-block, mixed-use development in Bethesda, Md.

At this point, the concept calls for the area closest to Route 9 to include a boutique hotel and three-story buildings that have retail on the ground floor and condominiums or offices on the upper floors.

The commercial area would be linked by streets and sidewalks to 80 to 100 townhouse units that are toward the rear of the property.

Fazzone said the layout would appeal to people who want to live above a coffee shop or store and those who would prefer to be a few minutes away from the hubbub.

He believes the key to a successful New Urbanism development is that the homes and stores must be able to stand on their own if there's a delay attracting buyers and investors for either segment.

"You can't expect that one is going to buoy the other one," he said.

The planning process has taken longer than expected but Fazzone isn't concerned. He hopes to start construction in 2010. He's also not worried about the real estate market because he's confident there will continue to be strong demand for condominiums and townhouses among young professionals and empty-nesters in the area.

"We believe there's a pent-up demand for that style of living in this area," he said. "I think a lot of developers feel that way."


Info on Bethesda Row: http://www.smartgrowth.org/library/articles.asp?art=1813&res=1024

And a pic. Cooper Carry did a great job here:


Bon Acre Hamlet

Developer: EJP Homes
Location: Route 43, Averill Park
Size: 92 acres
Scope: 139 residential units and 160,000 square feet of commercial and retail space
Status: Zoning changes approved by town; state Health Department approval needed for water system


Ed Patanian, president of EJP Homes, is in no rush to build Bon Acre Hamlet.

His focus lately has been making a profit on the four houses he's building elsewhere.

"The cash flow is not what it was," Patanian said, citing a slowdown in demand for single-family, detached homes.

"The volume of homes I'm building is reduced now," he said. "In my other communities I have enough lots to keep going until the market turns around."

Over the past 20-plus years, Patanian has built hundreds of houses in Sand Lake, the Rensselaer County town near his Bon Acre site.

He has had a long-term strategy for the project since the outset, figuring it would take 10 years to fully build the single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums, apartments and retail shops.

"My main concern right now is, I don't get over-extended financially," he said. "I think that portions of the project will sell well. I think there's a good demand for townhouses and condominiums."

He's still enthusiastic about the project and thinks it will benefit him if other New Urbanism-styled developments are built first in the region so buyers have a better sense for what they are like.

In the meantime, he's closely watching his expenses.

"I take a very conservative approach to things and don't want to go into debt to sustain myself," he said.


Info from EJP Homes' site: http://www.ejphomes.com/bon_acre/bon_acre.asp


East Line Commons

Developer: HR Schultz Real Estate Development
Location: East Line Road, Ballston
Size: 17+ acres
Scope: 100 residential units, 282,000 square feet of retail and commercial space
Status: Planned Unit Development approved by town of Malta; site plan approval needed


Hal Schultz has a head-start of sorts when it comes to creating a mixed-use community.

His East Line Commons project in Ballston already has an adjacent commercial park with companies that occupy 48,000 square feet and employ more than 200 people.

He expects another 450 jobs could be created at the three mixed-use buildings totaling 70,000 square feet that he has approval to build at the Ballston Commercial Park.

East Line Commons would be built next to the commercial park, with single- and multi-family homes, retail shops, dining and professional offices.

"We have the real potential of 450 to 500 jobs where people could live, work and shop in one location," Schultz said. "Real jobs, not restaurant jobs."

The development will have access to the Zim Smith walking trail, which is being extended by Saratoga County. Schultz has also asked the Capital District Transportation Authority to include a bus stop at the commercial park.

The timing for East Line Commons depends a lot on whether, and when, Advanced Micro Devices builds a $3.2 billion computer chip fabrication plant at the Luther Forest Technology Campus, which is just 2.5 miles away.

Schultz also expects to benefit from a roundabout that may be built at the corner of Route 67 and East Line Road, which would pave the way for other development. That could happen in 2010. Regardless of whether AMD builds the chip fab, Schultz said East Line Commons is in a desirable location because 25,000 cars pass the property daily. The land is already serviced by water and sewer lines.

"We're not trying to build a new market with new traffic," he said. "We're trying to build on existing infrastructure, which is a big key for stopping sprawl."


GlassWorks Village

Developer: Platform Realty Group
Location: Winding Brook Drive and Western Avenue, Guilderland
Size: 57 acres
Scope: 327 residential units, 180,000 square feet of retail and office space
Status: Rezoning request being reviewed by Guilderland town officials


Daniel O'Brien, president of Platform Realty Group, hopes to get town approval for the rezoning by this summer.

"We're in pretty good shape," he said.

But the process has really only just begun. Platform must also get permission from the state attorney general's office for its condominium offering plan. And it hasn't yet started marketing the carriage-styled homes, retail and office space.

The downturn in the residential real estate market is a concern, O'Brien said, but he believes selling a community where residents don't have to rely as much on a car to go shopping or to work will be an advantage.

GlassWorks Village will also be connected to the town library and the YMCA.

"If there's a falloff in the whole housing market, we think this is going to be much better received," O'Brien said.

Platform hasn't partnered with a builder yet on the project.

"We're just kind of in limbo right now," he said.



Apr 29, 2008, 5:58 PM
urbanists - 1, McDonald's - 0

McDonald's proposal doesn't measure up

Officials want a floor added to plan for new South Broadway eatery
By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
Tuesday, April 29, 2008

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- McDonald's wants to replace its more than 30-year-old restaurant on South Broadway, but city officials say it needs to rise to two floors.

The Planning Board recently asked McDonald's representatives to revise the preliminary single-floor designs for a new 197 S. Broadway store because zoning rules for the so-called "downtown gateway" area require all new buildings to be a minimum of two stories.



Apr 29, 2008, 7:13 PM
urbanists - 1, McDonald's - 0

McDonald's proposal doesn't measure up

Officials want a floor added to plan for new South Broadway eatery
By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
Tuesday, April 29, 2008

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- McDonald's wants to replace its more than 30-year-old restaurant on South Broadway, but city officials say it needs to rise to two floors.

The Planning Board recently asked McDonald's representatives to revise the preliminary single-floor designs for a new 197 S. Broadway store because zoning rules for the so-called "downtown gateway" area require all new buildings to be a minimum of two stories.



Maybe they can put condos up above the new restaurant.;)

Apr 30, 2008, 6:38 PM
Albany is Now Poised to Develop Plan

Panel members named to develop comprehensive development strategy

By TIM O'BRIEN, Staff writer
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

ALBANY -- The city's effort to develop a comprehensive plan can begin, now that the Common Council has appointed 20 members.

Council member Daniel Herring will lead the Comprehensive Plan Board, and the city's commissioner of planning and economic development, Michael Yevoli, will serve as the vice chairman.

The committee is expected to take a year to 18 months to review what zoning and planning rules should be in the city.

"I'm very pleased with the makeup of the group," Yevoli said. "We worked very hard to make sure we had a diverse board."

That diversity went beyond race and gender to include making sure representatives came from different neighborhoods and jobs.

The city already has done some detailing plans for individual or combined neighborhoods, including Park South, Arbor Hill and the Capital South plan that covers all or parts of the South End, Mansion District, Historic Pastures and midtown.

But Yevoli said this marks the first time a comprehensive plan is being done for the entire city.

The city had set a deadline of last July for people to apply, and Herring said more than 100 people did so. He said applications were accepted past the original date and interviews were then done with some 50 applicants.

"It did take longer than we hoped," he said. "We're really happy with the outcome now. We had in one sense an embarrassment of riches there."

The board will next have to schedule an organizational meeting and begin work to hire an experienced firm to work on the project. A request for proposals will be developed, and the board will review applicants, interview prospective companies and select the firm.

"We're going to have to reach out and find a consultant with experience doing a comprehensive plan," he said.

follow the link for a list of people chosen: http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=684844&category=REGION&newsdate=4/30/2008

May 6, 2008, 1:28 AM
Paving Way for NanoTech Growth?

Fuller Road project could shift intersection north, letting campus grow

http://img233.imageshack.us/img233/5371/albanyfullerrd200805vi7.gif (http://imageshack.us)

By CATHY WOODRUFF, Staff writer
Monday, May 5, 2008

ALBANY -- A new option in play for replacing the crumbling crossroads at Fuller Road and Washington Avenue would move the intersection a few hundred feet to the north and open up new acreage for expansion of the Albany NanoTech complex.

The idea of shifting a segment of Washington Avenue emerged recently as engineering consultants compiled a spectrum of configurations for a two-year project that will rebuild Fuller Road between Central and Western avenues, said Albany County Public Works Commissioner Michael Franchini.

While it remains one of several possibilities on the table -- and would add as much as $16 million to the Fuller Road project cost -- Franchini said moving the intersection would far exceed other options for improving traffic flow, minimizing disruptions during construction and giving Albany NanoTech room for expansion of its staff and research.

"We have a world-class facility that is growing," Franchini said. "The question it comes down to is: Can we support the traffic improvements needed for that?"

More than 50,000 vehicles now pass through the Fuller Road/Washington Avenue intersection on a typical weekday.

At least six Fuller Road project alternatives are to be presented on Thursday at a public information open house from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Albany NanoTech south auditorium. The variations center chiefly on the Washington Avenue intersection.

Maps and drawings will be on display at the event, and designers and county staffers will be available to answer questions. A short formal presentation also is expected.

All of the proposals call for complete reconstruction of the Fuller Road driving surface, with removal of its deteriorated concrete base. The plans include construction of sidewalks along both sides of the road and 4-foot shoulders for bicycles.

A narrow median would help slow -- or "calm" -- traffic near Western Avenue. Grass and shrubs on the median would foster a "boulevard look," Franchini said.

Three roundabout intersections -- at the I-90 Exit 2 interchange north of Washington Avenue, at Washington and Fuller and at the Tricentennial Drive entrances to the University at Albany and Albany NanoTech -- are envisioned.

The Washington-Fuller roundabout, if the intersection is moved north, would feature a bridge for Washington Avenue traffic to continue flowing east and west overhead without pausing for a traffic light or maneuvering through the circular intersection.

The current project budget, without the Washington Avenue relocation, stands at $16.8 million, including $4.87 million for the roundabout at Washington and Fuller. About $2 million of that roundabout cost is expected to be covered by federal aid for projects that ease traffic congestion.

Albany County plans to finance the rest by issuing bonds.

County officials are talking with state officials about other possible funding sources that would enable construction of the design that shifts Washington Avenue, said Deputy County Executive Michael Perrin.

NanoTech officials, who have been eyeing the parcel across Washington Avenue for construction of a $60 million renewable energy research building, are enthusiastic.

While the 11.3 acres on the northwest corner of the intersection already belong to the University at Albany, which hosts the NanoTech complex, the land is cut off from the existing campus by the road.

Eliminating that barrier would help Albany Nano maintain a contiguous, walkable campus for its researchers and permit addition of a new entrance on Washington Avenue, said Steve Janack, spokesman for UAlbany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.

He said expansion to the north also would help Albany NanoTech be a better neighbor to those with homes in the area.

"If we have the ability to expand further in that direction, we would be expanding away from the neighborhood," he said.

The county aims to begin Fuller Road reconstruction next spring, with completion late in 2010, Franchini said. There are no current plans to do the work at night.

"Because of the residential neighborhood nearby, we decided it would be too disruptive," he said.

Most portions of the new road will have two lanes northbound and one lane southbound, but a section of Fuller just south of the NanoTech and UAlbany entrance roads, which is tightly lined on both sides by a cemetery, will remain narrower, Franchini said.

Rerouting Washington Avenue and shifting the intersection with Fuller to the north also will permit construction to proceed with less disruption to the current intersection, he noted.

Cathy Woodruff can be reached at 454-5093 or by e-mail at cwoodruff@timesunion.com.


May 6, 2008, 1:32 AM
Demolition plans draw opposition

Critics say club proposal would ruin streetscape near the Capitol


By TIM O'BRIEN, Staff writer
Monday, May 5, 2008

ALBANY -- The Fort Orange Club wants to demolish two buildings next door on Washington Avenue for a parking lot, but opponents say their removal will ruin the streetscape a block from the Capitol.

The 128-year-old social club would raze the multistory office buildings it owns at 118-120 Washington Ave. The space would be used to expand the parking lot from 51 to 73 spaces.

The club, next to the Alfred E. Smith Building, proposes to add a wrought-iron fence, stone and mature greenery to block the view. Approval is required from several city agencies, but the plan is being opposed by the Center Square, Hudson/Park and Washington Park Neighborhood associations and the council member representing the area.

"We shouldn't be demolishing structurally sound buildings and replacing them with parking lots," said Richard Conti, the Common Council's president pro tempore.

The buildings, which are connected, are not historic, nor is the neighborhood labeled a historic district.

Conti said that should be irrelevant because removing the buildings would have an impact on a highly visible stretch of the city.

"It's nothing against the Fort Orange Club," Conti said. "It's an important part of the community."

Susan Holland, executive director of Historic Albany Foundation, said the board opposes the demolition of buildings to create parking lots.

"The district itself where the buildings are had a determination for (historic) eligibility in 1980, but nothing was ever done about it," she said. Some of her members also belong to the club, she said.

Roger Bearden, president of the Hudson/Park Neighborhood Association, said there is no reason to remove the structures.

"They are perfectly good buildings. There are no indications they are in any trouble," he said. "They look like nice brick office buildings."

Last week, the Zoning Board of Appeals tabled the request to approve the parking lot. The Planning Board has determined the project would not have a negative environmental impact. The city must also grant a permit for the demolitions.

Nicholas DiLello, director of the Division of Buildings and Codes, said applications for the demolitions have not yet been filed.

It is not the first time the club has demolished a building to expand parking. In 1982, preservationists lost a two-year battle to preserve the 73-year-old Arts and Crafts style building at 116 Washington Ave.

Herb Shultz, vice president for the 600-member private social club, said the demolition would open up views of churches on State Street and lessen traffic problems during club events.

"With the streetscape that has been proposed, it is going to look very attractive," he said.

Removing the buildings will also enable the club's driveway to be expanded, he said. The driveway is now only wide enough for one car, but it will be expanded to allow two-way traffic.

"It will allow cars to go in and out of that space without backing up onto Washington Avenue," he said.

The buildings are now occupied with office tenants, but Shultz said they have been informed they will need to move.

Built in 1810 as a private home, the club renovated and occupied the building July 1, 1880, five months after the club's founding.


May 6, 2008, 3:10 AM
the buildings do add character to the streetscape not too mention, there's nothing wrong with them.

May 6, 2008, 4:00 PM
Yeah, I'm not crazy about the building, but the thought of losing it to a parking lot is appalling.

May 6, 2008, 4:02 PM
Bankruptcy Fails As Eviction Tactic

Renovation on hold as DeWitt Clinton building owner's filing denied

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Tuesday, May 6, 2008

ALBANY -- The legal case is kaput, and Tom Nicci's businesses remain right where they've been for years -- at the base of the DeWitt Clinton building.

That's not what the owner of the building, See Why Gerard LLC investor Chaim Ausch, hoped for when he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection five months ago. He hoped the filing would lead to the eviction of Nicci's businesses -- The State Room Banquet Hall and The Comedy Works -- from the building where a high-end hotel is planned.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Littlefield Jr. dismissed the case on Thursday.

Negotiations between the parties continue, Nicci's attorney, Stephen Waite, said Monday.

Waite said his client is willing to leave the historic downtown Albany high-rise -- but only if the price is right. Otherwise, Nicci could stay for the nearly 11 years remaining on his lease.

"The only reason he would want to leave is to assist what the owner of the DeWitt is trying to accomplish," Waite said.

Nicci signed a 15-year lease in 2003, before See Why Gerard purchased the property for $5.3 million. At the time, the building contained 400 apartments that catered to low-income residents. Those tenants have been evicted.

Ausch has said the building, located on State Street near the Capitol, is well positioned for conversion into a hotel. He says the redevelopment cannot begin as long as Nicci's businesses remain.

Still, Richard Weiskopf, Ausch's bankruptcy attorney, said he and his client supported the dismissal of the bankruptcy case, as it was proving to be an ineffectual tool.

"The goal here is to get the tenant out," Weiskopf said. "We weren't really getting anywhere in the bankruptcy process."

City officials, including Mayor Jerry Jennings, have expressed support for the DeWitt Clinton redevelopment, partly because of the site's high visibility and symbolic importance.

Albany developer Columbia Development Cos. has announced plans to redevelop a row of buildings immediately to the east, with stores, apartments and a 14-story office tower.


May 20, 2008, 2:51 PM
Columbia Development proposes $15M building near Albany Med

The Business Review (Albany) - by Michael DeMasi
Friday, May 16, 2008

New Scotland Avenue near Albany Medical Center would look much different in four years under plans being pursued by the hospital and Columbia Development Cos.

A host of projects on the drawing board or recently completed will add tens of thousands of square feet of medical, office and retail space to the street between Holland and Madison avenues.

Separately, Winn Development of Rochester has finished the first half a $13.5 million, block-long renovation of 18 rundown homes nearby on Knox Street in the Park South neighborhood. The units are being converted into 47 apartments for income-eligible residents.

"There's a lot going on there," said Michael Yevoli, the city's commissioner of development and planning.

The biggest piece is the $360 million, six-story expansion that Albany Medical Center wants to build at the corner of New Scotland and Myrtle avenues.

The expansion would boost the hospital's capacity from 631 to 747 beds to meet a growing number of admissions. The addition would be linked through a glass-enclosed pedestrian bridge to a new, 1,750-space parking garage on the grounds of the Veterans Administration Medical Center.

Albany Med is seeking permission from the state Health Department for the project. If approved, it would be built by 2012.

Even with the planned expansion, the hospital needs more administrative space off the main campus, said Greg McGarry, spokesman.

As a result, Albany Med is negotiating to lease space in a five-story, 77,000-square-foot building that Columbia Development would build at the southeast corner of Myrtle and New Scotland avenues. The hospital doesn't yet know the amount of space it needs, McGarry said.

The $15 million, five-story building would be constructed at 22 New Scotland Ave.

A medical office there, Capital District Dermatology, would be demolished and the practice moved to 147 S. Lake Avenue to make way for the new building, said Columbia Development President Joseph Nicolla.

Parking for the new building would be provided in the hospital parking garage or elsewhere on campus.

The Albany Board of Zoning Appeals has granted variances because the building lacks on-site parking and wouldn't meet setback requirements from the street, Yevoli said. The city planning board was set to review the site plan May 15.

Columbia Development last year opened a 129-room Hilton Garden Inn across from the hospital that includes a restaurant, Starbucks and bank on the ground floor.

The company is also pursuing an 80,000-square-foot to 120,000-square-foot mixed-use development on the east side of New Scotland Avenue between Myrtle and Dana avenues. A row of houses and other properties would be demolished.

The tenants in the new development could include Rite Aid, Nicolla said, replacing Chazan Pharmacy across the street.Columbia Development bought the land where Chazan is located and Rite Aid purchased the business, he said.

"We'll have, in pretty short order, cleaned up everything all the way down past Morris Street," Nicolla said. "Then we have some plans for another potential building between Morris and Dana avenues next to Stewart's."


May 20, 2008, 2:57 PM
$250M Rensselaer waterfront project gets underway

The Business Review (Albany) - by Michael DeMasi
Monday, May 19, 2008

Pieces of the former junior-senior high school in Rensselaer, N.Y., fell to the ground today, the ceremonial start to a $250 million to $300 million residential, retail and office development along the waterfront.

The demolition of the school will clear a 24-acre parcel that a developer intends to turn into a marina, promenade and 1.28 million square feet of condominiums, townhouses, stores, offices and hotel space called de Laet's Landing.

The project, expected to be built in stages over eight to 10 years, will transform a gritty part of the city off Broadway near the Amtrak train station into a luxury mixed-use development with views of the Albany city skyline across the Hudson River.

"It's going to be astounding," said Jeff West, vice president of U.W. Marx and of Marx Properties Inc., in Troy.

The marketing materials depict a horseshoe-shaped harbor with yachts and sailboats; a large hotel with a rooftop garden; a curving, multi-story office building and tree-lined boulevards fronting boutique stores, offices and upper-floor residences. (A note warns the artist's rendering "may not be depiction of actual site.")

The development is named for Joannes de Laet (pronounced DELAY), a geographer and one of the founding directors of the Dutch West India Co. in the early 1600s. The land where the proposed development sits was called de Laet's Burg when it was claimed by explorer Henry Hudson for the Netherlands, according to Marx Properties.

A cornerstone for the junior-senior high school was laid on the property in 1969 and thousands of students graduated from there since then. Several years ago the land was sold to Marx Properties as part of a complex deal in which a new school campus was built elsewhere in the city. The 550 students were moved to the new buildings in January.

City and school officials said that while it was sad to see the demolition of the old junior-senior high school, they were looking forward to the new waterfront development.

"This starts the revitalization of Rensselaer," Mayor Dan Dwyer said.

Al Picchi, general manager of Realty USA, the exclusive commercial and residential broker for the project, said the housing would appeal to workers who commute to downtown Albany, first-time buyers and empty-nesters who want maintenance-free living.

With 630,000 square feet of residential space, 250,000 square feet of Class A office space, 165,000 square feet of retail and 236,000 square-feet for a hotel, it's the largest single project Realty USA has brokered in upstate New York, and perhaps the biggest it has ever done, Picchi said.

Although the national housing market is struggling and the local market has slowed, Picchi said demand is still relatively good.

Realty USA agents will be pitching the retail space at this week's convention of the International Conference of Shopping Centers in Las Vegas, the largest retail real estate convention in the world.

The credit crunch in the commercial lending market could hinder the project somewhat, West said, but the company owns the land debt-free and will focus initially on just 200 residential units, 90,000 square feet of retail and 360 parking spaces.

The target date for initial occupancy is fall 2009.

Meanwhile, the city of Rensselaer plans to beautify the street that will be the main route to the property from the Interstate 787 off-ramps.

A $7.2 million upgrade of Broadway should begin next year, including new sidewalks and street lights, followed by a $2 million rehabilitation of the Broadway Viaduct bridge, said Marybeth Pettit, city planning director.

The city is also in the process of assembling parcels to create a bike path along the waterfront connecting Rensselaer to Troy, she said.


May 26, 2008, 4:19 PM



May 26, 2008, 4:21 PM
U.W. Marx targets fall 2009 for first tenants in Rensselaer riverfront project

The Business Review (Albany) - by Michael DeMasi
Friday, May 23, 2008

Do hundreds of people want to live, work, shop and play in a fancy riverfront community with views of the Albany skyline?

U.W. Marx of Troy will find out as it begins marketing de Laet's Landing on a piece of land in Rensselaer, an industrial city that doesn't conjure visions of yachts, tony stores or pricey condominiums.

The $250 million to $300 million development would rise over the next eight to 10 years on a 24-acre parcel under plans that Marx Properties Inc. and Realty USA unveiled May 19.

When fully built, de Laet's Landing would consist of a horseshoe-shaped harbor, marina, promenade and 1.28 million square feet of condominiums, townhouses, stores, offices and hotel space. The marketing materials show a large hotel with a rooftop garden; a curving, multi-story office building and tree-lined boulevards fronting boutique stores, offices and upper-floor residences.

"It's going to be astounding," said Jeff West, vice president of U.W. Marx and of Marx Properties, in Troy.

Marx Properties bought the land off Broadway near the Amtrak train station as part of a complex deal with the city school district. A new K-12 school campus was built elsewhere in the city, freeing up the riverfront property where the junior and senior high schools have been located since 1969. Demolition of the old school buildings should be finished by September.

City and school officials said the old buildings held many memories, but they are looking forward to the new waterfront development.

"This riverfront property has been a diamond in the rough for a long time," said John Mooney, school board president.

West said the credit crunch in the commercial lending market could hinder the project somewhat, but said the company owns the land debt-free and will focus initially on just 200 residential units, 90,000 square feet of retail and 360 parking spaces. The target date for initial occupancy is fall 2009.

Al Picchi, general manager of Realty USA, the exclusive commercial and residential broker for the project, said the housing would appeal to workers who commute to downtown Albany, first-time buyers and empty-nesters who want maintenance-free living. Prices for the housing have not been set.

With 630,000 square feet of residential space, 250,000 square feet of Class A office space, 165,000 square feet of retail and 236,000 square feet for a hotel, it's the largest single project Realty USA has brokered in upstate New York, and perhaps the biggest it has ever done, Picchi said.

Although the national housing market is struggling and the local market has slowed, Picchi said demand is still relatively good.

The city of Rensselaer plans to beautify the street that will be the main route to the property from Interstate 787. A $7.2 million upgrade of Broadway should begin next year followed by a $2 million rehabilitation of the Broadway Viaduct bridge, said Marybeth Pettit, city planning director.


May 27, 2008, 4:30 PM
^ All I gotta say to that project is WOW.

May 28, 2008, 10:00 PM
Yes, it looks quite nice. However, it should be noted these are an artist's renderings, and they "may not be depiction of actual site."

But for what we currently see, they did a great job of concealing the parking garages, and the spots where they're left fronting on roads is OK, because those parts were a lost cause to begin with -- the Amtrak maintenance shop and yards to the north ensured that.

However, office demand has been virtually flat, as it has been for a decade or two now, and there's been a lot of new hotels coming onto the market lately, with two more proposed: the one in the old DeWitt-Clinton building and the one tied in with the convention center. Those two are likely five to ten years off, which means they'll be delivered to the market in the same general timeframe as this one. Plus, Rensselaer is still a very ill city, with a major stigma about it that'll be hard to overcome.

So my thoughts are either those components of this project ultimately won't get built, or something's going to have to come along to give the local economy a big shot in the arm to justify them (how about you, Tech Valley?).

But even if it ended up being all residential it'd be just fine; that's what I see it ending up being. Still, just about anything would be a better use of this land than that decaying 1960s high school.

May 28, 2008, 10:57 PM
Thanks for the insight kz. I hope something positive comes out of this.

May 29, 2008, 3:08 PM
Flow of projects for River Street

Parking garage, building's renovation offer to bring further redevelopment to area north of downtown Troy

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Thursday, May 29, 2008

TROY -- In the neighborhood north of the Green Island Bridge, redevelopment for more than a decade has occurred almost entirely on the west side of River Street, home to the strip of bars and restaurants that includes Brown's Brewing Co.

Now two planned projects promise to bring change to the neighborhood's interior.

The first is the six-story, 1,000-car parking garage proposed for the east side of River Street by Latham-based developer First Columbia LLC.

The second is the renovation of 444 River St., a hulking red-brick structure across from the parking lot where the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market is held Saturday mornings. Owner Keith Holmes said Wednesday he intends to develop the upper three floors of the building into 36 apartments, with new retail and office tenants on lower levels.

"We're hoping that the 1,000-car parking garage is the impetus that jumps development onto this side of the street," he said.

Redevelopment in the neighborhood, which is north of downtown Troy, began in earnest in the early 1990s, with the opening of the Hedley Park Place office building and the restaurant that is now Brown's Brewing.

But as subsequent years brought additional restaurants and bars to the west side of the street, other parts of the neighborhood languished.

King Street, for example, is just east of River Street, yet most of its many storefronts are vacant. On a busy Friday or Saturday night, the contrast is stark: River Street hums with activity, while King Street slumbers.

The reason for the redevelopment pattern is no secret. The west side of River Street, after all, fronts water.

"There is only one Hudson River, and I'm looking out my back window and watching it flow by," said Garrett Brown, owner of Brown's Brewing, adding that the restaurant's riverfront deck has always been part of its appeal.

Potential for more extensive redevelopment of the neighborhood got a boost in March 2007, when First Columbia announced plans for the parking garage, along with a waterside hotel and office building.

First Columbia also released a master plan for the entire neighborhood, which it dubbed the Hedley District.

Holmes and his investment group didn't buy 444 River St. until three months later -- and did so without knowledge of First Columbia's plans.

Learning of the proposals was a pleasant surprise: "I literally fell off my chair," said Holmes, owner of Troy-based Centurion Realty Group.

First Columbia President Kevin Bette, builder of Century Hill Plaza in Latham and other area office parks, could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and it is unclear when construction of the parking garage at 466 River St. is likely to begin.

Holmes, who says he has extensive property renovation experience in the New York City area, bought his building, along with another elsewhere in the city, for $750,000 from Troy-based real estate investor Sandy Horowitz.

The building had been vacant and deteriorating for years, and Holmes and his brother, John Holmes, spent many months stabilizing it and removing piles of debris. Now they're ready to begin a $2.3 million renovation of the structure, once occupied by Marvin Neitzel Corp., a uniform maker.

The top floor will be converted to high-end apartments, expected to be ready in 2009. The third and fourth floors, meanwhile, will be converted to live-work apartments for artists. Holmes expects that those spaces, with monthly rents of about $1,000 for 1,000 square feet of space, will be ready for occupancy later this year.


May 31, 2008, 2:51 PM
State approves digs at convention center site

Albany authority will start archaeological tests on 6-acre downtown site as it awaits feasibility study

By TIM O'BRIEN, Staff writer
Saturday, May 31, 2008

ALBANY -- While awaiting a verdict on its future, the Albany Convention Center Authority can begin digging into the city's past.

The authority received state permission to start several archaeological digs on the 6-acre site of the proposed center and attached 400-room Sheraton hotel. The $390 million development would be on Hudson Avenue between Liberty and South Pearl streets.

Authority leaders are awaiting the results of a state-ordered study on the feasibility of the project and approval of an additional $190 million in funding, without which the convention center is unlikely to be built.

The site includes 40 parcels with eight different owners. Albany County, the city of Albany and its Albany Local Development Corp. and Greyhound have reached or are finalizing agreements for access for the digs. The other owners have not.

"We are looking for simple access for a very brief period of time," said the authority's executive director, Duncan Stewart. "We really need access to all the parcels to make it efficient."

The dig, scheduled to begin July 7, requires trenches 4 feet wide and 4 to 10 feet deep, to reach the soil from Albany's earliest settlements. Much of the digging would be done in surface parking lots; Stewart said the authority would provide replacement parking during the two weeks of the survey.

The authority board also adopted its final environmental impact statement. Copies will be available at the public library branches, City Hall, the Downtown Business Improvement District at 522 Broadway, the Albany Housing Authority and the Convention Center Authority at 386 Broadway.


May 31, 2008, 3:04 PM
RPI to raze 13 buildings




First published: Saturday, May 31, 2008

TROY -- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will soon tear down thirteen buildings adjacent to their campus, near a $145 million performing arts building.

Eight of the buildings are on the west side of Eighth Street, and five are on the south side of College Avenue along RPI's southwest corner, according to university spokesman Jason Gorss.

The action is in conjunction with the construction of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, which is scheduled to open in October.

The university will also install new sidewalks, landscaping and slope stabilization, Gorss said.

"We are taking the buildings down because there is no economically reasonable way to restore or renovate the structures," Gorss said.

"We held a series of public meetings beginning in the fall, and we have received all the necessary approvals from the city ... Before the buildings come down, we are working with the Historic Albany Foundation to salvage as many items as possible that might have historic significance."

-- Jimmy Vielkind

Jun 8, 2008, 7:50 PM
Construction of mosque is about to start

First published: Sunday, June 8, 2008

COLONIE -- Nearly one year after the groundbreaking, construction is finally expected to begin next month on a large Latham mosque that will become a worship destination for hundreds in the region's growing Muslim community.

"We are ready to embark on the building," said Khalid Bhatti, president of the board of trustees of the Muslim Community of Troy, the faith community that is establishing the Latham mosque.

The complexities of preparing the site stalled construction of the mosque, which will sit slightly west of the K-mart on Route 2. But this summer, workers will put in the foundation and erect the steel frame.

The first phase of construction will cost up to $5 million. Later phases include a gym that could also accommodate large gatherings and a school. The old Troy mosque will remain open.

The new Masjid Al-Hidaya is expected to draw between 300 and 400 people to Friday prayers. Its prayer hall will be able to accommodate as many as 800 people, Bhatti said.

The Muslim Community of Troy is housed in a converted funeral home that is so small that Friday prayers -- the best attended of the week -- must be held at a nearby college.

People often drive significant distances to worship at the area's handful of existing mosques. The Latham facility will ease that commute for some.

The new mosque, to be built of light brown artificial stone blocks, will have a fiberglass dome. It will not have exterior loudspeakers broadcasting the call to prayer to the neighborhood. That's common in Muslim countries, but Bhatti said it "would not be appropriate" here.

"Who would you be calling?" he asked. "If your neighbors are not Muslim, you're basically disturbing them and you're not helping them in any way."

-- Marc Parry

http://img292.imageshack.us/img292/4420/sdefrgtnw2.jpg (http://imageshack.us)

Jun 8, 2008, 7:56 PM
Harriman Site Still a Hard Sell

By Chris Churchill, Business Writer
First published: Sunday, June 8, 2008

At lunchtime on a warm day, the State Office Campus in uptown Albany is a pleasant place. Some workers sit in brown-bagging groups, eating and chit-chatting under trees. Others walk or jog in the campus' park-like setting.

But almost since the completion of the W. Averell Harriman State Office Campus in the early 1960s -- and especially in the last decade -- state and city officials have been dissatisfied with the site, describing it as a dead spot on the landscape and a vestige of outdated urban planning theories.

They want to remake the 330-acre campus.

On occasion, they even call it one of Northeast's great urban development opportunities and one of the best chances to rejuvenate Albany. Rarely, after all, do older cities have such a large canvas on which to paint.

In 1998, the state Office of General Services suggested selling the campus and moving state workers downtown. In 2003, Gov. George Pataki proposed something far more dramatic: a $300 million plan to move workers, demolish most of the campus' aged buildings and convert the site into a "high-tech hub of America."

Pataki's goals led to a detailed master plan, released in 2006 and crafted with input from residents of surrounding homes. It would have turned the 330-acre campus into a mixed-used, truly urban neighborhood of high-tech companies, small stores and restaurants and residences.

Included were grand boulevards, a large park not unlike Albany's Washington Park, and direct connections to the thousands of students and workers at the nearby University at Albany.

That plan, though, has been shelved.

The change came after former Gov. Eliot Spitzer put his own stamp on Harriman plans in December, deciding state workers and the buildings that house them should stay. Standing on campus, he said, "There is an infrastructure here worth maintaining."

Spitzer's resignation did nothing to change the plan.

Now, state officials are asking three development teams, selected in April, to consider developing pieces of the campus. And critics, including Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, say the focus on creating a true neighborhood has disappeared.

"We've changed directions too many times," Jennings said. "I'm not sure (the original plan) was the salvation of everything, but at least it gave a direction of where we wanted to go."

There are questions over whether Harriman's redevelopment is on the right track and whether Spitzer's plan represents the highest and best use for the land considered such a vital opportunity.

"The original proposal, I thought, was really a good one," said Paul Bray, an Albany attorney and adjunct professor of planning at the University at Albany. "Now it seems to be the same old, same old."

Harriman is like a poodle skirt, bobby socks or hair greased into a ducktail. It represents the fashions of the 1950s.

Then planners liked buildings separated by large expanses of grass. In an age when the automobile ruled, they liked wide roads and big parking lots.

Harriman has those things. It is even circled by a six-lane roadway as wide as the Northway.

"It's an extreme example of 1950s-era planning for the motor age," said Ray Bromley, a University at Albany professor of planning and geography.

Built on land one neighbor remembers as "nothing but sand," the campus was the brainchild of Gov. Thomas Dewey, a Republican who left office in 1954. At the time, downtown Albany was a bustling place where office space was in high demand. Moving state workers to a separate campus was seen as a way to alleviate the crowding.

Bromley said the campus also served Dewey's political purposes. The governor considered both the Capitol and the city of Albany corrupt, and thought it wise to isolate state workers from both.

Dewey envisioned at least 25,000 workers at Harriman, but subsequent governors, even W. Averell Harriman, the Democrat for whom the campus is named, weren't as committed to the project.

Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, of course, in the early 1960s launched an office campus project of his own: Empire State Plaza in downtown Albany.

"He froze Harriman construction," Bromley said. "Instead of going to 25,000 (workers), it topped out at 11,000."

As a result, the campus, especially on cold days, can seem a lonely place. And its network of roadways, designed for far more traffic, can seem ludicrous.

Bromley notes that if you combine the roadways forming the eastern boundary of the campus -- the Harriman ring roads, Route 85 and Brevator Street -- there are 14 lanes of traffic running in parallel.

Said Dominick Ranieri, an architect and planner in Guilderland: "It's completely designed for the car experience. It's not designed for the human experience."

The master plan released in 2006 aimed to change that. It eliminated the ring roads and laced the campus with a grid of new streets. It emphasized walkability and connections to surrounding neighborhoods.

The plan was highly ambitious. It envisioned 3.6 million square feet of office, retail, hotel and residential space. (Colonie Center, by contrast, has about 1.3 million square feet of space.) The development, though, was to be built slowly, over as many as 30 years.

Still, despite the slow pace, the plan raised concerns for neighbors who have grown used to a quiet Harriman. But F. Michael Tucker, then the head of the Harriman Research and Technology Development Corp., the group created to oversee campus development, said he and Jennings worked to reduce worries.

The pair hosted at least three public meetings, said Tucker, now head of the Center for Economic Growth in Albany, and the plan was revised to address some neighbor concerns. An early draft, for example, showed a bandstand at the center of the campus, but that was removed after some neighbors feared it might host loud concerts.

"It was consensus building," Tucker said. "It was a very productive process."

In 2006, when Pataki was still in office, the state asked builders to bid on developing a corner of the site.

In April 2007, though, officials under the Spitzer administration withdrew the request for proposals, citing a lack of interest and imagination. Just three development teams, including local firms Columbia Development Cos. in Albany and The Howard Group in Colonie, had submitted bids.

Some believe timing limited the response.

"I don't think the plan itself failed," said Jim Lyons, president of the Melrose Neighborhood Association, representing an area just west of the campus. "Not many developers are going to put in proposals six months before the change of an administration."

Last month, officials sent out a new request for proposals to three development teams they had selected. Columbia Development and Howard Group each again received a copy, as did The Galesi Group in Rotterdam.

The RFP, which makes no mention of the 2006 master plan, asks developers to consider building on three separate parcels. The center of the campus, home now to 7,500 employees, is not up for development. The ring roads remain in place.

"I'm disappointed in the new plan," Lyons said. "There has not been input at all from any of the neighborhoods."

Not everything has changed. The new RFP still asks developers to focus on attracting high-tech companies while building mixed-use developments of housing, offices and residences.

Michael Phillips, president of the Harriman Research and Technology Development Corp., and John Egan, commissioner of the Office of General Services, said last week the piecemeal approach can work.

They noted that the campus in recent months has succeeded in attracting some private employers to underused state builings, and they said the campus needs to score just one development victory for others to follow.

But there have been questions over how construction can proceed without a master plan in place.

How can a developer, for example, build housing if he doesn't know what ultimately will be built on an adjacent parcel? How can separate developments by different builders be linked to create a cohesive whole?

"I don't want to see it piecemeal developed," Jennings said. "I don't think it's healthy to do it that way."

Jennings said the campus should be "completely vacated" and turned over to those who would build with input from the university and neighbors.

He points to the rapid pace of development across Washington Avenue from Harriman, where Columbia Development has quickly built the Patroon Creek Corporate Center and where A.G. Spanos Cos. is now erecting a large apartment complex.

"The campus is in the hands of a lot of agencies and bureaucrats," Jennings said. "It should be privatized."

Others, noting that the city's population has been declining for decades, say large portions of the campus should be used for residential development that could help bring the middle-class back to the city.

If Assemblyman Jack McEneny, D-Albany, had his druthers, he would turn Harriman over to the University at Albany. The school will need additional land to grow, he said, and could lease some of the land to private companies.

For now, though, everybody is waiting to see if the piecemeal approach brings a response from the developers now considering the RFPs.

The developers have until Aug. 11 to submit proposals.

State officials hope to approve a proposal by mid-October.


Jun 14, 2008, 5:06 PM
Union Graduate College to break ground on $8M building

The Business Review (Albany)
Thursday, June 12, 2008

(more renderings below)

Union Graduate College will break ground Friday on its new $8 million, 24,000-square-foot campus in downtown Schenectady.

The graduate school, which currently leases land on the nearby Union College campus, expects to move into its own building by fall 2009.

Construction will begin as the graduate school continues to raise money to cover construction costs. The college has been awarded $4.9 million in federal and state grants, foundation gifts and private donations.

More than $3 million still needs to be raised.

College officials and politicians will hold a groundbreaking ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday at the site of the new three-story campus on corner of Nott Terrace and Liberty Street.

The graduate school, which offers degrees in bioethics, education, engineering, management and health care management, began operating independently from Union College five years ago.

"As a separate and independent educational institution, it is fitting and proper for Union Graduate College to have a home of its own," said Thomas Hitchcock, chair of the school's board of trustees.

Union Graduate College hired Sacco+McKinney Architects P.C. of Latham to design the new building. MLB Construction Services LLC of Malta was hired as the general contractor.


It's somewhere in this triangle

http://img379.imageshack.us/img379/6228/schenuniongrad02004qn4.jpg (http://imageshack.us)

looking south

http://img516.imageshack.us/img516/7317/schenuniongrad02007strels6.jpg (http://imageshack.us)

east facade

http://img293.imageshack.us/img293/2985/schenuniongradr1zh3.jpg (http://imageshack.us)

http://img293.imageshack.us/img293/4541/schenuniongrad11fd7.jpg (http://imageshack.us)

Jun 14, 2008, 5:15 PM
Old hotel stands, despite signs

Redevelopment plan at Wellington site still needs key permit

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Saturday, June 14, 2008

ALBANY -- The company planning to redevelop a dilapidated but prominent city block is preparing for the demolition of the historic Wellington Hotel, city officials said Friday.

Columbia Development Cos. wants to put a 14-story office tower on the State Street site, while preserving at least the facades of five historic buildings. Under the plan announced 11 months ago, the Albany-based company would demolish the Wellington Hotel and rebuild its facade on a new building.

There were signs on the buildings Thursday that indicated razing could have begun that afternoon. But city and historic preservation officials said demolition is not imminent; the signs were intended only as an early warning.

In fact, Columbia has not yet received a demolition permit from the city, said Nicholas DiLello, director of the city's Division of Building and Codes.

"Obviously, it's going to happen, but not tomorrow," he said Friday.

Columbia and city officials plan to hold a news conference, perhaps as early as next week, to detail demolition and reconstruction plans at Wellington Row, as the buildings are known.

Phone calls to Columbia Development were not returned.

Mike Yevoli, the city's commissioner of planning and development, said Columbia's plans for the site remain much as they were when first announced last July.

In addition to the office tower, Columbia plans ground-level retail and upper-floor apartments in the buildings fronting State Street.

Yevoli said the city's Historic Resources Commission has already approved both the demolition and the redevelopment -- necessary because of the site's historic status. But Columbia's project has not received final site plan approval from the planning department, he added.

Yevoli also said Columbia has indicated it is nearly ready to begin early site work that must occur before full demolition, including asbestos removal.

Wellington Row has long been an irritant to city officials and downtown boosters alike, who have watched the prominent site decline into a boarded-up eyesore. Officials therefore were pleased when Columbia announced the redevelopment plans.

"You look at the vibrancy of State Street, and then there's this one dead spot," Yevoli said Friday. "This (project) needs to happen."

Much of the city's historic preservation community also responded positively to the plans believing the Wellington Hotel's interior was too far gone for saving and that any plan that maintained the historic row of facades was more good than bad.

Susan Holland, director of the Historic Albany Foundation, said her group has remained in contact with Columbia and city officials as Wellington plans move forward.

She said the appearance of demolition signs at the site this week resulted in a flurry of calls to Historic Albany from people surprised that the demolition seemed set to begin.


Jun 20, 2008, 2:25 PM
More than 'crumbs' sought from project

By TIM O'BRIEN, Staff writer
Friday, June 20, 2008

ALBANY -- If a proposed convention center is built in Albany, a coalition of community groups wants to negotiate benefits like affordable housing, parks and jobs to go along with it.

The cost of the center and an attached Sheraton hotel is estimated at almost $400 million, and the Coalition for Environmental, Educational and Economic Justice wants to make sure the community benefits from the investment.

"We always end up at the end picking up the crumbs," said Wanda Willingham, a county legislator and member of the coalition. "We decided this time that was not going to happen. We will not wait for them to tell us what we're going to get."

Community benefits agreements began in California and have been tried elsewhere in New York state, including for the construction of the new Yankee Stadium. They aim to ensure that major development projects benefit surrounding neighborhoods.

Benefits can include money for housing, parks and recreation programs, providing space for arts or youth programs. The agreements also call for a share of jobs and contracts to go to minorities and women.

The coalition is negotiating a memorandum of understanding with the Albany Convention Center Authority board that would recognize the group.

Whether the center is built is an open question, however, as the authority board is seeking an additional $190 million from the state. A state study of the project's viability is due this month.

During construction, the authority's goal is for 27 percent of the work to go to minority firms, 12 percent to women-owned businesses and for 30 percent of the work force to be minorities. Once the center and hotel open, the goal is for 20 percent of the work to be by minority-owned businesses, 10 percent by firms owned by women and 60 percent of workers to be minorities.

"The numbers they have put out for their hiring goals are reasonably impressive," said Tom McPheeters, a coalition member, who said the authority must hire someone to monitor compliance.

The group hopes the convention center agreement will be a model for other large projects, including plans to redevelop the state's Harriman Campus.

"We're looking for this to be the benchmark in New York," said Justin S. Teff, the attorney representing the coalition.

Jun 21, 2008, 10:56 PM
Work on Wellington Imminent

(more BBL design-build pomo for Albany.. hooray)

First phase of redevelopment into apartment, office and retail space to begin Monday

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Saturday, June 21, 2008

ALBANY -- The first phase of work on the city's historic Wellington Row -- now rebranded as Wellington Place -- will begin Monday, city officials and the president of Columbia Development Cos. said Friday.

The State Street row of five buildings, near the Capitol, has been derelict for decades. Columbia plans to rehab four of the structures and reuse them for retail and apartment space.

The fifth building, the Wellington Hotel, will be demolished, but its facade will be used to front a new structure that will be the gateway into a 14-story, 405,000-square-foot office tower Columbia intends to build.

Columbia Development President Joseph Nicolla said the Wellington, which opened in 1905, can't be saved: "The roof is in the basement," he said.

Columbia has not received approval from the city Planning Department for the $65 million project, but Mayor Jerry Jennings said he does not expect any issues to prevent the approval.

The project has received $2.5 million in state funding, and the city Planning Department said Friday the building is in an Empire Zone, making it or its future tenants eligible for additional tax benefits.

Nicolla said Columbia will also ask for a tax break from the city Industrial Development Agency.

Columbia bought the site at 132 to 140 State St. in 2006 for $925,000 from London-based Sebba Rockaway Ltd.

Early remediation work, primarily the removal of asbestos, begins Monday. Construction of the office tower is expected to begin in 2009, Nicolla said, and the new buildings are expected to open in late 2010 or 2011.

Nicolla said he could not say who would occupy the massive office building, which is twice as big as the building the company opened in 2005 at 677 Broadway, but he promised he did not intend to "pirate" tenants from elsewhere in downtown Albany.

Nicolla also said he is confident that there's demand for that much office space. He noted 677 Broadway, which Columbia still owns, "is full, and people are still coming to the area."

Timothy Conley, president of the Albany-based office developer and manager Conley Associates, agreed that high-quality, or Class A, office space is in demand in Albany.

"If you're a tenant looking for 10,000 square feet of space, there's not a lot of space of that magnitude around."

Still, Conley noted the proposed size of Wellington Place: "You open it up (to private tenants) at that size, and you drain every other building in downtown Albany," he said.

Jennings warned the upcoming demolition and construction would be a messy and difficult project that would, at times, impact pedestrian and auto traffic.

He called the project "a delicate mix of historic preservation and selective demolition."



First phase of $65M Wellington Row renovation in Albany to begin
The Business Review (Albany) - by Michael DeMasi
Friday, June 20, 2008

The first phase of the long-awaited demolition and restoration of Wellington Row in downtown Albany, N.Y., will begin June 23, the initial step toward construction of a $65 million, 14-story office building, officials said today.

The new office tower, which does not yet have tenants committed to filling the space, should be built by early 2011, said Joseph Nicolla, president of Columbia Development Cos.

The 405,000 square foot redevelopment project will include ground floor retail, 15 apartments and underground parking for 37 vehicles.

Wellington Row consists of five vacant and deteriorating buildings between 132 and 140 State St., including the Hotel Wellington, which was built in the early 1900s. The buildings are a short walk from the state Capitol.

The exterior stonework of the Hotel Wellington will be removed prior to the demolition and incorporated into the facade of the new office tower.

The two buildings on both sides of the Hotel Wellington will be renovated to preserve their facades but portions of the interiors will be demolished and rebuilt because they are in such poor condition, Nicolla said.

For instance, the roof of one of the buildings, the former Berkshire Hotel at 140 State St., has fallen into the basement.

Columbia Development bought the properties in November 2006 for $925,000 and has worked with city officials and historic preservationists on ways to preserve as much of the original streetscape as possible.

Nicolla initially didn't think it was financially possible to preserve the buildings; in the end, he said incorporating the facades and other portions of the buildings added more than $5 million to the total cost.

Columbia Development will pursue some form of assistance from the city Industrial Development Agency for the project. The city has already secured a $2.5 million state grant that will offset the cost of demolition and removing asbestos.

"This has been a long time coming," Mayor Jerry Jennings said of the redevelopment.

Angelo "Joe" Amore can attest to that. He owns Amore Clothing and Tailoring across the street and has grown tired of looking at the crumbling buildings. He interrupted the press conference to tell Jennings, "I wait for 45 years!"

He then walked up to Jennings at a podium set up on the sidewalk on State Street to shake his hand and say, "Every day I look at a piece of junk."

Jennings, who knows Amore well, laughed.

"Fantastic...fantastic," Amore said of the plans.

The Albany Historic Resources Commission has approved the plans for Wellington Row but it hasn't received the green light from the city Planning Commission.

Jennings said there will be some disruptions during the construction because it will be timed to coordinate with a roughly $7 million upgrade of State Street hill between Eagle Street and Broadway.



Wellington rehabilitation plans unveiled

Capital News 9
Updated: 06/21/2008 09:08 AM
By: Kaitlyn Ross

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Joe Amore came to Albany from Italy when he was 30 years old. He now lists his age at 39 plus tax. But the Wellington Hotel that sits across from his tailoring business, Amore Clothing, is much, much older.

"See now what you see, piece of junk for 25 years. My dream every day I pray that before I retire I hope they do something. Today, my dream come true."

His dream come true is a $65 million renovation of five buildings that have been vacant and run down for over two decades. The buildings will eventually house 15 apartments, retail space and offices. Amore has high hopes for the finished product.

"Like 5th Avenue, New York City," he said. "I'm not going to call it anymore State Street. I call it 5th Avenue."

Rob Amore said, "You bring in the restaurants and the bars, retail, and having people live downtown also, that always seems to be last, but if you build it they will come."

Columbia Development President Joseph Nicolla said, "It's gigantic, it's monumental. And when you look at this project, it really has the ability to change the streetscape of Albany.

And while the new renovations are exciting, everyone agrees the most important part of the project is keeping the historical integrity of the buildings.

Rob Amore said, "The marble and the archways over there, they're gorgeous. I mean, you can't build that today. No body wants to spend that kind of money."

The initial construction starts Monday with the environmental checks on the building, but the project won't wrap until 2011, though Joe Amore is just glad something's being done.

He said, "Very happy, very, very happy. I wait for this day a long time. I wait for this day a long time, believe me."

So 2011 suits him just fine.

There's a link to a vid for this news here, but I can't get it to play. If anyone actually reads this, see if it works for you -- I'm wondering if there's more renderings in it.

Jun 25, 2008, 3:37 PM
Guessing Game Over Tenants

Wellington Place developer denies talks include state agency

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

ALBANY -- Many who watch Albany's downtown office market believe Wellington Place, the mammoth office tower proposed for State Street, is being planned for state government tenants.

The object of much speculation: which agencies might move to the Columbia Development Cos. project?

Joe Nicolla, president of Columbia Development, downplays the speculation, saying the Albany company is talking to several prospective tenants, none of which is a state agency.

Wellington Place, as now planned, would be a 405,000-square-foot tower behind the long-dilapidated Wellington Row, near the state Capitol.

Stores and apartments would front State Street under the plan, in rehabbed versions of four of the existing buildings. The Wellington Hotel facade would be removed and reconstructed on a new building that would be the entryway for the tower.

Columbia Development began preliminary work on the site Monday and expects to break ground sometime next year.

Downtown observers interviewed this week celebrated the $65 million project, calling it a boon for downtown. But they also said the developer is unlikely to begin full-scale construction of the tower without a large tenant in hand.

"Most developers are too conservative to embark on a project of that size hoping to sign a tenant later," said Richard Ferro, commercial sales manager at Prudential Blake-Atlantic Realtors in Colonie.

Indeed, when Columbia Development began construction on its high-rise at 677 Broadway, a 180,000-square-foot building completed in 2005, it had investment firm First Albany Cos. ready to move in.

That building, which Nicolla said is now fully occupied, has been helped by its location within an Empire Zone, making many of its tenants eligible for tax breaks. Wellington Place also lies in an Empire Zone, according to the city's planning department.

Still, some observers believe Wellington Place will not be as popular with private businesses, at least not immediately.

Ferro, for one, said the downtown office market is not "robust."

And Jeff Sperry, president and managing partner of CB Richard Ellis/Albany, a commercial real estate brokerage, said few large companies are clamoring for downtown offices.

"The only kind of use in this marketplace is going to be state or federal (government)," Sperry said.

Daniel O'Brien, president of Platform Realty, a Colonie real estate brokerage and property developer, agreed: "I think it's a state agency or a quasi-state agency."

There's another reason observers see the state as a likely Wellington Place renter: The complex, as now planned, includes just 45 parking spaces, and only the state has a network of parking lots already in place.

"Who else would you get to consider that much space without parking?" asked Timothy Conley, president of the Albany-based commercial real estate firm Conley Associates.

Much speculation centers on the State University of New York's Central Administration, which occupies about 250,000 square feet at SUNY Plaza. Mayor Jerry Jennings has floated the idea of turning the Gothic complex at the foot of State Street into a private shopping mall.

But spokesman David Henahan said SUNY has "no plans to move."

When Columbia Development in 2006 first proposed the tower, state officials were pushing a plan that would move 7,500 state workers off the Harriman State Office Campus so private developers could redevelop the site.

At the time, observers believed there was a link between the proposals.

Then, Gov. Eliot Spitzer last year scuttled that plan, deciding the workers would stay on campus. So far, Gov. David Paterson has not indicated he would do otherwise.

But might Wellington Place be a new home for Harriman workers?

"That hasn't been our focus," Nicolla said.


Jun 27, 2008, 3:26 PM
A 'symbol of hope' in street's rebirth

$6M project aims to once again turn North Swan into vibrant neighborhood

By TIM O'BRIEN, Staff writer
Friday, June 27, 2008

ALBANY -- Once one of the city's most notorious streets, North Swan Street is getting a $6 million makeover.

Seven new and three renovated buildings are part of a plan to convert an area known for crime and derelict buildings into a neighborhood of homes and business.

The Albany Housing Authority is creating 23 apartments and seven storefronts that it hopes to fill with local entrepreneurs. A block party to celebrate the Arbor Hill street's comeback is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. today at North Swan and Second streets.

"I really look at this project as a symbol of hope and what can be," said Arlene Way, a neighbor and member of the city's Task Force on Vacant and Abandoned Buildings.

In 2002, neighborhood opposition forced the city to drop an earlier revitalization plan for Arbor Hill, which called for bulldozing large sections of North Swan Street to make way for two 100-unit apartment complexes.

A year later, the city adopted the current plan. The work on North Swan Street follows the opening in 2006 of 54 new apartments nearby as part of a $15.6 million project by the housing authority and Norstar Development.

The latest effort is "a microcosm for what the plan is trying to achieve," said Sarah Reginelli, senior planner for the city. "It's a really key corridor that for too long has been kind of a roadblock."

The city worked with Albany County to acquire properties from its foreclosure list, she said.

"You want to revitalize the neighborhood, but you also want to keep the neighbors in place," she said.

On the block between Ten Broeck Place and Second Street, temporary fences surround the wooden frames of buildings under construction. Across the street, brick brownstones are undergoing rejuvenation.

"Every time I turn the corner, I am so impressed and so proud," said Beverly Padgett, co-chair of the Arbor Hill Neighborhood Association. "Now the families will have some place to go -- restaurants, shops -- without going outside the neighborhood."

Curtis Merritt has lived on the block for 45 years, seeing it go from a thriving neighborhood to a rundown stretch of barren lots and vacant buildings.

"It's going to make a change, to get more people on Swan Street and bring it back to life," he said. "It's a good start. Most of these were vacant for the last 20 to 30 years. We need something. You see how desolate it has been for years. The children need something to see other than empty lots."

The dwellings should be ready for renters later this summer, and all the work should be done by year's end, said Darren Scott, coordinator for the housing authority.

The apartments will be available for rent to people earning up to 60 percent of the median income in the Capital Region, $42,360 a year for a family of four.

Scott is now looking for tenants for the storefronts, with an emphasis on local entrepreneurs.

"We're trying to re-establish a commercial corridor with businesses the neighborhood needs," Scott said. "Ultimately, we want to develop between 20 to 30 stores in that four-block corridor."

Keith McGee plans to turn his catering business, Mogombo's International Barbecue, into a restaurant on the street. He also is helping open a bakery, too.

"I grew up on the corner of North Swan and First Street. When I was a kid, everything we needed was on Swan Street," he said. He joined the Army in 1977. "When I came back in 1991, it was a ghost town," he said. "I couldn't believe it."

Now he said he wants to launch one of the few local black-owned restaurants, though he notes his wife is African and his co-workers are of Latin descent. Together, he said, "we're going to create a cuisine called Albany barbecue."

The authority is working with the Albany Center for Economic Success to create a business center for making copies, sending faxes and help with accounting and payroll. The district attorney's office will also have an outreach office at 155 Clinton Ave., at the corner of Clinton Avenue and North Swan.

The city is also considering what to do with a park and vacant properties across from St. Joseph's School, Reginelli said. It could be expanded or turned into parking for new businesses.

"The drug trade kind of closed our community down," Padgett said. "This has been a long time coming. We're going back to the way it used to be."


Jun 30, 2008, 3:39 PM
Owner pledges no poaching downtown Albany tenants for Wellington remake

by Michael DeMasi
Friday, June 27, 2008

A 14-story tower that's expected to rise above the former Hotel Wellington on State Street in Albany by early 2011 could shake up the downtown commercial real estate market.

Columbia Development Corp. President Joseph Nicolla said no tenants are committed to moving into the 405,000-square-foot building--dubbed Wellington Place--and he's not looking at "pirating" any from other downtown landlords.

Still, that's a lot of space to fill in the city's central business district.

The tower will be the first new large-scale office development downtown since Columbia Development opened a 12-story building at 677 Broadway in January 2005.

That building was nearly fully leased before it opened, which created vacancies in other Class A space downtown.

A competitor, Omni Development Co., owns or manages about 750,000 square feet of commercial office space downtown, including 54 State St., 40 Beaver St., and the KeyCorp building at 66 S. Pearl St.

Mark Aronowitz, vice president for real estate services at Omni, declined to reveal the vacancy rate in the company's real estate holdings but said adding 405,000 square feet of inventory would have a "serious impact" if Columbia Development competes for existing private sector tenants.

"Our hope is certainly taking what Joe [Nicolla] said at face value," Aronowitz said. "We're hoping that is true and we're hoping he is able to either attract a large tenant from outside the area or a public-sector tenant to fill the space."

According to the most recent C.B. Richard Ellis/Albany survey, there were 2.1 million square feet of Class A office space in Albany's central business district, with a vacancy rate of 4.4 percent.

Including Class B and Class C space, the total inventory was 6.06 million-square-feet, with a vacancy rate of 10 percent. The survey was taken in the second quarter of 2007.

Jeffrey Sperry, managing partner of C.B. Richard Ellis, said no single private-sector tenant could occupy all of the space in the new Wellington Place. He anticipates the bulk will be filled by the state or federal government offices that are currently in Class B or C space in the suburbs.

Smaller portions may be taken by a law firm or insurance company that want to move downtown from the suburbs.

"I don't see it [Wellington Place] increasing the vacancy factor in Class A space," Sperry said.

The $65 million development will include retail space, 15 apartments and underground parking for 37 vehicles where five empty buildings, including the Hotel Wellington, now stand between 132 and 140 State St.

The masonry on the exterior of the old hotel will be removed prior to demolition and then incorporated into the facade of the new tower.

The two buildings on both sides of the hotel will be renovated to preserve their facades, but portions of the interiors will be demolished and rebuilt because they are in such poor condition.

Columbia Development bought the properties in November 2006 for $925,000 and has worked with city officials and historic preservationists on ways to preserve as much of the original streetscape as possible.

"This has been a long time coming," Mayor Jerry Jennings said of the redevelopment.

Jennings said there will be some disruptions during the construction because it will be timed to coordinate with a roughly $7 million upgrade of State Street hill between Eagle Street and Broadway.


Jul 14, 2008, 4:08 PM
$42M building planned for UAlbany East Campus

July 14, 2008 at 9:38 am by Eric Anderson, Deputy business editor

The building would house a combined program of the University at Albany’s School of Public Health and Albany Medical College.

The collaborative effort would allow medical students to also earn degrees in public health, and public health students to get additional medical training, according to an announcement this morning at the GenNYSis Cancer Research Center at the East Campus in East Greenbush.

Further details on the construction of the 110,000-square-foot building weren’t immediately available.


Jul 15, 2008, 8:09 PM
Anything going up over 500 ft?
btw, I'm from B-more and how come you've got a taller tower than we do?:hell:

Jul 18, 2008, 2:47 PM
Demolition OK'd for development

21 buildings will be razed to make way for new commercial, retail center in Albany's Park South

By TIM O'BRIEN, Staff writer
Friday, July 18, 2008

ALBANY -- A plan to demolish 21 buildings for a new commercial and retail center was approved by the city's Planning Board Thursday.

The work is part of the city's Park South Urban Renewal Plan, adopted in 2005, to restore the neighborhood.

The city received $3.3 million in state funds to create 120,000 square feet of retail space and medical offices on New Scotland Avenue.

The Planning Board approved plans for one building with 53,000 square feet of space between Myrtle Avenue and Morris Street. It will include a bank and pharmacy on the first floor and medical offices on the upper two floors. Both the bank and pharmacy are to have drive-through windows.

Citywide Properties LLC, which is run by the city, went before the Planning Board Thursday to seek approval of its plans for the site and a declaration the project would not have a negative impact on the environment. Columbia Development is performing the work.

Both were granted, with some minor conditions on the site plan. They include getting special use and parking permits from the Zoning Board.

Pedestrian crossing signals will have to be installed at the intersection of Morris Street and New Scotland Avenue.

The plan calls for demolition of 10A, 12, 13, 16 and 18 New Scotland Ave.; 122, 123, 124, 125, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135 and 136 Morris St.; 98 and 100 Dana Ave.; and 357 Myrtle Ave.

Entrances to the drive-through windows will be located on Myrtle Avenue, which requires the Zoning Board's approval. The board also is being asked to approve a 10-car parking lot and a 41-car temporary parking lot.

Design engineer Daniel R. Hershberg said most properties have been acquired. If the developer is unable to acquire 123 Morris St., he said, it will reduce the temporary parking lot to 33 spaces.

Work on the project should begin later this year, he said.

"I think we're going to start demolishing sometime this fall," Hershberg said.


Aug 28, 2008, 6:14 AM
Town weighs zoning changes

Times Union expansion plan would require switch in classification
First published: Tuesday, August 26, 2008

COLONIE -- A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday night in connection with the rezoning of several properties at the corner of Maxwell and Albany Shaker roads, including the Times Union.

The rezoning, if approved, would pave the way for the Times Union's proposed 70,000-square-foot expansion to accommodate a new printing press.

The zoning changes would affect 28.43 acres across six properties, four of which are owned by Hearst Corp., which publishes the Times Union. Two are owned by private citizens.

If approved, the change would convert the land from a Commercial Office zone to the Airport Business zone, which would allow for the expanded printing operation, said Michael Rosch, director of Colonie's Building Department.

The newspaper's land, along with the rest of the town, was rezoned in January 2007 as part of a sweeping new land use law arising from Colonie's first comprehensive plan.

Over the last 18 months, the town has fine-tuned the zoning in various locations.

Rosch said the Times Union was likely omitted from the airport business zone not specifically to preclude an expansion, but because it was formerly zoned Business E.

He said most of what used to be Business E was converted to a new zone, Commercial Office, which would not permit the paper's building project.

Currently, the airport business zone stops at the Northway, which is the northwest border of the paper's property.

The largest parcel affected by the rezoning would be the roughly 25 acres at 645 Albany Shaker Road that house the existing Times Union building. Also affected are 267, 263, 259, 257 and 251 Maxwell Road. Rosch said the rezoning is an administrative prerogative of the Town Board and is not being made specifically on an application from the newspaper. The alternative would be for the newspaper to apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a use variance.

The hearing is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Town Hall, 534 Loudon Road.

The Times Union's $55 million expansion was announced in the spring and will enable the paper to print color on all pages and improve the presentation of informational graphics, advertising and photographs.

It also will allow for faster production, meaning later deadlines and more late breaking news in each edition, according to company officials.


Aug 28, 2008, 6:18 AM
$33.5 million later, old school's bright new day

Albany will show off the renovations at Hackett Middle School, including science labs, library and cafeteria
By TIM O'BRIEN, Staff writer
First published: Wednesday, August 27, 2008

ALBANY -- After $33.5 million in renovations, Hackett Middle School will reopen next week with bright colors, a new cafeteria, updated science labs and a library twice the size of the old one.

In Hackett's revamped gymnasium, one spot above a window is still covered with dirt. Workers didn't miss a spot; it's meant to show students how much effort went into giving them a bright new school in an 82-year-old building.

"What you see here is primarily a restoration of this building," said Shawn Hamlin, managing architect on the project. "It really shows as a community how we value education."

The public can get a look at the restored building at 45 Delaware Ave. from 4 to 6 p.m. today.

The school was closed for more than two years, and students were sent to the former Schuyler Elementary School. Built in 1926 and named after the city's 67th mayor, William S. Hackett, it was originally designed by architect Marcus T. Reynolds.

The vast entryway, with an atrium, has been freshly painted light pink and spring green with darker pink and yellow accents. The color scheme is based on the building's original look, which was meant to emulate Renaissance palaces, Hamlin said.

Every piece in a stained-glass window in the ceiling was removed, cleaned and restored.

Everything from the lockers to the doors have been replaced, along with a new heating, air conditioning and ventilation system. Two new stairwells have been built on the north and south ends of the building.

Each grade will have a separate floor or wing, with six classrooms in each. Four will be for general instruction, one for special education and one for science. The science labs are all new.

Hackett, which has a capacity for 650 students, will welcome 450 boys and girls next week. The district will likely close Livingston Magnet Academy, one of its three middle schools, in a year and some of those students will be moved to Hackett, district spokesman Ron Lesko said.

Kathy Schnurr, a special education teacher, has worked in the building since 1996.

"I like that they were able to keep the historic aspects," she said. "The lighting is so much brighter here, you can see all the elements of the architecture. Having a great environment like this is going to have a positive impact for all the teachers and the students. I hope they'll be excited to be back here."

The auditorium has also been completely refurbished with the same bright colors, but the seats are not yet installed. The work will be done by October, Hamlin said.

"All the lighting, the technology, the sound are all new," he said.

The Family and Consumer Science classroom features all new stoves, refrigerators, a washer and dryer. Before the update, Hamlin said, "it was a throwback to the '50s."

Throughout the building, signs on the walls and banners in the cafeteria are in English and Spanish.

"It's good for everybody to be multilingual," Lesko said.


Aug 28, 2008, 6:21 AM
Projects turn neighborhoods around

Renovations at two complexes open doors to safe, affordable housing
By TIM O'BRIEN, Staff writer
First published: Wednesday, August 27, 2008

ALBANY -- The city marked major renovations to create affordable homes in two areas of the city Tuesday.

In Park South, 18 brownstones on Knox Street have been restored as part of a $12.5 million project, and there already is a waiting list to occupy the roomier apartments.

In the South End, the first phase of a $22 million project is converting a rundown Morton Avenue apartment complex into affordable housing. The first of the 42 units is expected to be ready for tenants in late December.

WinnDevelopment of Boston converted 62 apartments on Knox Street into 47 larger ones including both sides of one city block. The tenants earn 60 percent or less of the area's median income, which would be about $39,000 a year for a family of four. Rents range from $570 to $824 monthly, including heat and hot water.

Resident Kathleen Fallen said she moved from First Street into one of the newly renovated apartments.

"I love it. It's nice, it's beautiful," she said. "They did a great job. Where I was living was a lot of trouble, violence."

Now, she said, the neighborhood is quiet.

In 2005, Winn was chosen as the preferred developer to implement the city's Park South Urban Renewal Plan. Since then, the developer has not received approval to do any other work in the neighborhood.

Gilbert Winn, the firm's vice president, said his company is in talks with the city about its future role.

"We're currently in negotiations with the city about extending our preferred developer status," he said. "If things go well, and I hope they do, we'll do future developments."

Mayor Jerry Jennings said the city is willing to work with any developer. He praised Winn's work on the Knox Street buildings, which the firm will manage.

"It shows when you work together and bring focus to a neighborhood that is challenged, you can bring solutions," Jennings said. "You can see the attitudes changing."

City leaders, continuing their visit to the renovations, went from there Tuesday to three connected buildings at 100-104 Morton Ave., where the Albany Housing Authority is working with Omni Development Corp.

The number of apartments in the Morton Avenue complex, which dates to the 1920s, will be reduced from 62 to 42. The apartments long suffered from people wandering its corridors. The renovated building will have one outside door for each six apartments, so tenants should know if a stranger is inside.

The apartments will be available to people who make half the region's median income. For a family of four, that would mean $36,000 for a family of four. Rent will range from $315 to $1,019 a month.

"It really can be the catalyst for turning around a whole neighborhood," said Deborah VanAmerongen, the state commissioner of housing and community renewal.

As part of the project, 10 new town houses will be built at Third Avenue and Broad Street. In the second phase, to begin next year, another 40 apartments will be created.


Oct 3, 2008, 3:23 PM
Wasn't sure where to put this, hope you Albany folks don't mind. Here's a site for the EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center) building on the Rensseler Polythechnic Institute campus. Quite the project. The site has a time lapse vid of the construction and all kinds of info about the building.


I believe it was just completed.

Oct 7, 2008, 6:53 AM
Yes, yes, yes -- the EMPAC. It definitely deserves a post or ten worth of coverage.. it's about as big of a deal architecturally as it gets in the Capital District.


Developers still on track with large commercial projects, but stalled economy and credit-crunch fears loom large

The Business Review (Albany) - by Michael DeMasi
Friday, October 3, 2008

The financial crisis on Wall Street hasn’t jeopardized several large commercial real estate projects in the Capital Region, but it could spell trouble down the road.

If prospective tenants have difficulty getting credit, that will make it harder to fill the 1.28 million square feet of office, retail, hotel and residential space planned for a $250 million to $300 million riverfront project in Rensselaer called de Laet’s Landing.

“If commercial credit does dry up, it will be a big impact,” said Jeff West, vice president of U.W. Marx, the Troy-based company behind the development. “Will it last two years, three years, five years? Your guess is as good as mine.”

The sluggish economy is making it more challenging to get commitments from national and regional retailers to lease space at another big project proposed for Rensselaer County, The Village at Tempel Farm in East Greenbush.

Thus far, the Nigro Cos. has commitments from Lowe’s and the Hampton Inn for the 370,000-square-foot retail/office and residential development.

Town officials have given the project conditional approval and site work could begin this fall. A permit is also needed from the state Department of Transportation to reconfigure the intersection of Routes 4 and 151.

“We hope that when we’re ready to get started we have the majority of our tenants lined up,” said Steven Powers, vice president of Nigro Cos.
‘No conduit deals anymore’

Even with the uncertainty, West, Powers and several others in the commercial real estate development industry said they had not pulled the plug on proposed projects.

They also stressed they can still access the credit they need to finance construction.

The reason? The oft-cited stability of the Capital Region economy due to the large number of jobs in state government, health care and higher education. The high-tech sector is relatively small but growing.

That stability gives banks and other financial institutions greater confidence that builders and developers have solid assets that will generate revenue to repay debts.

“There’s always money out there for good, viable projects,” Powers said. “Lenders look at the credit worthiness of the buyer and tenant.”

Just like home buyers with good credit and salaries who can still get a mortgage at competitive rates, companies with good track records and healthy finances can still get loans.

“Now is the time where a good reputation and strong balance sheet get you through those types of credit issues,” said Kevin Bette, president of First Columbia LLC in Latham.

Lenders have tightened underwriting standards but First Columbia was able to close on two loans within the past couple of weeks.

What has changed is the ability to refinance loans with big institutional investors who sell mortgage-backed securities. Last year, for instance, First Columbia refinanced the debt on some of its office buildings at Century Hill Plaza in Latham to get better interest rates.
Now, Bette said, “There are no conduit deals anymore.”

The same is true for one of First Columbia’s competitors, Columbia Development Cos. in Albany.

A few years ago Columbia Development refinanced most of its real estate portfolio through big lenders who relied on mortgage-backed securities to sell debt. The terms were very favorable.

“Wall Street money was so cheap, you had to take advantage of it at the time,” said Joseph Nicolla, president of Columbia Development.

That option isn’t available now.

“That market is gone,” Nicolla said.

But Columbia Development can still get the financing it needs for big projects, such as the $65 million reconstruction of the former Hotel Wellington and four adjacent buildings on State Street in downtown Albany.

The properties are being converted into 405,000 square feet of office and residential space, including a 14-story tower.

“We really have not been impacted,” Nicolla said. “We’ve been doing business for a long time with the local banking community. They’re still in business. They’re still lending money and we still have access to their funds.”

Nicolla didn’t want to speculate on whether Columbia will have trouble securing tenants for all of that new space in downtown Albany, given what’s happening in the economy.

“That’s the esoteric conversation,” Nicolla said. “I have no idea. It’s difficult for me to comment.”

The Picotte Cos. is still able to get short-term construction loans, but the lending requirements for mortgage refinancings have tightened, said Nancy Carey Cassidy, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

“It’s more of a challenge, but we’ve been able to work through it,” Cassidy said.

A smaller developer in the area, The Rosenblum Development Corp., has found it harder over the past nine months to get non-recourse financing to buy a commercial office building that has a high vacancy rate.

Under non-recourse loans, borrowers put up the asset being purchased as collateral, not their own income or personal property. That type of loan is generally available today only for buildings that are fully leased because lenders want more assurance the debt will be repaid, said Seth Rosenblum, vice president.

Overall, though, the credit crunch hasn’t affected the company.

“The sky isn’t falling,” Rosenblum said. “Around here, assets are pretty stable.”

The economic slowdown did convince the company to delay plans for renovating a four-story warehouse in downtown Albany into condominiums. Rosenblum Development paid $951,000 for the property at 17 Chapel St. over the summer.
Moving ahead, but slowly

Three out-of-town developers that have been pursuing large residential projects in the region say they haven’t been affected by the credit problems on Wall Street. Nevertheless, each project is moving slowly, and one was just put up for sale.

Queri Development of Syracuse is asking $6.5 million for the 1.8-acre site and development rights where it had planned to build upscale apartments, a hotel and commercial office building on Broadway in downtown Albany.

Mark Congel of Queri Development said the project was put on the market after the developers received an unsolicited offer from a prospective buyer, not because of difficulty accessing credit.

Meanwhile, just a block away, more than half of the 125 luxury condominiums planned for the new Capital Grand have been sold, said Mitch Markowitz, director of sales and marketing for Norstar Development USA in Buffalo.

“We are working with one of the largest banks in America to provide the construction financing package,” Markowitz said in an e-mail. “The negotiations are going well.”

In Cohoes, plans to add 141 apartments to the Harmony Mills Riverview Lofts are still moving forward. It has been almost a year since Jersen Construction of Waterford was awarded a $21 million contract to renovate the northern end of the former cotton mill.

The developer, Uri Kaufman, needs federal mortgage insurance on a construction loan worth about $24 million.

Kaufman expects to submit paperwork “as thick as a phone book” this week to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the loan guarantee.

“Hopefully they approve it and we’re building in November,” he said in an e-mail.

Link (http://www.bizjournals.com/albany/stories/2008/10/06/story4.html?b=1223265600^1709896&brthrs=1)

Oct 8, 2008, 1:33 PM
AMD Deal Marks a 'New Dawn'

Financing, manufacturing shift expected to take chip maker off "death watch"

By LARRY RULISON, Business writer
Wednesday, October 8, 2008

MALTA — Advanced Micro Devices Inc. said Tuesday it will move forward with plans for a multibillion-dollar computer-chip factory in Saratoga County after securing a $6 billion investment from the government of Abu Dhabi.

The deal assures much-needed capital for financially struggling AMD, which appeared too hobbled by its knock-down battle with rival Intel Corp. to build the high-tech facility first proposed two years ago.

Instead, AMD has decided to spin off its two German factories, or "chip fabs," into a new entity: a foundry solely for manufacturing.

With fresh financing and $1.2 billion in debt lifted off its books, AMD will focus on chip design, a much less costly — and less risky — business. Manufacturing will carried out under a separate business temporarily called The Foundry Co.

"They had to do this to survive," said Silicon Valley technology analyst Rob Enderle. "They were pretty much on death watch. This takes them off death watch, It's absolutely huge for New York."

In addition to expanding in Germany, The Foundry Co. plans to build a $4.6 billion chip fab at Luther Forest Technology Campus in Malta.

Previous estimates had put the cost of the plant at $3.2 billion, but AMD has decided to make the factory bigger. The plant would employ 1,465 people.

If state officials agree to transfer a $1.2 billion incentive package from AMD to the new company, the deal could help transform the Capital Region, which has been working over the past decade to become a hub for the computer-chip industry like places such as Austin, Texas, and San Francisco.

"It's an important day for the region. It's a new dawn, really," said F. Michael Tucker, president of the Center for Economic Growth, an Albany-based group that promotes regional business development.

Based in Sunnyvale, Calif., AMD is the world's No. 2 maker of microprocessors that power personal computers and servers.

But in an all-out price war with No. 1 rival Intel Corp., AMD has been bleeding cash, losing nearly $5 billion since the beginning of 2007.

Many in the local business community wondered privately if the company's plans for Saratoga County, first announced by Gov. George Pataki in the summer of 2006, were a pipe dream.

But AMD got creative, coming up with a strategy to shed its costly manufacturing operations, something the Abu Dhabi government was more than willing to pump full of cash from oil revenue.

The strategy, first called "asset light" and now "asset smart" by AMD, not only includes spinning off manufacturing but also trying to tap into the ever-increasing use of so-called "foundries" by chip companies.

These foundries, most of which are in Asia, essentially do contract manufacturing for companies like Texas Instruments and Sony. Even AMD is a customer for certain products, such as graphics chips.

The new company will try to tap this growing market for chip outsourcing, and AMD will be its first customer.

But the plan is to sell its services to other companies as well — a huge potential market expected to grow to $32 billion a year by 2012, from the current $25 billion.

And while AMD's needs will be handled for now by the company's two existing fabs in Dresden, Germany, it's expected that the Luther Forest fab would start off taking orders from other companies,

"It's very likely that the first products could be non-AMD products," said Terry Caudell, AMD's director of wafer manufacturing strategies. "It's very possible. We think that The Foundry Co., by building more capacity, is going to help fill that demand."

Under the terms of the deal, a fund backed by the government of Abu Dhabi, Advanced Technology Investment Co., or ATIC, will invest $2.1 billion in The Foundry Co., of which $700 million will go to AMD for its own investment in the new company.

The Foundry Co. will take on $1.2 billion of AMD's debt. ATIC will also commit to pump an additional $3.6 billion to $6 billion into The Foundry Co. over the next five years, money that will go to support expansion in Dresden and construction of the Luther Forest fab.

Another government-funded Abu Dhabi investment company, Mubadala Development Co. will invest $314 million in AMD, raising its current equity stake to 19.3 percent from 8.1 percent.

The deal hinges on state officials approving the transfer of the $1.2 billion in incentives previously promised to AMD to The Foundry Co., which will be 55.6 percent owned by ATIC and 44.4 percent owned by AMD.

If that transfer is approved by the board of Empire State Development Corp., the state's economic development arm, then the deal would close by the beginning of next year, AMD officials said.

Caudell, who is also project manager for the New York fab, said The Foundry Co. would acquire the land it needs at Luther Forest — roughly 200 acres — sometime during the first quarter next year. Initial site clearing would begin later in the spring, with full-scale groundbreaking and construction starting in the summer.

The factory would be completed and would start generating revenue in late 2011 or early 2012, Caudell said.

Link (http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=727402)


Fast facts about the AMD deal

• The Foundry Co., plans to spend $4.6 billion on the new factory in Saratoga County.

• The fab will employ 1,465 people; its annual payroll will be $88 million.

• AMD estimates 4,300 construction jobs will be created during the two-year building window, with an annual payroll of $210 million

• Also, it's estimated another 5,050 jobs will be created in the local economy to support and serve the fab. The collective payrolls would top $200 million.

• The Foundry Co. will be based in Silicon Valley with an initial 3,000 employees worldwide, most of them working in Germany. Its CEO will be Doug Grose; its chairman will be Hector Ruiz, former AMD chairman.



Ready For Growth, But With Limits
Relief, cheers greet AMD decision, tempered by caution

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Wednesday, October 8, 2008

After weeks of turmoil on Wall Street and predictions of a coming national recession, the decision by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. to go forward with a chip-fabrication plant in Malta was greeted by many Tuesday with relief and cheer.

Observers said the $4.6 billion project could bring increased development and population growth. But some also cautioned that economic benefits from the plant could fall short of sky-high expectations.

That's partly because the Capital Region's traditional distaste for fast growth is likely to cap how much development occurs.

In short: This area is unlikely to become another Austin, Texas, where high-tech development helped the population there spike by 48 percent in the 1990s.

"The public attitude that exists right now wouldn't accept that kind of growth," said Rocco Ferraro, executive director of the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, which collects statistical and demographic data on Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties. "It would be a shock to our quality of life."

But without new high-technology jobs, the Capital Region would likely lose population in coming decades, Ferraro said.

Even with developments such as the plant in Malta, the Planning Commission is forecasting only modest population growth here, relative to other parts of the country.

Still, the Tuesday announcement was widely viewed as an economic shot in the arm. After all, the upstate economy has generally been in a decade-long decline. And in some quarters, faith had wavered that AMD would move forward in Malta.

Some in the construction industry now foresee better times, with the chip-fab investment bringing waves of new commercial and residential building.

"I think it's like getting an anchor tenant in a mall," said Michael Rourke, owner of Rourke Custom Builders Inc. in East Greenbush. "The impact on construction overall will be enormous."

At least one real estate agent expects the announcement alone to end the slumping housing market.

"The biggest problem we have is that people's confidence is very low, because people are scared," said Miguel Berger, president of TechValley Homes Real Estate LLC in Colonie. "This will change that."

Homebuilders have long complained it takes several years for Capital Region housing proposals to get regulatory approvals.

Ferraro agreed — and added that while such regulatory hurdles might be appropriate and in the best interest of the region, they led the Planning Commission to assume the area will not grow rapidly.

The combined population of the region's four core counties was 794,293 in 2000. The commission projects an increase to 826,094 by 2020.

Waves of high-tech employers won't move operations to the region if the area doesn't have a steady supply of affordable housing, Ferraro said.

But Gene Bunnell, associate professor of planning at the University at Albany, said the Capital Region could handle growth. That's particularly true if it is channeled away from fast-growing Saratoga County and toward Schenectady, Albany and Troy.

"There is space," Bunnell said. "Our cities have been depopulating for years."

Link (http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=727363)



AMD Commits: Timeline to Building Chip Plant
The Business Review (Albany)
Tuesday, October 7, 2008 - 12:26 PM EDT

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. announced Tuesday plans to spinoff its manufacturing operation and create a separate chip-making company, called The Foundry Co. for now.

The new company is a partnership with Advanced Technology Investment Co., which is based in Abu Dhabi. AMD officials announced today that The Foundry Co. would take over AMD’s plans to build a $3.2 billion chip plant in Luther Forest Technology Campus, and AMD would be its first customer.

Here’s a timeline on how the plant got to this point:

• 1998 - State begins process to pre-permit chip manufacturing plants, known as fabs

• 1999 - When the North Greenbush community turned down plans to have a plant built there, Saratoga Economic Development Corp. starts process to have one built in Saratoga County

• 2002 - Saratoga Economic Development Corp. files zoning application

• 2004 - Towns of Malta and Stillwater approve application

• 2006 - AMD announces plan to build $3.2 billion chip plant on Luther Forest Technology Campus

• December 2007 - Army Corps of Engineers issues permit for the site, meaning Luther Forest Technology Campus Economic Development Corp. can build sewer lines and roads for the entire campus

• February 2008 - AMD formally approaches town of Malta and submits its application to build

• April 2008 - Construction bids expected to be awarded for interior roads

• May 2008 - Luther Forest EDC expects final approval from Stillwater sewer lines

• August 2008 - AMD Chairman Hector Ruiz visits the AMD site at Luther Forest for the first time

• Oct. 7, 2008 - AMD spins off manufacturing while committing to Luther Forest project

Richard A. D'Errico can be reached at 518-640-6807 or rderrico@bizjournals.com

Link (http://albany.bizjournals.com/albany/stories/2008/10/06/daily14.html)

Oct 8, 2008, 2:28 PM
Location of the development and bypass road:


Oct 8, 2008, 3:15 PM
So thats where that new road they are building is going to go. I was wondering about that.

Oct 9, 2008, 1:00 PM
Fab feeling: 'Guess what, guys; it happened'

Chip factory advocates gloat a bit over AMD decision

By LARRY RULISON, Business writer
Thursday, October 9, 2008

MALTA — Supporters of Advanced Micro Devices' $4.6 billion computer-chip factory project celebrated — and gloated — Wednesday at the plant's future location here.

Political and business leaders gathered at Luther Forest Technology Campus for a rally just a day after AMD said it was spinning off manufacturing operations and would build the Malta plant. The plan is part of a $7.2 billion deal with the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to create a global "foundry" to make chips for AMD and others.

One of those leaders was Bob Hayes, chairman of the board of Luther Forest Technology Campus Development Corp., where the state-of-the-art factory will be built.

"To the naysayers," Hayes said, "guess what, guys; it happened."

The elation was understandable.

After first announcing more than two years ago that it planned to build the factory, known as a chip fab, at Luther Forest, AMD entered a bloody price war with rival Intel Corp. The result has been $5.5 billion in losses for AMD since the fourth quarter of 2006, and growing doubt locally that the Saratoga County project would survive.

Also at the event Wednesday — and as outspoken as ever — was former Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, now a lobbyist and chief executive of a Latham consulting firm. Bruno, who retired from the Legislature in the summer, helped to craft the $1.2 billion state incentive package that helped persuade AMD and its partners to build the factory.

"Just a few weeks ago, I was getting calls: 'It's never going to happen; it's never going to happen; AMD's in trouble,' " Bruno said. "Now we're here. Tough decisions, if they're made properly, they lead to benefits like they do here."

Under the terms of AMD's spinoff, an investment fund financed by the government of Abu Dhabi is pumping $2.1 billion into the new foundry company, which will take over ownership of the company's two chip fabs in Dresden, Germany. The new firm, temporarily dubbed The Foundry Co., will also assume $1.2 billion in AMD debt, helping to improve its balance sheet.

The Foundry Co. has also promised to spend between $3.6 billion and $6 billion to upgrade the Dresden factories and build the new factory in Luther Forest, a 1,350-acre technology park currently in the early stages of development in the towns of Malta and Stillwater.

AMD still faces a few regulatory hurdles before construction at Luther Forest can proceed, including the transfer of AMD's state incentive package to The Foundry Co.

But AMD officials here Wednesday also made their most effusive statements ever about the fab.

Even dating back to the project's announcement in June 2006 under then-Gov. George Pataki, company officials have been guarded in their comments about the likelihood the plant would ultimately get the green light from AMD's board to move forward.

At the time, there were rumors that political leaders, fresh off budget negotiations, had forced AMD to make the announcement before it was ready.

Not much of that restraint appears to remain. AMD is now better poised to battle with Intel, and its Persian Gulf investors have billions of dollars in oil wealth backing them.

"This is going to happen, guys," Terry Caudell, AMD's director of wafer manufacturing strategies and project director for Luther Forest, told Wednesday's crowd, which numbered about 125. "I guess it's been said 'Be careful what you ask for because that's what you're going to get.' You're going to get a chip factory."

AMD is taking the first steps right away.

It is leasing 9,000 square feet of office space at Saratoga Technology & Energy Park, a state-owned office park within the borders of Luther Forest.

The office is slated to open Dec. 1 and will be used by The Foundry Co. to plan the chip fab and oversee construction, which is scheduled to begin next summer and take about two years.

AMD spokesman Travis Bullard said about a dozen people would work there initially, with up to 40 by next year. Once completed, the fab will employ 1,465.

AMD also said Wednesday it will give $5 million to the towns of Malta and Stillwater over four years, including $1 million that will be used to create a public ballpark complex on 32 acres in Luther Forest.

Link (http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=727783&category=BUSINESS)


AMD commits: Scope of chip plant project grows

The Business Review (Albany) - by Richard A. D'Errico
Wednesday, October 8, 2008 - 4:19 PM EDT

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. announced yesterday it will spin off its chip manufacturing operation and partner with two Abu Dhabi companies to create a new company called The Foundry Co. to build chips.

Besides AMD’s (NYSE: AMD) new manufacturing strategy and its partnerships with Abu Dhabi-based Advanced Technology Investment Co. and Mubadala, a number of other things have changed about the deal reached between New York and AMD in 2006.

Most recently, the chip plant to be built in Luther Forest Technology Campus has gone from being a $3.2 billion plant to $4.6 billion.

“The reason it is bigger is because we’re planning to build a bigger fab than was originally envisioned back in 2006,” said Travis Bullard, AMD’s spokesman.

In fact, the plant size has grown from 800,000 square feet to 890,000 square feet. The cleanroom has also grown from 150,000 square feet to 180,000 square feet.

“More cleanroom space means we can get more tools and more production capacity out of the fab,” Bullard said.

The number of people needed to run the plant also has increased by 260 to 1,465.

One thing that hasn’t grown is New York’s investment in the plant. New York committed $1.2 billion to the project in 2006. Gov. David Paterson said the state had no interest in renegotiating the terms of the deal.

“I don’t think we’d want to change the terms,” Paterson said during a press conference Tuesday. “We like the terms.”

Link (http://albany.bizjournals.com/albany/stories/2008/10/06/daily31.html)

Oct 15, 2008, 1:03 PM
Despite fog of hype, AMD chip fab is no Erie Canal

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Equating the impact on upstate New York of a $4.6 billion chip fab plant in Saratoga County with what the Erie Canal did for us is certainly attention-getting but plainly absurd.

Even under the rosiest scenario, the Advanced Micro Devices spinoff facility in Malta is expected to create about 1,500 jobs, along with support industries that may develop. For how long, who knows? That factory, if it is built, will no doubt produce the very latest microchip and make Malta a household name wherever microchip is spoken.

But in a few years, a competitor in all likelihood will introduce a new, improved chip somewhere else on the global checkerboard and the game will change again.

This type of applied science is today's wild frontier. Needed improvements for various commercial applications are bound to produce continued development, innovation, and consequently a new Malta somewhere else.

By contrast, the low-tech Erie Canal and its expanded versions were instrumental in America's western expansion and created New York as the Empire State. The canal was a huge deal, affecting millions and millions of lives, through most of the 19th century. There simply is no comparison, as much as the AMD boosters would like to claim.

One of the problems many of us are having grasping the true importance of the chip plant probably coming to our region is the boosterism and hype the project seems to generate from our business community and government leaders.

It's hard to know what to believe; whether it's even going to materialize, for example. Although people I trust on the subject, like Assemblyman Roy McDonald, tell me that it will happen. Or if it doesn't, something just like it will.

"We did our homework and made the investments in infrastructure. This site is approved and ready for chip fab plants. There aren't that many of those around, so believe me, if we don't land AMD, we'll get another one. Of that I am absolutely convinced," says Roy.

I guess that's reassuring, although I still hear that touch of uncertainty concerning AMD.

What Roy and a number of others I've spoken with seem to be saying with assurance, however, is that change is on its way. Malta will have its day in the sun, and what we do with that burst of growth and international attention is a blank slate to be filled in, or not. Whether the region is ready to take advantage, or even adequately cope with change, is a matter of wide speculation.

Personally, I think for the most part the answer is no.

The town of Malta may be ready, with strong zoning and a smart development plan that anticipates what's coming. But just a few miles away, the beautiful farmland of Washington County is virtually without protection. No zoning, no vision. The attitude there seems to be what happens, happens. Under those circumstances, the worst kinds of sprawl and awkward growth are far more likely to happen than not.

I found it utterly charming but strikingly naive for Malta Supervisor Paul Sausville to tell Times Union reporter Jimmy Vielkind that "We don't want to lose our small town character. We like Malta the way it is."

Oh my gosh, that horse left the barn when a six-lane highway called the Northway went through the town. Sleepy little upstate town it will be no more. You can't have it both ways. But at least Malta is anticipating. Those who like Washington County the way it is had best brace themselves.

Rocky Ferraro, executive director of the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, says he doesn't think the epicenter of change will be Malta. If big change does come, the entire region will be shaken up. Success in dealing with it is likely to be uneven.

His main point is the same as Roy McDonald's. Where investment has been made by communities, there is a reasonable anticipation of controlled growth and increased prosperity. But where investment has not been made, no thought given, what is the likelihood that change can be positive?

By prime example, our cities desperately need investment to make them attractive for those lured by the microchip plant and its anticipated spinoffs and ancillary industry. There are no doubt many who would prefer to live in a city than in a suburb or the country. But what are we doing now to make that a realistic possibility? Where is the mass transit that will necessary?

None of this is new stuff, for sure. But change, sudden growth, for our region, if we are to believe the hypesters, is no longer a hypothetical. Are we going to sail over it, or drown under it?

Fred LeBrun can be reached at 454-5453 or by e-mail at flebrun@timesunion.com.

Link (http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=729533&category=REGION)

Oct 22, 2008, 1:19 PM
Parking facility mulled

Publicly financed garage would benefit Albany Med, private developer
By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
First published in print: Tuesday, October 21, 2008

ALBANY — The city is considering the construction of a publicly financed parking garage that would benefit Albany Medical Center and a private developer's new office buildings.

The garage, with a $40 million estimated cost, would be built on New Scotland Avenue in the rapidly redeveloping Park South neighborhood. The site is next to an Albany Med garage and just north of two buildings that BBL Construction Services LLC is developing.

BBL and its property development arm, Columbia Development Cos., are building a five-story office building at 22 New Scotland Ave.

And BBL is set to break ground on 16 New Scotland Ave., a three-story building that will include a pharmacy, bank branch and offices.

Both buildings will have minimal parking, though the surrounding neighborhood is densely populated.

Meanwhile, Albany Med is planning a $360 million expansion that will add 500 employees. New parking is not part of the plan.

Michael Yevoli, the city's director of planning and economic development, briefly discussed the garage at an Albany Industrial Development Agency meeting last week. The agency is charged with sparking city development.

"It's proposed," Yevoli said of the garage. "But it's well under way."

After the IDA meeting, Yevoli said the city has discussed the garage with officials from Albany Med and Columbia Development. He said the project could have ground-level retail stores and could be financed by the IDA and Albany Local Development Corp., a city economic development agency.

"We're looking at different options there," he said. "There's a lot of discussion over whether that structure could service the greater community."

BBL is the dominant construction company in Albany and a major contributor to the political campaigns of local officials. Since 1999, BBL and its primary owner, Donald Led Duke, have given at least $1.1 million in political contributions, according to the state Board of Elections.

The proposed garage would not be the first built by the city near a BBL building. A city agency owns and operates a garage adjacent to the company's high-rise at 677 Broadway.

On Monday, Led Duke denied the garage near 677 Broadway was built to benefit BBL, saying it was planned several years before his company considered construction of the tower.

"If 677 wasn't in front of that garage, there'd be an empty garage," Led Duke said.

He said the New Scotland Avenue garage would be built on land now owned by the Veterans Administration and the federal government.

And it would benefit the entire neighborhood, not just the tenants of BBL's buildings, Led Duke said. Users would pay to park at the structure, just as they do at the garage near 677 Broadway. "Nobody gets anything for free," he said.

The city has targeted Park South, south of Washington Park, for intensive redevelopment, with plans for new office buildings and at least 400 new housing units.

The redevelopment is a complicated private-public partnership, with the city working closely with BBL and Winn Development, a Boston company.

The Albany Med expansion is not part of the plan, although city officials see the growing hospital as key to its success.

Nicole Pitaniello, an Albany Med spokeswoman, said the hospital is exploring new parking options, including a garage on New Scotland Avenue. "Nothing is on the board, as of yet," she said.

Link (http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=731412&category=BUSINESS)

Nov 1, 2008, 5:07 PM
Housing complex proposal unveiled

Condominiums, town houses planned for 27-acre site
By ERIC ANDERSON, Deputy Business Editor
Saturday, November 1, 2008

RENSSELAER � A Clifton Park-based developer plans a 180-unit condominium and town house complex on the eastern edge of the city of Rensselaer.

Forum Industries is proposing to build 30 town homes and an eight-story building with 150 condominiums on a 27-acre site at Cottage Hill and Partition streets in the city.

The development, known as Cottage Hill Landings, would cost $45 million to $50 million when it's fully built, said Andy Sciocchetti, owner of Forum.

A draft environmental impact statement has been completed and is available for public viewing at the City of Rensselaer Library and at the city's planning department, on the second floor of the Community Center building at 62 Washington St.

A public hearing on the draft statement will be held Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Community Center's first-floor meeting room.

The project has been in the planning stage for about two years, Sciocchetti said Friday afternoon.

Financing for infrastructure improvements at the site is in place, he said, but money still needs to be lined up for construction of the buildings, which will be done in phases. Prices for the condominium and town-home units haven't been determined.

Forum also is developing a 70-unit senior housing complex off Route 146 in Clifton Park. Sciocchetti said he hopes to get approval for the Rensselaer site plans by March.

Link (http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=735362&category=BUSINESS)

Nov 11, 2008, 1:35 PM
Cohoes hopes for change of luck

City's easy commuting time helps attract apartment, condominium projects
By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
First published in print: Tuesday, November 11, 2008

COHOES — A piece of Wilton is planned for the Spindle City, in the form of a high-end apartment complex.

The developers behind The Paddocks of Saratoga, on Old Gick Road in Wilton, are hoping to build a replica of the massive project in Cohoes, the industrial city where the Hudson and Mohawk rivers meet.

Capital District Properties LLC of Latham plans to build the project along St. Agnes Highway, near Colonie and the relatively new subdivisions that line Boght Road.

The Paddocks of Lexington Hills is just the latest in a string of apartment and condominium developments proposed for the city at the northeastern tip of Albany County.

Some of those projects, such as The Seasons at Mohawk Pointe, are complete. Others, like the Waters View apartments planned for Delaware Avenue, have been slow to develop.

All have the potential to boost a city that had been seen as down on its luck, but is touted for its fairly easy commute to employment centers, including Luther Forest Technology Campus in Malta.

"The reason we like the site is its proximity to downtown Albany, Saratoga County and the highway system," said Toby Milde, a managing director at Capital District Properties. "It's a great little spot there, and one of the last undeveloped spots in Cohoes."

Milde said the 312-unit, $40 million project would look nearly identical to the Paddocks of Saratoga, designed by Guilderland architect Dominick Ranieri. Monthly rents also will be the same, he said, and will range from $1,200 to $1,800.

An additional phase of the development could add 96 condo units to the site, and likely would follow completion of the apartment construction, Milde said.

The Cohoes Common Council will weigh approval of a planned development district for the project at a meeting tonight. The project also needs approval from the city's planning board.

Already approved are three waterside projects for Delaware Avenue on Van Schaick Island, which sits between mainland Cohoes and Troy.

One of the projects, Admiral's Walk, is under way, with VLG Development of East Greenbush selling units as construction proceeds.

Two others, though, have faced delays: Construction at both Captain's Walk, also by VLG, and Waters View, by Prime Cos. of Latham, was supposed to begin in the spring, but has not started.

Victor Gush, owner of VLG, attributed the delay at Captain's Walk to a decision to change the look and layout of the development. He said construction is set to begin next spring — assuming he can pre-sell many of its condo units.

"In this market, that's the prudent thing to do," Gush said. "I'm not a big gambler."

Dean DeVito, a co-owner of Prime Cos., said his company decided to delay construction of Waters View until the real estate market shakes off its sluggishness. He said he is hopeful construction can begin by mid-2009.

Waters View and many of the other Cohoes projects are planned for the fringes of the city, either along the Hudson or Mohawk rivers or the Colonie border.

Still, officials in the city of about 15,000 people hope the housing will bring an influx of residents who can reverse a long population decline and revitalize downtown's Remsen Street, even during an economic slowdown.

"The good news is that none of the projects has been cancelled," said Edward Tremblay, the city's director of community and economic development. "They're still moving."

On the drawing board

The Paddocks - Capital District Properties. St. Agnes Hwy. 312 units. Needs city approval
Admiral's Walk - VLG Development Delaware Ave. 105 units. Under construction
Captain's Lookout - VLG Development. Delaware Ave. 140 units. Construction to begin in spring
Waters View - Prime Cos. Delaware Ave. 222 units. Delayed by real estate market
Seasons at Mohawk Pointe - Gordon Cos. North Reservoir St. 37 units. Done; units for sale
Lofts at Harmony Mills - Uri Kaufman. North Mohawk St. 141 units. 2009 construction


Nov 16, 2008, 4:54 PM
Madison Avenue lot making comeback

First published in print: Sunday, November 16, 2008

ALBANY- Nearly a year after the spectacular blaze that seriously injured one man and left a yawning hole in one of the city's historic streetscapes, Joe Galu is rebuilding.

Galu is the owner of the now-vacant lot at 598 Madison Ave., where until December of last year stood a circa-1870s brick apartment building directly across from Washington Park.

The Dec. 11 fire so ravaged the building that the city ordered it razed, despite early hopes by Galu and preservationists at the Historic Albany Foundation that it could be saved.

Now, with the help of Albany architects Harris A. Sanders, Galu is navigating his way through the Board of Zoning Appeals to build a new eight-unit, brick and wood building designed, he said, to match the historic character of the block.

The project went before the zoning board last week but there was no action because the panel lacked a quorum, Galu said. The old building had nine apartments.

The plans would require height, parking, set-back, and use variances, but Galu noted the building will be about the same height as the one it is replacing � a basement plus three stories.

Parts of the building not made of brick, Galu said, will be constructed of fire-resistant wood. Plans also call for a sprinkler system throughout.

He said "it is gratifying, certainly, to be able to proceed with a restoration of the look of the city," and the plans have also earned cheers from Historic Albany.

Andrew Harvey, president of the neighboring Park South Neighborhood Association, pointed to another plus.

"From what I can see," Harvey said, "Mr. Galu is going to fill that gaping hole with the quality new housing stock that downtown Albany very much needs."

Because it is located within the Washington Park Historic District, the project also needs the consent of the city's Historic Resources Commission. Galu said he's optimistic work could start in the spring.

Link (http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=740020&category=REGION)

Nov 16, 2008, 7:51 PM
^^ Glad to see Cohoes is getting some love from the developers. It's a nice little slice of urban life. Thanks for the updates.

Dec 7, 2008, 3:44 PM
Convention center plan has leaner look

Hotel and parking garage separated from the proposal to save $177M

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
First published in print: Friday, December 5, 2008

ALBANY — The Albany Convention Center Authority today will unveil a revised plan for a new downtown convention hall, cutting an estimated $177 million from the project's $400 million cost.

The plan would divorce the hotel and parking garage portion of the project from the convention center, and would turn the construction and operation of those structures over to outside developers.

Moreover, the hotel and parking garage would no longer be part of the convention center's core complex near the downtown Greyhound bus station. Instead, those structures mostly would be built across Liberty Street from the center and its meeting halls, though there would be direct pedestrian passageways.

The revised plan is a move by authority officials to save a convention center that many had given up for dead — killed by ballooning costs and a state budget deficit estimated to be at least $1.5 billion.

But authority officials, in a meeting Thursday with the Times Union editorial board, stressed their belief in the plan's viability, and revealed that Gov. David Paterson on Tuesday agreed to release $10 million for the continuation of pre-construction planning.

Gavin Donohue, chairman of the Albany Convention Center Authority board, and Duncan Stewart, executive director of the authority, said the revised plan does not reduce the center's ambitions, goals or size. It only reduces the cost, they said, while simplifying its design.

"We haven't tried to do less," Stewart said. "We're just putting the pieces together differently."

The long-discussed center, first proposed about a decade ago, is seen as a way to boost downtown vitality by attracting conventions and meetings that now bypass a city and region lacking a hall that can accommodate large gatherings.

Prospects seemed bright in 2006, when then-Gov. George Pataki announced $75 million in state support for a project with an estimated total cost of $200 million.

But those prospects dimmed as the price tag climbed with construction costs, leading officials to revisit the proposal and produce the revision to be unveiled and discussed during this morning's monthly meeting of the authority's board.

The new plan would expand the overall footprint of new construction by moving the parking garage and hotel to sites that had not been part of prior plans. Both would be built behind existing facades at 320 to 344 Broadway, along Liberty Street and near the intersection with Pruyn Street.

The authority will ask private developers to submit proposals for the hotel. The 1,100-space parking garage still might require public support, perhaps from the Albany Parking Authority, the officials said.

The convention center, with entrances on Hudson Avenue and Liberty Street, would be built to accommodate future expansions, if needed.

Stewart and Donohue said they couldn't estimate the size of the hotel, because the building's specifics would be determined by the private developer selected to erect it.

"We don't have all the answers today," Donohue said. "But we are committed to doing this as a full-service hotel, because that's the only way this works."

Turning the hotel over to private developers would save $136 million, and officials estimate savings of $11 million on the parking garage. Simplifying the center's construction and changing some design elements would save an additional $30 million, they said.

Donohue pegged the new cost of the center at between $225 million and $240 million.

"It's a significant reduction," he said. "That's why I think the (Paterson) administration was willing to go forward with this."

Donohue and Stewart on Thursday acknowledged that the recession and the state's potentially devastating budget deficit present significant hurdles for the center, but promoted the project as a public-works initiative that could provide a broad economic boost.

The $10 million promised this week by Paterson will be taken from the $75 million previously appropriated by Pataki. If the center is to be built, officials said, more state money will be needed.

"We are not at a point where we can state the amount of additional subsidy that will be required," Stewart said. "But we do believe additional help will be necessary."

Stewart and Donohue said they have shown the revised plan to a select number of state government and Albany officials, including Mayor Jerry Jennings.

Jennings on Thursday cheered the plan — along with the money from Paterson, which he described as a strong show of support — and said he's confident that adding private developers to the convention center mix is wise strategy.

"If we keep moving the convention center forward, there will be interest from the private sector," Jennings said.

Link (http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=747057&category=BUSINESS)

Dec 7, 2008, 3:45 PM
Harriman campus plans again put on hold

Proposals in hand, but selection process by agency remains stalled
By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
First published in print: Friday, December 5, 2008

ALBANY — The much-anticipated but oft-delayed redevelopment of the Harriman State Office Campus has stalled again.

State officials have two development proposals in hand, but have not publicly moved forward with the selection process since the Oct. 1 deadline for submitting plans.

Proposals by The Howard Group of Colonie and Columbia Development Cos. of Albany were originally scheduled to be unveiled during a November meeting of the Harriman Research and Development Corp.'s board of directors.

That meeting, though, was canceled. A December meeting has not been scheduled.

The Harriman Research and Development Corp. is overseeing redevelopment at the state agency campus, along with Empire State Development Corp., the state's economic development arm.

Redevelopment plans for the 330-acre site were first proposed by then-Gov. George Pataki in 2003.

Officials envision transforming the campus, where about 7,500 state employees now work, into a hub for high-tech employment, with residential and retail uses.

Boosters see the plan as a way for Albany to capture the growth now taking place in suburbs.

But interest from developers initially was tepid, and state officials last year withdrew a request for proposals after it attracted only three viable responses.

The proposal process was relaunched earlier this year, with state officials saying they intended to have a plan approved and ready to go by mid-October. That process brought the proposals by The Howard Group and Columbia Development.

On Thursday, a spokesman for Empire State Development said Marisa Lago, the agency's president and CEO, is "taking a hard look at the responses and market realities," adding that she "has not ruled anything out."

"Everything seems to be suspended right now," said Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, adding he has grown impatient with the process.

"We don't need any more delays," he said. "We need to develop."

Link (http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=747010&category=BUSINESS)

Dec 7, 2008, 3:47 PM
Victory for future of downtown

First published in print: Sunday, December 7, 2008

Albany still needs a convention center, a large-scale meeting place appropriate for a state capital.

The need hasn't changed, regardless of the state's financial condition. Indeed, I would argue that the worse the state's financial picture becomes, the more attractive a large-scale public works project should be for us.

So it is gratifying, if not elating, to see that those dogged folks at the Albany Convention Center Authority have come up with a plan that will save the convention center concept. A tip of the hat to them for getting creative, and not giving up. All the old justifications for a convention center, from serving as a badly needed pump primer for downtown development to finally offering Albany a stadium-size venue for conventions, are joined by some new, equally compelling reasons.

For one, this will mean jobs, lots of them, at a time when the building trades are looking at a stagnant market, or worse. Convention Authority chair Gavin Donohue estimates construction on the shovel-ready site will mean employment for 400 to 500. Further, he says the analysis of the completed project estimates about 800 permanent jobs will be created by the convention center and the accompanying parking garages and hotel.

But the best news concerning the rethought vision for building a convention center in tough economic times is that far fewer taxpayer dollars will be involved, and fewer dollars, period. While at the same time we are assured that the size and versatility of the original convention center itself has not been compromised.

Spinning off the hotel and parking to private enterprise, plus simplifying the design, will save nearly half the previously estimated $400 million cost. One could argue this is where the convention should have started, but there was no imperative to either belt-tighten or find nonpublic partners when the idea of a convention center first tried to take wing nearly a decade ago. The state was flush with money then. Well, better late than never. This is a rare of example of doing nothing for long time actually saving us money.

I can hear the grumbling and carping of those who are set against a convention center at any cost, or under any arrangement. They argue that convention centers across the country don't make money and have become albatrosses to their host cities. Not everywhere, but frequently enough.

Sure, an Albany convention center probably will lose money. In addition, the original scheme called for the authority to own and run the hotel. Presumably, the hotel would make money, and that would be an offset. So now the authority will have to find other ways to balance the books, and that will be a challenge. Certainly the $3 million a year the authority now gets as its share of the county's hotel tax receipts are vital, and need to continue.

But to the naysayers and grumblers I offer this: Consider what downtown Albany will look like a quarter-century from now with a convention center complex, and without it.

A planned complex of useful and appropriate buildings actually designed as a whole to enhance Albany's standing as the state capital to my mind far transcends the accountant's ledger. A convention center will become an integral and attractive part of the city's identity, another version of Empire State Plaza.

Without the convention center we're trusting to luck and whatever private developers come up with piecemeal. That's bound to be less, in my view. With a convention center, we still will benefit from the additional development with private money the complex is bound to attract and stimulate. So it's win-win with a revamped, lower-cost, public-private convention center, and a Hail Mary without.

Donohue and the convention center authority board and staff have gone the extra mile here for a keeping a good idea alive in troubled times, and deserve recognition. But so do the political leaders in Albany city and county, from Jennings to Breslin, Connors to Commisso. They've been uncommonly supportive.

And of course, the governor rose to the occasion. It would have been easy for him to scuttle the dream given how dire our state finances have become. Instead, he released $10 million of previously appropriated funds so that Donohue and his board could build on more than hope.

David Paterson already has proved himself a good friend to the city of Albany, not to mention a proxy architect of what the future capital city will look like.

Link (http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=747654&category=REGION)

Dec 14, 2008, 3:58 PM
Park South on the rise in Albany

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
First published in print: Sunday, December 14, 2008

ALBANY — The Park South you knew — and probably didn't love — is disappearing.

Along Knox Street, once a street the cautious avoided at night, there are 18 gleaming, newly renovated row houses. On New Scotland Avenue, the neighborhood's main drag, there's an office building rising and a second ready to rise.

And throughout the nine-block neighborhood between Washington Park and Albany Medical Center, there is new optimism and belief, although sometimes tempered, that the long-troubled area is on the upswing.

"There's simply not as many difficult tenants as there used to be," said Peter Rinne, a longtime resident. The improvement in Park South is hardly accidental, or the result of market-forces alone. Two years ago, city and neighborhood leaders adopted the Park South Urban Renewal Plan, which calls for radically remaking the neighborhood.

Though widespread demolitions were discussed early on, the plan ultimately became a slow-but-steady approach to renewal, novel for a city where officials once "improved" a vital neighborhood by bulldozing it for Empire State Plaza.

Moreover, though some residents justifiably fear gentrification, the plan commits to improving the neighborhood while keeping lower and middle-income residents in the mix. The Knox Street buildings, for example, were redeveloped as affordable housing.

"It's not throw everything out, and start over, and knock it down," said Michael Yevoli, city commissioner of planning and economic development. "We're trying to work on a property-by-property basis."

Much of the redevelopment is backed by public money.

The $12.5 million renovations on Knox Street, for example, were funded by the city Community Development Agency, and state and city tax credits.

The office building at 16 New Scotland Ave. received a $3.3 million state grant. It is being planned and built by the Albany Local Development Corp., a city agency.

And a $40 million parking garage under consideration for New Scotland would be publicly financed.

But increasing private investment is also flowing into Park South. To wit:

Maddalone & Associates, a Schenectady property management firm, has purchased 70 Morris St. and plans to spend $700,000 to $800,000 rehabbing the apartment building, vacant for at least 15 years.

Property owner Joe Galu had decided to rebuild apartments destroyed by fire at 598 Madison Ave., providing something rare in central Albany: newly constructed housing.

Latham lawyers Joe Zappone and Patrick Fiore purchased and are renovating Quintessence, a New Scotland diner closed since 2004. The restaurant is expected to reopen next month.

Zappone and Chris Maddalone, president of Maddalone & Associates, both cited improvements in the neighborhood as encouraging to their investments. Maddalone, speaking at a recent meeting of the Park South Neighborhood Association, said he wants to "get rid of an eyesore in a neighborhood that's really starting to flourish."

To be sure, Park South has its troubles. Residents complain of overt drug dealing and crimes both petty and severe. Walk along Dana or Myrtle avenues, or Morris and Robin streets, and its hard to ignore the abandoned and boarded-over buildings. Irresponsible landlords keep some buildings occupied, but with tenants who terrorize their neighbors.

The Park South story of recent decades is a familiar inner-city tale: Disinvestment and the departure of middle-class homeowners, predictably followed by rising crime and depressed property values.

Such trends are, of course, difficult to reverse. But Park South has terrific assets. It abuts both the thriving Lark Street strip and Washington Park, while two major employers — Albany Medical Center and Stratton VA Medical Center — crowd it to the south.

Albany Med is also an important Park South landowner. And though not directly part of the renewal plan, its proposal for a $360 million expansion along New Scotland is considered an enormous boost to the neighborhood's fortunes.

Maddalone envisions Albany Med workers living in his apartments and walking to work. Zappone hopes they'll walk to his restaurant.

"If there's a place that's going to come back strong, it's that little strip of New Scotland Avenue," Zappone said. "You're going to end up with something like Lark Street on that strip."

Perhaps, though there's concern that poor design decisions may strip New Scotland of vitality and character.

Sue Holland, president of the Historic Albany Foundation, notes that the drugstore and bank at the 16 New Scotland Ave. will have drive-through lanes, and worries suburban-style buildings will erode the neighborhood's urban feel.

Likewise, Andrew Harvey, head of the neighborhood group, cites that the renewal plan calls for apartments and condos along New Scotland — but neither of the street's new buildings includes housing. He worries the trend will continue as the city carries out plans for more large buildings along the corridor.

"It'll be a suburban canyon," Harvey said. "You'll have people working there during the day, and you'll have no eyes on the street at night."

Still, the criticisms are muted. Harvey and Holland are both quick to note the improvement in the neighborhood, especially along Knox Street.

Residents say there's still much work needed in Park South. And the renewal plan calls for selective demolition or renovations of "blighting influences," as well as the construction of townhomes and additional office buildings.

Such plans may be difficult to accomplish, especially in an economic downturn. But, said Joe Fama, head of Troy's non-profit TAP Inc. architecture firm, Park South renewal seems on the right track.

"They looked real hard at what they wanted to do," Fama said. "And they have a plan to do it."

The Transformation of Park South

The city's plan to radically remake the nine-block neighborhood between Washington Park and Albany Medical Center is underway, as indicated by the key projects described below.

1. Albany Medical Center expansion -- $360 million plan to add a 325,000-square-foot, six-story addition to the hospital. Plan awaits city approval.
2. 22 New Scotland -- A five-story office building by BBL Construction Services for Albany Med administrative offices. Nearing completion.
3. 16 New Scotland -- A three-story office building by Albany Local Development Corp. to include a drugstore, bank branch and office space. Groundbreaking in 2009.
4. Knox Street homes -- 18 row houses renovated by Winn Development, a Boston company that finished the $12.5 million project in August.
5. Parking garage -- $40 million parking structure, likely with retail on its lowest level, being planned by city officials. Plans are preliminary.

Link (http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=750281&category=BUSINESS)

Dec 21, 2008, 1:32 PM
Clues to a fab future

Nearby communities offer a glimpse of what plant's impact could be
By LARRY RULISON, Business writer
First published in print: Sunday, December 21, 2008

EAST FISHKILL — It's in vogue to compare Albany to places like Austin, Texas, or Portland, Ore., when predicting what impact the multibillion-dollar computer chip factory planned for Saratoga County will have on the Capital Region.

But within a few hours' drive of Malta, where Advanced Micro Devices Inc. will build the $4.6 billion plant dubbed Fab 4X, are chip-production factories operated by IBM Corp. that provide at least a glimpse into what this area might expect in terms of economic growth from semiconductor manufacturing.

A state-of-the-art IBM chip fab similar to the one being planned by AMD is located in East Fishkill, in Dutchess County. A second one, older and less advanced, is in Essex Junction, Vt., a small community located outside Burlington.

Both communities have had controlled and measured economic growth.

By contrast, Austin experienced explosive growth in the 1980s and early 1990s as more than a dozen fabs were built. Greater Austin's population essentially tripled because of the tech boom.

Then there are communities like Hillsboro, Ore., outside Portland, and Chandler, Ariz., outside Phoenix, where Intel Corp. — AMD's main rival — has put multiple chip fabs. Both cities have seen substantial growth, although not of the caliber that occurred in Austin.

For now, though, it may be more realistic to look at East Fishkill and Burlington as models for the Capital Region to consider.

AMD, which is spinning off its existing manufacturing plants in Germany to a joint venture with the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, has committed to building just one fab at Luther Forest Technology Campus in Malta, although it has space at the site for up to three.

In fact, AMD has said that the joint venture, temporarily called The Foundry Co., would consider future fabs not only in New York but also in Abu Dhabi.

"We don't know yet," AMD spokesman Travis Bullard said of adding a second or third factory at Luther Forest. "Future fabs beyond Fab 4X will be determined by market conditions and business needs, so it's too early to predict."

With that in mind, the Times Union visited IBM's fab in East Fishkill and interviewed economic development and government officials who live near that plant and the one in Vermont to see what impact those facilities have had on their regions.

IBM's fab in East Fishkill, which opened in 2002 and includes 728,000 square feet of clean-room space and a 74,000-square-foot annex completed in 2006, sits on an 885-acre campus off Interstate 84.

A total of 6,000 people are employed at the campus, which has 46 buildings and opened in 1963. In addition to a chip fab, the site also has a computer chip packaging center.

The manufacturing tools at the East Fishkill fab are designed to imprint chips on 300-millimeter silicon wafers, which is the leading edge in chip manufacturing.

Anne Conroy, president of Dutchess County Economic Development Corp. in Poughkeepsie, said IBM has attracted to the site seven semiconductor companies with which it partners on development and manufacturing — including companies like AMD and Sony — that have about 350 employees. And a number of suppliers for the sophisticated equipment that keeps the fab running 24 hours a day are also frequently on site.

Conroy said other firms have located there or grown because of the fab.

"This facility is, no question, the anchor of a very significant technology cluster in the area," she said. "There are over 35 firms with some connection to the microelectronics industry in Dutchess County and several others in Orange and adjacent counties."

The area surrounding the East Fishkill fab is also a hotbed of construction, including a massive condominium development being built by Toll Brothers Inc., the luxury home builder based in suburban Philadelphia.

Thomas Phillips Sr., an IBM retiree and executive director of the Hudson Valley Technology Development Center in nearby Fishkill, said the development going on in that community now has more to do with other demographic trends than just the chip fab, which is getting $65 million from the state to save 1,400 jobs.

But Phillips said the fab has a major benefit to the region that is undeniable and irreplaceable.

"It adds a stability and almost a sophistication to the area," he said. "That's good for any area. I don't care where they land."

In Burlington, IBM's 200-millimeter chip fab is the largest private employer in the state.

"For a state like Vermont, having a chip manufacturer like IBM is very significant," said Lisa Ventriss, president of the Vermont Business Roundtable, a nonprofit group based in South Burlington comprised of 120 Vermont chief executives. "It is enormous."

It's also one of the reasons why the motto for Essex Junction, where the IBM fab is located, is "The Economic Engine of Vermont."

"They are a major contributor to our economy," said Essex Junction Village Manager Dave Crawford. "They work hard at trying to be good corporate citizens."

IBM has reduced its employment in the picturesque community from a high of about 8,000 to the current 5,300. And along the way, for other reasons based on the appraisal of the facility, IBM's contribution to the village's tax base has been reduced from 60 percent to about 20 percent.

"That's just the nature of it," Crawford said. "They're an important ingredient in making the economy of Vermont grow, but the industry is going through a lot of changes now."

Luckily for the Capital Region, AMD is planning a state-of-the-art, 300-millimeter fab at Luther Forest that will use next-generation chip technology being developed now by AMD and IBM in East Fishkill and at the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering on Fuller Road, where IBM also has a large research presence.

That is why the Capital Region can expect development here to be more in line with growth at Intel's operations in Oregon and Arizona, said LaMar Hill, president of the Albany-based nonprofit International Alliance of Nanotechnology Regions. Hill was involved in helping to bring AMD to New York and has visited semiconductor sites across the globe.

Hill said IBM's operations near Burlington started in the late 1950s and never got the 300-millimeter technology that is driving the industry. He said East Fishkill is an unlikely model for this region because of its proximity to New York City and the lack of available land for additional chip fab development.

Instead, he said Saratoga County should look to Hillsboro, Ore., which was largely rural before Intel put three fabs there. Intel now employs 15,000 people in the Portland suburb, spread over eight campuses.

"It's certainly closer to what probably will evolve here than Fishkill," Hill said.

The man responsible for developing the 1,380-acre Luther Forest Technology Campus, Michael Relyea, also believes the future will more resemble Hillsboro or Chandler.

Relyea, who heads Luther Forest Technology Campus Economic Development Corp., doesn't hesitate when asked whether AMD will build three fabs there, which would put the Capital Region on the map as a major semiconductor cluster on par with Oregon and Arizona.

"I'm hoping, and I expect that," he said.

Chip factory towns

IBM East Fishkill

Location: Dutchess County
Chip fab: 300-millimeter technology
Total on-site employees: 6,000*
County population: 295,146
Median household income: $56,971
Local manufacturing output: $4.8 billion

IBM Burlington

Location: Chittenden County, Vt.
Chip fab: 200-millimeter technology
Total on-site employees: 5,300*
County population: 150,069
Median household income: $52,846
Local manufacturing output: $4.8 billion

AMD Malta

Location: Saratoga County
Chip fab: 300-millimeter technology
Total on site employees: 2,000**
County population: 215,473
Median household income: $55,702
Local manufacturing output: $1.4 billion

*Includes fab support jobs and related operations
**Projected with initial project

Source: IBM Corp., U.S. Census Bureau

Link (http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=752827&category=BUSINESS)

Jan 9, 2009, 11:59 PM
Albany Med rides a wave

Proposals for parking garage, hotel, office building await city and federal approvals
By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Friday, January 9, 2009

ALBANY Albany Medical Center wants to build an office building, a hotel and a 1,500-car parking garage across from the hospital, proposals that would bolster a development wave now transforming the long-troubled Park South neighborhood.

The buildings would be constructed on land owned by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and would follow agreement on a 75-year land-lease deal now being negotiated by Albany Med and the Stratton VA Medical Center.

As part of the agreement, Albany Med would demolish three small VA structures and would construct a four-story building primarily for Stratton administration offices on New Scotland Avenue, just north of narrow Veterans Way.

The hotel also would front New Scotland Avenue, on the south side of Veterans Way.

Gary Kochem, chief operating officer at Albany Med, stressed that the exact use of a six-story building in the plans is still being decided, but he said it is likely to be an extended-stay hotel � "a Hilton product" � with ground-level retail space and a Panera Bread-type restaurant.

The parking garage, meanwhile, would be behind that building, and would benefit from public-financing help by city economic development agencies.

None of the proposed buildings has received city approval. And the VA land-lease agreement still needs an OK from federal officials, according to Albany Med.

Peter Potter, a Stratton spokesman, confirmed the development plans, noting the VA has a long history of working with Albany Med. "We're pretty tightly intertwined," he said.

Park South, a neighborhood that city officials have aggressively targeted for redevelopment, is south of Washington Park, with New Scotland Avenue as its commercial spine and the hospitals as major employment anchors.

The neighborhood already has one office building under construction, at 22 New Scotland Ave.

And the construction of a second office building, at 16 New Scotland, is scheduled to begin this year. As planned, that building also will house a Rite Aid drugstore and a SEFCU credit union branch, Kochem said.

Albany Medical Center, meanwhile, has already seen the development of a new Hilton Garden Inn, which opened in 2007 across New Scotland Avenue. And the hospital itself is preparing for the construction of a 350,000-square-foot addition.

In total, that's seven new or proposed buildings � in a tightly packed neighborhood where parking and traffic problems are already a top concern.

Not surprisingly, then, traffic worries were frequently raised when Kochem this week presented the hospital's development plans to the Park South Neighborhood Association.

In response, Kochem said the hospital and city are working on a plan that would remove on-street parking from New Scotland and Holland avenues and turn each road into four-lane thoroughfares with turn lanes.

"If we can accomplish that, the flow of traffic is going to be a lot better," Kochem said.

BBL Construction Services the Albany company that built the hotel and is building the structures at 16 and 22 New Scotland, also would handle the VA property construction.

And renderings of the proposed buildings show they would look very much like both the Hilton Garden and 22 New Scotland � a mix of red brick and concrete, built close to the curb.

Kochem, conceding that the economic downturn makes this a worrisome time to begin large-scale construction projects, said he is nevertheless confident that work on the parking garage, at least, will begin later this year, with a 2010 opening date.

A construction timetable for the other buildings has not been determined, the hospital said Thursday.


Jan 24, 2009, 3:23 PM
Chance to call downtown home

Owner of Broadway Arcade would install apartments
By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Saturday, January 24, 2009

ALBANY — The owner of the historic Broadway Arcade is proposing to turn the upper floors of the building into 52 apartments, a potential boost for a downtown that offers few places to live.

The Arcade, at 488 Broadway, was once a shopping mall of sorts, with an interior hallway lined with shops. But as retail largely abandoned downtown Albany, it abandoned the Arcade, too.

So much so that on a recent day this week, the hallway was locked to the public. Only a few first-floor businesses remain, including the Antara Home store and a Pioneer Bank branch.

The upper floors of the building, meanwhile, are empty of office tenants.

But a proposal submitted to the city's Planning Department by 488 Arcade LLC, a Great Neck company, would turn the upper four floors into a mix of apartments — studios, one bedrooms and two bedrooms. That's music to the ears of city officials, who have long waited to see one of downtown's many large and aged office buildings converted to apartments.

Pamela Tobin, director of the downtown Albany Business Improvement District, said there have been small-scale residential conversions tucked in the city center, but nothing nearly so large as the Broadway Arcade.

"The top priority of the city and the BID this year is residential," Tobin said. "We need to be able to put a project online that will really start spurring other projects."

The BID has sponsored several reports studying the market potential for downtown housing. And those reports have identified the Arcade, which is a short distance north of Broadway's intersection with State Street, as perfect for residential conversion, Tobin said.

That's primarily due to its site, along charming Maiden Lane and across from a pedestrian bridge to the waterfront. It's also close to a public garage.

The application filed with the planning board, which is expected to review the plans at its meeting next Thursday, doesn't specify whether the apartments will be rentals or condominiums.

But any residential life there will please Rajesh Singh, owner of Antara.

Sitting in his home-furnishings store this week, he talked of the building's ample architectural charms. It has a striking Art Deco exterior, and huge windows to flood an apartment with sunlight.

"It's a beautiful building," said Singh, himself a downtown resident. "It's like a grand old ship."

Link (http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=763090&category=BUSINESS)

Feb 12, 2009, 4:33 PM
(this is the white industrial structure next to the Hampton Inn

Making a livable downtown

Second recent proposal for Albany would create 20 condos in City Arts building
By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Thursday, February 12, 2009

ALBANY — It's one of the age-old, oft-heard complaints about downtown Albany: Almost nobody lives there, rendering the place as quiet as rural Chestertown on a Sunday afternoon.

Rosenblum Development Corp. wants to silence the complaint. This week, it announced plans to add three stories to the old City Arts building at 17 Chapel St. to accommodate 20 condominium units.

That's the second plan for new downtown housing within months: A Long Island developer has submitted a proposal to the city for 52 apartments in the Arcade building at 488 Broadway.

Laughter at the news wouldn't be unexpected. Such proposals have come and gone in Albany like tides at the beach, but rarely does a shovel hit dirt.

In the last two years, for example, Queri Development of Syracuse proposed an apartment and office tower at Quackenbush Square, along Broadway just north of downtown.

That project is now for sale, with Queri citing credit difficulties.

Also along Broadway is the Capital Grande condo proposal, but Norstar Development has fallen behind the construction schedule laid out in 2007.

Phone calls to Buffalo-based Norstar were not returned.

But Seth Rosenblum, vice president of Rosenblum Development, which built Great Oaks Office Park in Guilderland, cites factors that make the Chapel Street project more viable than others.

First off, he said during a tour of the building Wednesday, the project is relatively modest. Its 20 units will cost $5 million to $10 million to build.

The Capital Grande project, by contrast, calls for 125 units at a cost of at least $30 million.

Rosenblum also cited the prime location of the building bordered by Chapel, Monroe and Orange streets. It's near the Palace Theater, the nightlife of Pearl Street, office buildings such as 677 Broadway and trendy restaurants like Yono's and Hollywood Brown Derby.

"There's really nothing around it that's not desirable," said Rosenblum, indicating the units would be high-end but not specifying prices.

Then there's parking. The Chapel Street building will have it on lower levels, indoors, so snow won't be a problem.

"You've got to have parking, either very near or right in the building," Rosenblum said, "because this is Albany, and you have to drive to even buy groceries."

Still, it's clear that Rosenblum Development has plenty of work ahead before buyers can carry in their furniture.

The building, which was owned by Capital Repertory Company until Rosenblum purchased it in June, is squat and ugly. And it's almost entirely concrete, built about 75 years ago as a car dealership.

On Wednesday, water surged through parts of the building, most likely caused by the melting of snow on the roof. It didn't seem like a particularly nice place to live.

But, considering the global credit crunch, the project has already cleared one major hurdle: "We have our financing secured," Rosenblum said. "We've got that squared away."

A study by the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District found demand for as many as 1,400 housing units in the city center. And city officials and other downtown boosters, eager to see a downtown housing project move forward, predict that Albany just needs one such development to get momentum building for others.

"The timing of the 17 Chapel St. project is excellent," said Tracy Metzger, owner of TL Metzger & Associates, a realty firm in Albany. "It provides another option for buyers who are looking for downtown options."

Link (http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=769420&category=BUSINESS)